MG has unveiled the 2023 ZS EV in Australia and, in what was described as a “crystallising of costs” as the launch date neared, has dropped its starting price driveaway back to $44,990 for its entry-level Excite variant, and $48,990 for the Essence variant.
That, in itself, is going to be a winner for drivers, but in addition to the drop in price are a number of welcome upgrades.
Not least of these, as The Driven reported on Wednesday, are a bigger battery, lower energy consumption and, thus, greater driving range.
The zippy compact SUV now offers 320km driving range on the European WLTP rating, but it also offers numerous upgrades that touch on almost every element of the vehicle, taking it up a notch from the “cheap and cheerful” EV we first saw in 2021 to a true connected and quiet EV experience.
It’s only available in this smaller 50.2kWh battery for now, although we’re told the larger 72kWh long-range option is being considered for the local market.
But for now, the real-world range of around 300km is more than enough to commute around the city and take a day trip out of town without too much hassle. As always, remember, Plugshare and a Better Route Planner are your friends whether in a shorter range or long range EV.
We got a chance to take the new ZS EV for a spin from Sydney’s Circular Quay to the picturesque (albeit cloudy and sombre at the time) La Perouse foreshore. Here’s what we think.
New 2023 MG ZS EV design
From the outset, the new exterior ZS EV puts a good foot forward. The closed grille is not only better for aerodynamics, it is also presents a more modern appearance that puts it up there with the refreshed Hyundai Kona EV.
The new wheels – again adding to improved aerodynamics – are also a step up. I can’t help but think MG has taken a leaf out of Polestar’s book with this new design, but you wouldn’t call that a bad move at all. There’s a “cutting edge” (see what we did there) to the wheels that also gives the ZS EV a more exciting presence on the road and won’t leave new MG owners feeling behind the eight-ball at the charger.
The new position of the charging port on the left of the badge is also a big improvement. It now takes just a simple push on the right of the charge port cover to open the port. Previously, MG had stuck it in behind the badge on the grille, which opened upwards and made it very awkward to get the plug in especially in tight charging spots.
You can’t see it, but there is a hidden fender inner as well as bottom plate and pads in the firewall. The thumbs up here is that you can definitely hear the difference. The drive is quiet, and noticeably so compared to its predecessor.
2023 MG ZS EV interior
Inside, there is ample space for what is essentially a compact SUV – the back seat row in particular I found roomy enough for my knees given my tall stature. Two USB-C ports at the back of the centre-console will make for happy teenagers on a long distance trip – however, the driver and front row passenger will have to share the USB-C charging port and USB-A connectivity port.
Without a doubt a big upgrade is the new 10.1 inch touchscreen interface. Everything’s at your fingertips, and by swiping left you can access all the various categories of the vehicle’s controls. It’s still a little slow for my liking, the colour scheme is a bit boring and there are still no over-the-air updates, but it’s a good move forward.
In terms of music, the inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto from the start will of course be a winner for many. And if you think the six-speaker sound system is entry-level – think again. Once I found the 3D sound option in the car’s settings too, there was nothing to do but turn the radio up for a private singalong. If I’d been able to successfully hook up Apple CarPlay, the sky would have been the limit.
The 360-degree cameras are rendered well for what is an entry-level EV, and almost on par with that of the Hyundai/Kia group. Top-down, rear and forwards views are all a bonus. The only downside is the blind spot side camera which seems to be angled enough to see only a pet or toddler next to the car.
While MG have neglected to include a frunk moulding, the ability to move the boot floor down a notch makes up for it. It would be nice to have more storage space in the centre console, but the added width for larger bottles in the door is welcome
2023 MG ZS EV drive and handling
In terms of driving experience, the ZS EV does not disappoint. It’s by no means a Taycan, but you wouldn’t expect the heart to leave the ribs for the modest $45,000 EV price range.
Acceleration is 8.2 seconds from 0-100km/hr. Putting the drive mode in Sport and the foot down is responsive enough to dodge into the next lane. Although it feels a little laboured there’s plenty of power from the 130kW motor with 280Nm torque for hills and no rollback when stopped in traffic on one.
Although the ride is certainly nice and quiet, I did find the suspension a bit wanting. You definitely still feel the bumps in the road, but at least they are quiet bumps. Braking is quite hard, and combined with the soft regen, it makes for a very stop-and-go drive; something I’d want to avoid in an EV.
While we didn’t get time to test the safety features to any extent, the adaptive cruise control does what it says on the box. The only wish list item for me would be a proper lane keeping feature, and another sound option for the mechanical keyboard sound of the indicator, as this would get on the nerves after a while.
2023 MG ZS EV verdict
MG has definitely made an effort to update the ZS EV to bring drivers closer to the tech-savvy and modern aesthetic we’re coming to expect in EVs. That, plus the addition of vehicle-to-load, means that it is well placed in the market. Drivers will also appreciate the peace-of-mind warranty that Australians have come to expect from MG.
Until we see more from MG in the form of the ground-up MG4 EV, the ZS EV is certain to offer a good affordable option to drivers wanting “take charge” and go electric.
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 Y and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.