MG played a careful card when it announced its all-electric ZS EV to Australia at the low price (for an electric car, anyway) of $40,990 before on-road costs earlier in 2021. Even now, priced at $44,990 driveway it is still Australia’s most affordable electric SUV, or electric car for that matter.
And it is also one of the most family-friendly: see our breakdown of family-sized electric vehicles that are eligible for state EV rebates here.
The sticker price of an electric vehicle is one of the biggest factors holding many Australians back from making the switch to electric even with the lower maintenance and power costs.
With many carmakers hesitant to bring new EVs to a country with little in the way of encouragement for people to buy them, MG made it clear from the start: if it is going to bring it here, it wants it to have the best chance of selling.
It might well sit at the bottom in terms of price, but the MG ZS EV certainly has a lot to offer. Enough to entice Byron Shire Council mayor Simon Richardson to make the dip into EVs as The Driven and RenewEconomy editor Giles Parkinson tells here.
And as we found out, the MG ZS EV has made a cheap and cheerful addition to Australia’s EV market, banking on its familiar compact SUV layout (it’s based on the petrol ZS) and claim to first electric SUV in Australia under $50,000.
In fact, it’s hard to tell that it is in fact an electric car, until you turn it on and put your foot on the pedal. It has the typically smooth take-off of an EV, and although it is a little noisier to drive than a Tesla it is not too different to the Mini Cooper SE electric hatch, which sits some $20,000 above it in the market.
And while it may not have the personality of the Mini, its 44.5kWh battery offers a little more driving range than the UK brand’s hatch at 262km (WLTP).
We got the Clipper Blue metallic ZS EV which is exclusive to MG ZS EV, but you can also choose from Diamond Red, Regal Blue, Dover White and Pebble Black.
Driving it you get the sense of practicality that comes with a compact SUV, with familiar nobs and dials that will no doubt count as a plus for those not wanting to go full Tesla minimalist.
While the MG ZS EV is in essence an electric drivetrain integrated into what was originally a petrol vehicle, MG have managed to stay away from some of the design difficulties we’ve seen in other converted models.
There is no higher floor in the back to store a battery, and MG have also managed to ensure there is no transmission tunnel even though the vehicle in a front-wheel-drive.
However (and as we saw with the Hyundai Kona EV), this is possibly because MG has opted to utilise the front bonnet space for systems instead of freeing it up for “frunk” space as in EV-only models.
In addition to the standard vehicle controls on the dash, the MG ZS EV offers three modes of driving (Eco, Standard and Sport) and three levels of regenerative braking that can be accessed by a switch on the console.
Sport mode, which can accelerate the MG ZS EV from 0-60 km/hr in a pretty zippy 3.1 seconds, is enough to give passengers a buzz but we suspect that most of the time Standard mode will be versatile enough for around town.
The regen levels are not terribly limiting in terms of speed so there is not so much of the one-pedal driving experience, and we wish MG had thought to consider paddles behind the wheel as in the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, as the console switch is a little fiddly to change often for varying hills and turns.
There are a number of settings in the front display which can be dialled through via buttons on the steering wheel, though it lacks a visual display of the battery charge status, and so the “energy flow” visualisation with range remaining had to suffice.
The front-wheel-drive combined with the highish set SUV body means a cautious driving style is probably best on corners and in the wet, although this is not a deal-breaker at the price especially considering the MG ZS EV has a 5-star ANCAP safety rating higher than its petrol equivalent.
The decent range of driver-assist features including adaptive cruise control, emergency braking, high beam control and blind-spot monitoring made for a relaxing drive, and it’s easy to change settings if the lane-keep assist is a little too sensitive.
Charging at the local DC fast charger proved a quick and easy experience, with the charge rate bumping up to a satisfying 74kW. The only negative here is perhaps the placement of the charge plug under the badge at the front. The movement of the badge to access the plug is a little awkward, particularly in the case of one location where the car sat in a puddle and I had to lean down off the gutter to plug it in.
It will be interesting to see how the MG ZS EV fares as other models are introduced to the market in 2022. And with MG announcing it will donate 1,000 electric vehicle chargers to regional hotels and motels, although those chargers will also be available for use by other EV makes the move will no doubt boost MG’s reputation as a company that cares about community.
Apart from its cheap and cheerful demeanour, what the MG has added to the Australian market is a lower entry point for those wanting to move to EVs. Within a few years, and as adoption continues to pick up, it could also become a great value option for those on the secondhand market as new buyers sell to upgrade.
Bridie Schmidt is associate editor for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.