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2020 MG ZS EV electric SUV first drive review

Abhay Verma  | Updated: February 05, 2020, 01:14 PM IST

Of late, every international motor show seem to have electric cars (and SUVs!) take centre stage. But if you thought EVs are the future, you are err… slightly wrong. They are here already and gaining popularity rapidly. In fact the push from the government – not to forget, the desperate need for a cleaner future – has resulted in almost every manufacturer fast-track its EV program. One of the newest such electric cars (SUV, rather) slated to launch soon is the MG ZS and we've just driven its India-spec version, having sampled the prototype earlier. Read on to know more.

The MG will be MG Motor's second offering in India after the Hector and is slated to be launched in January 2020

Design

The ZS is more crossover than SUV visually. And let's be honest, not everyone wants a butch-looking SUV. Crossovers are gaining popularity as they blur the lines between sedans and SUVs well enough to offer the best of both worlds. That includes the ground clearance and body style of an SUV along with the relatively softer, more comfortable feel of a sedan. And the ZS EV's design straddles that thin line well – it looks appealing from most angles, is not too tall and resultantly, has a slightly low slung stance. The chrome-studded grille and headlights look quite nice, making for a very premium looking mug. MG has also positioned the charging port rather interestingly. You simply press on the MG logo on the grille and the centre section pops up to reveal the port. Neat!

The MG ZS EV is a well-proportioned crossover and should appeal to both - SUV and sedan buyers alike

The chrome surrounds for the grille add to the appeal too and overall, the front end is well-proportioned. Same is the case with the sides, though I felt the alloy wheel design is a little overkill. That said, the black cladding adds a rugged feel, as do the faux skid plates at both ends. The ZS is a nice looking vehicle thus and the novelty factor aside, it turned quite a few heads on the road with its stance and details both. More importantly, the ZS is larger than the Hyundai Kona, the only other electric SUV on sale currently. In fact the ZS is the size of a Kia Seltos, which is the most popular SUV segment right now. That last bit of information should sure have a few more ears perk up!

Interiors

As we saw on the prototype, interiors are well appointed and the ZS gets an all-black theme. An 8 inch touchscreen takes centre stage and gets all the connected technology seen on the MG Hector, including an onboard SIM card for full-time data connectivity that can also be used to tether internet onto mobile devices. The instrument cluster includes a coloured multi-function display that offers lots of information and is flanked by large analogue dials. The speedometer sits on the left while the right one displays the amount of power used, replacing the conventional tachometer. Quality of some the plastics could have been better, though MG has covered the top of the dashboard in soft touch PU leather to offer a premium feel.

The all-black theme inside the MG ZS EV offers a sporty vibe and interiors are spacious, adding to the likeable feel

There's a panoramic sunroof which, like in the Hector can be opened via voice command too. There's a full suite of voice commands in fact, apart from an 'i-Call' button, which once pressed will have the customer service desk call you back within a minute and you can request them for various things including helping with directions for the navigation system. Another nice touch is the PM 2.5 filter onboard to ensure air inside the SUV is clean. Interior space is quite impressive too – even with a six footer in the driver's seat there was ample legroom at the rear along with enough boot space to put in more than a couple of suitcases.

Powertrain

The ZS is equipped with a 44.5kWh battery pack that provides juice to a three-phase permanent magnet synchronous motor, which in turn powers the front wheels. Claimed range is an impressive 340km. Peak power offered is 143PS, while peak torque produced is a stonking 353Nm which is comparable to more expensive SUVs and this helps the MG punch well above its weight in terms of straightline acceleration. Claimed 0-100kmph is an impressive 8.5 seconds and the best I managed on the VBOX was 8.71 seconds which is really quick! And being an electric vehicle there's no lag – step on the throttle and the ZS zooms ahead with an alacrity that is sure to make you smile. More importantly the torque spread is even so irrespective of what speeds you are doing, you always have more shove in reserve. But that's just one side of the story, what about the charging time and options?

A rotary dial on the centre console of the MG ZS EV works as the drive selector. Toggle switches for choosing the drive mode and intensity of the KERS as positioned above it

Charging infrastructure

MG will provide a portable charger with every car, which can be plugged into a 15 Ampere wall socket that will recharge the batteries fully in 16-18 hours. That's a lot of time, so MG will also install a 7.4kW AC home charger for buyers (free of cost) which can recharge the batteries in 6-8 hours. Apart from that 50kW DC fast chargers will be installed at MG Motor's flagship dealerships across the country which can recharge the batteries up to 80 percent in just 50 minutes and will be accessible 24x7. The brand is also in talks to setup similar fast chargers at various locations like petrol pumps and more. And as a last resort in case you run out of charge, MG will also have mobile vans as part of its Road Side Assistance program that can be called to a location of your choice to provide juice to your car's battery pack.

