What is it?
Why should I buy it?
Good range for an EV, easy to charge, supports long distance travel
Why should I avoid it?
Sophisticated electronics and battery could make repairs expensive
What is it?
The MG ZS EV is an all-electric SUV based on the popular MG ZS that is sold abroad. We, however, will get the EV variant only. So, let's take a look at this second product from the British carmaker for the Indian market.
The exterior appearance of this pure EV is similar to the regular ZS crossover available globally save for some ‘Electric’ badges. The car's fascia has a signature MG look and features a diamond-studded grille pattern with chrome surround identical to the ones we had seen on some Mercs. This grille also houses the car's charging point that can be accessed by lifting the illuminated logo. And it’s flanked by sharp LED headlamps and gets a front bumper featuring a wide central air-dam. Apart from the silver roof rails, large windows and ORVMs with turn indicators in its side profile, what strikes one's attention are the windmill inspired alloy wheels. Then, round at the back too, one can see large LED tail lamps. Further, a tall stance, neatly sculpted lines and its overall proportions and design clearly make it a proper five-seater SUV that should attract an Indian buyer.
How is it on the inside?
Getting in and out of the cabin is easy and you will quickly appreciate the quality of materials used inside. Especially, the black faux leather that feels premium, soft-touch materials all over and even the contoured seats, which are comfortable with them being adequately padded. Yet, despite the driver’s seat being six-way electrically adjustable it would have been a bonus if the steering was a telescopic one to get the perfect driving position. Otherwise layout is good with most controls within the driver’s reach. Then, the second row does miss a centre arm rest and air-con vents. And even though it can accommodate three people without much discomfort, this seat could have done with better under-thigh support. It still is a practical cabin with a good amount of storage and stowage slots along with cup-holders. And there’s a huge boot space of 448litres accommodating luggage of all kinds of shapes and sizes.
A five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, six airbags, ABS, EBD, hill-hold, hill descent control, TPMS, all seat-belts reminder and even three-point seatbelt in the second row are a part of the safety suite. Coming to the equipment, it gets a fair share of new age features too. Though the screen isn’t as big as the one in the Hector, this ZS EV features an updated version of the infotainment system. It is dubbed as the iSmart EV 2.0 and gets a new graphic interface and improved hardware over the Hector’s iSmart system. Interestingly, the iSmart EV 2.0 also features music from Gaana app, weather by Accuweather and real-time maps with charging station locator from TomTom. Voice commands work without much fuss and it's also equipped with an embedded SIM card for internet connectivity and even for connecting to an external home Wi-Fi network or mobile hotspot.
Sure it misses out on some features like fog lamps, ambient lighting, wireless and fast charging but the automatic climate control, cruise control, auto headlamps and wipers, DRLs, keyless entry, etc. make up for a decently packed interior. Also, the panoramic sunroof was one of the Hector's USP and it was much appreciated by the buyers. Consequently, MG provided a huge roof in the ZS EV as well, to add to the feeling of space and boost the ambience inside the cabin. Another highlight in the ZS EV's cabin is an inbuilt PM 2.5 air filter. There's a CO2 saver feature which displays the amount of carbon-dioxide the owners are saving in real-time. It is all in an attempt to further its green quotient.
However, what differentiates it from a regular car is the electric system that it's equipped with. Whenever the ZS SUV is put on charge, the MG logo on the front grille glows up to indicate that the SUV is getting charged. Once the glowing stops, it means the charging is complete. Interestingly, the battery level reaches from 0 to 80 percent battery capacity within 50 minutes thanks to a 50kW DC fast charger installed at dealerships. On the other hand, a 7.4kW AC home charger, which will be set up at the owners’ homes or offices, will take around 6-8 hours for a full charge. What's more, MG India will also provide an on-board portable cable free with the ZS EV that can be plugged into a wall socket.
How does it drive?
Whether you are driving an EV for the first time or not, the ZS will astonish you with the way it gets off the mark. It is super silent, in fact, you will have to rely on the instrument cluster to understand that it is on once you push the start button. Slot the rotary knob in the centre console in 'D', leave the brake and press the accelerator to be instantly pushed back into the seat. It just sprints away. Since this is completely different from an IC engine powered petrol/diesel vehicle, there's no turbo to spool and there's 353Nm of instantaneous torque available. This electric vehicle is equipped with an electric motor which puts out 143bhp of power. MG claims 0-100kmph time in just 8.5 seconds and we believe it as it feels good enough to sprint that fast.
This motor draws power from a 44.5kWh, liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery, delivering a claimed range of 340km. Which also means, owners won't have much of range anxiety as compared to other electric cars. The battery pack features a sophisticated management system and an IP-67 rating, which means it’s water-resistant up to one metre. Then, there are three levels of regenerative braking in which a kinetic energy reverse system stores the extra generated power for later when you'll need it.
But more importantly, there are three driving modes (Eco, Normal and Sport) which clearly can be distinguished through the throttle response. Not that it's very subdued in the Eco mode, but surely less aggressive than in the Normal mode in order to save some battery and give one a better range. Normal is good enough to strike a balance between economy and performance, but Sport brings out the animal out from the ZS. Overtaking and filling gaps in traffic is easy and makes other cars feel like a joke by zooming ahead of them. Even cruising at triple digit speeds feels like a breeze.
It’s impressive even on the ride and handling bit. The steering is nice and light and has just 2.5 turns lock-to-lock meaning the driver doesn't have to muscle around the SUV in town or while parking. It does provide adequate feedback, weighs up with speeds but does have an artificial feel to it. But that's not a deal-breaker as its good for city and highway use with the vehicle showing excellent straight-line stability.
With mostly straight roads in Delhi, we couldn't assess how good it will be around corners or switchbacks. But it feels planted enough to not make us feel nervous or anything, which we anyway will ascertain soon in our complete road test. Still, brownie points to MG for striking the right balance between softness and firmness in tuning the suspension. The set-up is well tuned for our road conditions as it rides flat on well-paved roads at high speeds with not much of pitching or yawing on undulations. The same is the case at slow speeds and even on battered roads. It isolates even sharp-edged potholes or joints on the road without sending a jolt into the cabin.
Should I buy one?
The underlying question here is - If I can buy one? And the answer is No. Primarily because the car isn't launched yet. And now believing that MG has received quite a good response for its bookings, one might have to wait for a longer duration to get it even after its launch in January. But then, production has already started and the ZS EV will be initially sold only in five cities – Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Delhi-NCR, Hyderabad and Mumbai. So once on sale, its looks, practicality of an SUV, lightning performance, good range and excellent ride quality will appease car buyers with check marks on almost all of their primary demands. What might still hold them back is the expensive battery and dependency of imported parts. Otherwise, it's a great step from MG to help the Indian government in faster adoption of electric vehicles. An affordable price backed by adequate infrastructure and government incentives should easily make it sell in our market.
Where does it fit in?
On an average, any electric vehicle is twice as expensive as the comparable petrol/diesel car. And with an expected pricing of Rs 20-25 lakhs it will go up against the Hyundai Kona EV, Jeep Compass and Hyundai Tucson in India.
Pictures by Kapil Angane