Car companies continue to make strides in the electrification of their vehicles.
One manufacturer to step up its power play is MG Motors (for Morris Garages), the Chinese owned former British auto industry mainstay.
Already the fully electric compact sports utility vehicle has made its presence felt in the EV world with the Excite and Essence models, the latter chipping in with a claimed maximum range of 320km.
Now this has been stretched to 440km with a new variant, loosely tagged Long Range, with the added plus over the Essence of rear privacy glass helping to maximise climate control, hence the comfort of occupants.
What’s it cost?
The Chinese sourced small SUV made a name as the cheapest electric vehicle on the market.
Now, along comes a ZS with more mileage to offer, but at a price — $11k to be precise.
Introduction to the new ZS electric vehicles comes with entry-level Excite selling for $46,195, plus on-road costs, the mid-range Essence follows for a further $3000, while the Essence Long Range tops off the trio for $55,990.
Entry-level Excite has a comprehensive collection of features, including a range of drive modes, three regen braking modes, 360-degree camera i-Smart connectivity, satellite navigation, plus MG Pilot driver safety technology.
Upshifting to the Essence brings a panoramic glass sunroof and roof rails, wireless phone charging and blind spot and rear-cross traffic alert.
A shopping list of accessories includes fabric boot mat and liner, boot lip protector and skid plate, chrome boot trim strip, dash mat, fabric or rubber floor mats, weather shields, printed bonnet protector, clear bonnet protector, LED scuff Plates and two door sills, towbar, roof racks, 7kW Go Cable and 22kW rapid charge cable.
No-cost paint colours are Dover White or Pebble Black, while Brighton Blue Essence Long Range of our test vehicle is an extra $700.
All the MG EVs maintain the general shape of the petrol models with the upper radiator grille replaced by a solid surface incorporating a flap offering easy access to the charging point.
Headlights and LED daytime running lights flank the front directly under the bonnet edge.
Propeller-style alloy wheel aero covers give the wheels a unique character.
The ZS EV features a 10.1-inch colour touchscreen with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto access, allowing for integration with personal tech.
However, the somewhat higgledy-piggledy layout of the info makes management fiddly, especially on the move.
Presentation of real-time vehicle performance comes with an upgraded 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster.
Keyless entry, wireless phone charger and six-speaker audio add to the in-cabin experience.
A signature addition to the new ZS EV is the iSMART app, allowing you to monitor and control vehicle functions remotely.
For example, locate the vehicle, lock or unlock it, monitor vehicle status such as range and charge remaining.
The former MG ZS EV was awarded a five-star ANCAP safety rating in 2019.
The hallmark MG Pilot package has added adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist with departure warning, traffic jam assist, intelligent cruise assist, intelligent headlamp control, speed assistance system, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert.
ZS Essence Long Range carries a seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty, as does the battery.
MG’s so-called Precise Price Servicing also applies.
What’s it go like?
Leatherette seats, driver and front passenger positions heated, with crafted red stitching, lead the way for a premium interior feel, topped off (literally) with a truly panoramic sunroof flooding the interior with natural light.
In the rear, the 60:40 split reclining seats are surprisingly generous with leg room and give access to 359 litres of luggage space, while an under-boot cubby is reserved to take tyre repair kit and battery charging tackle.
With 440km driving range from a 72.6 kWh battery, the new MG ZS Long Range leaves its 320km predecessor a 51.1 kWh battery behind.
That’s not all. In an MG first, powering external devices can be done using the ZS EV vehicle-to-load (V2L) function.
Electronics can be operated on the go, or appliances such as camping gear powered using electricity stored in the lithium-ion battery.
Powered by a liquid-cooled, lithium battery, with up to 72.6kWh, delivering 280Nm of instant torque and up to 130kW of power, the maker claims the ZS Essence Long Range can go from 0 to 100 km/h in 8.2 seconds. All this with nothing but a gentle whirring of the motor.
Maximum combined energy consumption on test touched 18kWh/100km.
Fill her up? I topped up the ‘tank’ on a public fast charger from 60 to 80 per cent in 40 minutes at a cost of $6.83.
Designed to achieve optimum handling and chassis feel, the ZS EV powertrain has been packaged to achieve a low centre of gravity.
Housed underneath the passenger compartment as part of the ZS EV’s flat-floor architecture and an added bonus for occupant leg comfort, the balanced distribution of weight keeps the ZS EV planted through corners.
The suspension appears a little firm. Braking response is good, although regenerative braking is not like some EVs with ‘single pedal’ driving.
This one slows the vehicle only to a crawl, not to a halt.
With MG Pilot willing to assist safe driving to a high level, the lane keep assist with departure warning tended to intrude too quickly and forcefully.
Driving is a human activity, after all.
What we like?
Huge glass sunroof
Upgraded instrument cluster
Premium interior feel
Can now power external devices
What we don’t like?
Only black or white free
Lane keep assist intrusive
Higgledy-piggledy info layout
Suspension a little firm
The bottom line?
MG has pushed out the kilometres for its small SUV EV, but is it enough for the market?
Meanwhile, the journey is set to continue even further, with longer range, more technology and fewer dollars, with the MG4 rear-wheel drive hatch, which is due to arrive in the second half of this year.