The MG ZS EV will come with a portable charging cable in the boot apart from which the manufacturer will also install home chargers for every buyer, free of cost

Safety net

MG has equipped the ZS with six airbags, as also driver aids like ESP and ABS. There's hill descent control and an emergency stop signal as well, for times when you have to brake hard from speeds suddenly. The ZS also gets ISOFIX mounts and seat belt reminders for rear occupants, but my favourite safety feature is the Pedestrian Alert System. Considering the ZS is an EV and there's no engine noise so the system can detect pedestrians and emit a sound to alert them about the car coming from behind. And the MG ZS has scored five stars in Euro-NCAP tests, which should tell you a lot about the car's safety.

The drive

We started off with about 89 percent charge in our car with the distance to empty readout saying 194km, from the MG flagship showroom in Gurugram on NH8. We were to drive through Delhi and onwards to Greater Noida via the DND flyway which is a mix of city driving and some bit of highway. The idea was to check how much the charge gets depleted driving through traffic, given the constant variation in speeds as opposed to cruising on the highway. And the results were interesting, particularly with the KERS or Kinetic Energy Recovery System onboard with three levels of intensity to choose from. There's three driving modes as well – Eco, Normal and Sport which vary the power delivery.

The MG ZS EV is quick, as the powertrain offers 143PS and 353Nm and MG claims it can accelerate from 0-100kmph in just 8.5 seconds

We stuck to Normal and level 2 of KERS for most of the drive and it was interesting to note that even after nearly 25km of driving through early morning traffic the range displayed was still at 194km! Clearly the energy recovery system was helping recharge the battery pack well allaying my fears of the charge depleting quickly in traffic. In effect, this also makes you realise that having a good energy recovery system is as important as having an efficient powertrain. By the time we got to Greater Noida which is roughly 70km away from Gurugram, the car's display was still indicating a range of about 130km, despite the stop and go traffic and some enthusiastic driving at triple digit speeds on the highway. So range anxiety is set to become a thing of the past I guess, as modern electric powertrains are already proving to be more efficient than we can imagine. Effectively, it is safe to assume the MG ZS will offer close to 300km on a full charge in the real world.

The MG ZS EV can be surprisingly fun to drive given its sprightly performance allaying fears that electric cars are boring to drive

On another note, acceleration is quick and I'd go as far as saying that the MG ZS can show a clean pair of heels to a lot of internal combustion engine powered cars when taking off from a traffic light. On the whole, the MG ZS had me pleasantly surprised with its brisk acceleration, proving to be very impressive with its performance. The handling, from what I could gauge driving through Delhi's traffic, is also quite predictable. I would have liked some more feedback from the steering though it feels well-weighted at all times and braking prowess is good too, particularly with help from the KERS. On the flip side, the throttle feels like a switch – it's either on or off and some bit of modulation would be nice, especially for times when crawling in traffic. The suspension setup is on the firmer side too, but it does soak up bumps and undulations appreciably.

As an electric vehicle, the MG ZS EV is quite impressive, given its packaging and the powertrain onboard

First impressions

The MG ZS is quite impressive as a package, more so when you consider the fact that it is only the second offering from MG Motor in India. In fact it is quite a feat to launch an EV, especially when the brand itself is less than a year old in a market as challenging as ours. And the fact that the ZS looks very conventional and not quirky, gets the design right, has the right interiors and feature list makes a big difference too. But most importantly, it's the powertrain that makes a bigger difference. With a claimed range of 340km and the kind of efficiency I witness personally on the drive, the MG ZS is very impressive on the powertrain front. The final piece in the puzzle is the pricing, which will be announced this month. We expect the MG ZS to retail from at about Rs 18-20 lakh ex-showroom which should not only give it an advantage over the Hyundai Kona, but also help make it very lucrative as a package.

Price (Ex-Delhi)
Starts Rs 20.88 Lakhs
Displacement
-NA-
Transmission
Automatic
Max Power(ps)
142.76
Max Torque(Nm)
353
Mileage
-NA-
Price (Ex-Delhi)
Starts Rs 23.72 Lakhs
Displacement
-NA-
Transmission
Automatic
Max Power(ps)
136
Max Torque(Nm)
395
Mileage
-NA-
Price (Ex-Delhi)
Starts Rs 9.89 Lakhs
Displacement
1497cc
Transmission
Manual
Max Power(ps)
115
Max Torque(Nm)
144
Mileage
-NA-
Price (Ex-Delhi)
Starts Rs 12.18 Lakhs
Displacement
1496cc
Transmission
Manual
Max Power(ps)
143
Max Torque(Nm)
250
Mileage
15.8 Kmpl
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