‘Is it viable to buy an electric car right now?’ is a question we as auto journalists are being asked quite frequently. That question is backed by a lot of curiosity and understandably so. Therefore, we decided to spend some time with the MG ZS EV – one of the handfuls of electric cars you can currently buy in India without breaking the bank – to try and find an answer to that question. This is the updated ZS EV with a bigger battery, updated cabin, more power, and striking looks. But how is it to live with? Let’s find out.
What’s on the feature list?
Like all cars from MG, the ZS EV is loaded to the brim with all the bells and whistles, and some more. So you get LED lights, 17-inch aero-designed wheels, keyless entry, a large panoramic sunroof, an all-digital instrument console, a wireless charger, auto wipers, leather upholstery, an electric-adjustable driver’s seat, cruise control, automatic air-con, and an in-built PM2.5 air filter. The 10-inch touchscreen gives out lots of information too, including navigation and battery percentage and range, news/weather/music from the internet, and smartphone connectivity.
In terms of safety, the ZS EV offers six airbags, a 360-degree camera, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert and lane change assist, ABS with EBD and brake assist along with hill start and descent control, electronic handbrake, ISOFIX and three-point seatbelts for all five passengers, and tyre pressure monitor. MG has also provided their i-Smart connected car tech with the ZS EV that brings along remote telematics and more.
How practical is it?
Appearance-wise, the lack of grille on the ZS EV surely turns heads. And on the inside, it looks and feels like any conventional car. There’s an all-black cabin which feels snug and expensive. The leather-draped seats are large and supportive in all the right areas and are electrically adjustable as well. Even the ergonomics of the ZS EV’s cabin are spot on and all the controls are easy to reach and operate.
On the centre console, there’s a circular dial for an engaging drive with three toggle switches — all finished in brushed metal that looks and feels premium. We like how the wide touchscreen panel is tilted towards the driver. It’s got a smooth and simple interface with good touch sensitivity. But there are delays at times and it’s slow to react to certain inputs.
Moreover, the front passenger finds the screen at a weird angle. And the lower part of the centre console hinders the leg room as well. Whether or not you have a phone with wireless charging, the charging pad in the centre console is handy to put away your phone conveniently. For practicality, there’s sliding storage which reveals two cup holders on the centre console, and there’s usable storage under the armrest too.
Move to the second row, and it’s surprisingly easy to get in and out. There’s a decent amount of space even for three at the back and sufficient leg room as well. Similar to the front seats, the seats at the back offer good contour and support and even the under-thigh support is better than expected. That said, the protruding back isn’t comfortable for middle passengers, especially for longer journeys. But without the third passenger, you can put the centre armrest down, which also has concealed cup holders. Being a modern-day car, USB ports are provided at the back, conveniently placed below the air vents.
Lastly, the boot space of 448 litres is quite large and usable but the boot floor isn’t very deep. Also, if you have large or heavy luggage, you’d have to heave it over to a high-loading lip.
What’s the fuel efficiency like?
In this section, instead of fuel efficiency, for EVs, we’ll be looking at the real-world driving range and also their charging times. As mentioned earlier, the bigger battery pack in this ZS translates to a longer range. The 50.3kW battery pack offers a claimed range of 461km on a full charge. We did put this to test ourselves and found out that the updated ZS EV could practically go close to 350km between charges in real-world conditions.
Now, there are five ways to charge your ZS EV. First, there’s the 30kW fast charger support which can bring up 80 per cent charge in just 60 minutes. Second, the AC fast charger that MG will install at your home/office can charge to 100 per cent in eight to nine hours. These AC fast chargers are also available at all MG dealerships. Apart from that, every car is provided with a portable charging cable which can be plugged into any 15A socket. This is a slow charging process though, taking almost 18-19 hours for a full charge. And in case you run out of juice on the road, MG’s roadside assistance will provide charging support. But this facility is available only in major cities like NCR, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, and Pune and is subject to availability.
How does it perform on the daily commute?
Behind the wheel, the MG ZS EV is as convenient to drive as any other compact crossover. For every day commutes from home to the office and back, dropping kids at school, getting groceries from the market/mall and every little trip squeezed in between, the ZS EV can do it all without a second thought.
Even in bumper-to-bumper traffic or occasional highway jaunts, the ZS EV proves to be a convenient runabout. Of course, there’s range anxiety that’s always playing games in your mind. But there’s an assurance that comes with an EV unlike other cars around, you aren’t depleting the fossil fuels, not filling up the atmosphere with CO2, and not killing baby seals on your way to the park.
Here’s a deal, if you plan on travelling to work daily in the ZS, you can calculate the distance of your return journey and plan the charging schedule accordingly. And with careful planning, the charging downtime could be cleverly worked around. For instance, if your office is 20km from home, that’s a 40km round trip. Add another 10 kilometres to the mix each day, and it will need a charge just once a week (considering 300km of usable range).
To tackle the range anxiety, you can note down the range and battery percentage and there’s always a way to drive more judicially to rack up more kilometres if an unexpected journey shows up on your weekly planned schedule. Although this electric crossover would be easier on your pocket, unlike an ICE-engine car, you’ll need to plan your way around with it each time.
How is it for the weekend with the gang?
There’s a common notion that you cannot take an EV on long-distance touring. But with new charging points coming up with each passing day, it’s pretty much doable today. The only fly in the ointment would be constant calculations and planning. There’d be a perpetual need to work out the math and plan your distance according to the availability of a charging station. But find a restaurant on the highway with a charging point, and your gang can enjoy refreshments while the EV is being charged simultaneously.
Driving the ZS EV on the hilly and twisting slopes that are likely to come across on ghats isn’t a problem either. Even on steep gradation, it climbs with normal throttle inputs. And if you are at standstill on such an inclined gradient, it doesn’t roll back either. Also, with five persons on board, there’s no drop in ZS EV’s driving manners. It remains unhindered and doesn’t make its additional weight felt while on the move.
A holiday getaway can be planned with the help of the inbuilt navigation system in the ZS EV. This navigation system also plots out available charging points on the said route and gives out the battery percentage that will be remaining at the end of the trip. Pretty useful function, indeed. And apart from that, there are many smartphone applications and third-party charging stations that can be utilised to calculate the math for EV escapade.
It’s a bit tedious compared to conventional-powered cars, and there will be longer, unwanted waits at the charging station that would be part of the plan. But hey, it's green, healthier for the environment, and you’d be saving a lot of money from the fuel costs.
What’s the deal with the warranty?
Part of MG’s e-Shield ownership package, the ZS EV has five years/unlimited kilometres of warranty, along with five years of roadside assistance and five free services. This being an EV, it needs to be mentioned that eight years/1,50,00 kilometre warranty is applicable on the battery. This all reduces the total running cost to under Rs1/km, claims MG.
So to answer the question – yes, it is pretty much viable to buy an electric car today. As proven with the ZS EV, a modern-day EV is as conventional as any other car. But more importantly, EVs are becoming a new normal. That said, it takes a bit of planning each time the EV heads out of the parking, with loads of calculations for an outstation tour. Besides, the range anxiety replaces your anxiety about the rise in fuel prices. But at the end of the day, the MG ZS EV sets a benchmark for how we will be ‘living with’ EVs in the foreseeable future.
Pictures by Kaustubh Gandhi