The secret diary of a motoring journalist aged 39¾'ish


25th March 2019

MG in my mind stands for sports cars and zippy saloons. I was a fan of MGF that revived the firm’s reputation for affordable two-seater sports cars. So, a crossover with the famous octagon badge has a bit of convincing to do if it’s to work in this sector and live up to the burden of history that comes with the MG name. At least one thing in the ZS’s favour is it’s exactly the right sort of car to sell well in today’s market, and MG has always been a brand of the people.
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It’s an MG, so the first thing to try today is how the ZS drives. That’s taken care of with a cross-country trot for work on just the sort of roads a crossover should excel on. First impressions are good thanks to the decent driving position and vision. Second impressions are of a ride that’s too unsettled on most surfaces as the ZS feels as if the wheels are bouncing from one obstruction to the next rather than flowing over them. At least it’s not overly stiff in the way some rivals are.
Another day of dotting about for work and it shows that the 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine in this Exclusive model is a decent motor. It revs sweetly and isn’t noisy or invasive when worked hard. I wish MG would offer it with a manual gearbox rather than just the six-speed automatic. The auto can take an age to swap gears and does so with an occasional jolt. I also suspect a manual would improve in the combined economy of this model’s 44.9mpg and 144g/km CO2 output.
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The snow has arrived today in a big white blanket, but the MG is unfazed. Sensible wheel and tyre sizes let the rubber bite down into the slush and there’s more than enough grip to make easy progress when taking the kids to their swimming lesson. Even on some of the more remote back roads, the ZS is stable and gives the same confidence I’d enjoyed the day before when making more of the handling limits that make a Nissan Juke feel lead-footed.
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Stuck in traffic this morning and I’ve had time to contemplate the cabin of the ZS. There’s a lot to like in here, such as the clear main dials, comfortable seats and a lot more space than you get in many of the MG’s direct rivals that cost more. There is one disappointing note in the form of the plastics on the doors and other interior surfaces. It has that thin, scratchy look and feel, though it does resist surface scuffs better than others I’ve experienced lately.
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The MG name may still be finding its way in today’s market, but at least it’s still here and growing again, unlike this Triumph Spitfire I spotted slowly returning to nature in a front garden. Once upon a time, Triumph was the direct rival to MG, yet this little two-seater sums up what happened to much of the British motoring industry in the 1970s. But enough pontificating and back into the MG I go to head home.
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With the kids loaded into the ZS to head to this morning’s rugby tournament, it shows one area where the MG has a head and shoulders lead over others in this class: space. Both children have an ample quota of room for knees and legs and they can see out of the side windows easily. Round the back, the boot is big, too. It means this MG works very well as affordable family transport. Maybe not what MGs used to stand for, but it works in the modern world.
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