Road test: 2001 MG ZR 160 (5 door) | The Car Enthusiast |

28 Aug 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Road test: 2001 MG ZR 160 (5 door) | The Car Enthusiast |

At the time of the MG ZR160 test-drive, Brazil was responsible for kicking England out of the 2002 World Cup. I don’t know if this was on Mark Sims’ mind as he photographed the yellow hot hatch on a background of green, but we thought we better hold the story back until the emotions had subsided a little.

Emotion would probably be the primary reason to buy a bright yellow MG ZR. It exudes driving passion and aggression, tangible in the form of a tasty body kit and alloys, and of course that yellow paintwork. Thankfully, the car does not disappoint.

Sit down on the colour-coded, half-leather seats and grip the neat leather wheel and you should instantly feel at home if you are a car enthusiast. True, the interior is not the most up to date design, but it all works, and the important controls feel very good – specifically the steering, gears and pedals.

The MG ZR is a hot hatch in the traditional sense, with a relatively high driving position and a rev-happy 16v engine under the swoopy bonnet, pushing 160PS through the front wheels. Grippy as the Michelin Sport tyres are, wheelspin in the dry is possible well into second gear, if you accelerate away from a junction too hard for instance.

Apparently… Traction control would soon sort that out (or even some self-restraint!), but what it does mean is that there is ample power to play with while cornering. A car that just grips everywhere with no skill required is not an enthusiast’s car. The MG ZR however, is very much one. The chassis is based on the Rover 25, which itself is an evolution of the Rover 200 set-up.

Modern Rover 25s handle well, but the ZR is in a different league altogether. Braking hard into a series of bends is where the fun starts. The pedal feel is superb, and the pads bite the disks hard, giving you plenty of confidence. Turn in is quick and the car can easily be adjusted mid-corner with the throttle pedal.

Lift-off oversteer is possible, but in fact the most effective cornering method we found was to brake late into the apex, causing the rear to come in to play early, then power through the exit, with the car being nicely balanced and ready to dive into the next curve. Thoroughly good fun.

Fun is central to the image MG is trying to portray to us at the moment, and it really does come across in this car. It is the type of car that will put a smile on your face whenever you go to drive it, be that to the shops (there is plenty of space for 5 people and their shopping remember) or down your favourite B-road. Indeed, I reckon the ZR160 could be quite a good part-time trackday car.

Of course you may worry about tarnishing that gleaming paint! Some of us in the office (not me) thought that the appeal of such an extrovert colour would soon fade, but you have to admit that it is eye-catching. Like the other Rover-based cars, the ZR has been cleverly styled in my opinion.

The rear is virtually unchanged (except for the roof spoiler), but the front gives the car its own character, which it shares with the ZS and ZT. Side-by-side with the Rover 25, it is obvious how little MG Rover actually had to change to achieve this effect.

It is this clever re-engineering that may well make MG Rover a profitable independent company in the future. There are certainly a large number of the new generation MGs on the roads of Britain at the moment, which backs up the sales figures nicely. Of course, in the UK, patriotism counts for something when buying a new car (assuming the car is good in the first place), and that surely makes a difference. MG must be glad they are not a Brazilian company…


No matter where you live in the UK if you are looking for an MG ZR to buy visit They have plenty of sellers to suit your needs and location.

Road test: 2001 MG ZR 160 (5 door)

Story by Shane O’ Donoghue, images by Mark Sims

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