MG ZS 180 | Auto Express | Catalog-cars

MG ZS 180 | Auto Express

5 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on MG ZS 180 | Auto Express


With no cash to develop all-new products, MG Rover could easily have given up. But the ZS is a fine example of the die-hard spirit which has kept the firm going. The cabin lacks the quality of some rivals, but the ZS 180 is visually and dynamically accomplished.

The challenge is in applying its appeal to lesser models.

The engineers at MG Rover are a talented bunch, and the current MG range is proof. Take the ZS line-up: it was originally launched three years ago, and the lacklustre Rover 45 chassis and dowdy styling were tinkered and tweaked until the car became a cut-price Subaru Impreza rival – striking to look at and pleasing to drive.

Has the magic worked again? The new ZS took its first bow at the British Motor Show – and Auto Express grabbed the keys to one of the stand cars for a world exclusive first drive.

This is a crucial vehicle for the firm. It’s the first in a line of revised models charged with breathing much-needed life into its mid-size range in order to bring in revenue to develop an all-new car. And although it’s still based on the 45 – which can trace its roots back to the 1995 Rover 400 – the initial impressions are promising.

Chief designer Peter Stevens is to be commended, as the ZS is a fine example of what can be achieved on a limited budget. With BMW-style headlights, a low spoiler, foglamps and a mesh grille, the front end borrows heavily from MG’s dramatic SV supercar. Bulging wheelarches, 17-inch alloy rims and dummy cooling vents in the wings maintain the theme, and while the rear is bland in comparison, the ZS looks good overall.

Improvements have been made inside as well. The facia features a new centre console and four air vents, reminiscent of the Audi TT. But similarities with the German brand end there, as the plastics in our test car felt cheap in places, and the finish wasn’t great. The new column stalks are a vast improvement over the shiny plastic ones of the outgoing ZS, but the same can’t be said of the window switches.

While the driver’s is on the door, the passenger controls are way back on the centre console, making them tricky to reach.


The cabin is comfortable up front, thanks to a good driving position and plenty of space. Occupants in the rear don’t fare quite as well, due to the limited legroom and low roofline.

By far the car’s best feature, however, lies under the bonnet. Where most rivals make do with a turbocharged or highly tuned four-cylinder, the ZS 180 uses MG Rover’s 177bhp 2.5-litre KV6, an engine which is renowned for its linear power delivery. Mated to a precise five-speed manual gearbox, it provides swift, unruffled acceleration.

MG’s engineers have also worked hard to improve the car’s dynamic ability without compromising its smoothness. Revised spring rates deliver a firmer ride, which is a bit jittery on uneven surfaces, but the trade-off is even more grip. The steering is sharper and delivers improved feedback, while the brake pedal is more progressive and provides better stopping power.

Although the ZS still has its faults – most of which are due to the fundamentally old packaging – the facelift gives it fresh appeal. Its visual impact alone should be enough to keep sales ticking over until an all-new car arrives. A flawed but commendable machine.

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