MG has announced its first ‘affordable’ electric car, reports Iain Robertson, heralding its arrival with the Chinese manufacturer matching the government’s £3,500 EV grant, which equates to a massive £7,000 discount off a new car priced notionally from £28,495.
The same problem exists for me with electric vehicles, as it does for SUVs; they are largely fashion items into which ‘lazy’ consumers can be led by the rings in their noses! The biggest issue for the critic, especially if he/she is dependent on advertising revenue to keep the title buoyant, plus the myriad ‘bloggers’, ‘vloggers’ and ‘blaggers’ in the market that simply ‘cut-and-paste’ marketing copy, is that following the herd is often safer than knocking it, even if it leads to misinformation.
Sorry! I will not tolerate cliché laden blurb and I prefer to consider the broader picture in all circumstances. To refer to EVs as being ‘clean and green’ is actually more than slightly disingenuous. While not wishing to regurgitate my customary critique of the electricity industry, until our nation either goes entirely nuclear (although some natural resources will still remain at stake), or provides renewable power via wind, sun, or wave motion, EVs are emphatically neither clean, nor green. In fact, the only green-ness is contained within the easily influenced minds of some consumers.
Bear in mind that the current demand for lithium ion battery packs used in most EVs is also a threat to natural resources, let alone the highly toxic human element of mining for lithium in the first place. If you want to join the low wage exploitation angle, this is a great place to start. Incidentally, both Russia and China have done their level best to corner lithium supplies worldwide, so it is no surprise to hear from MG that it has access to its own Gigafactory that can produce 300,000 batteries annually.
In launching its new EV, the company is keen to boast of the ZS EV’s high technology, which is actually hyperbole attached to a suite of the usual adaptive cruise control, lane discipline, autonomous braking and blindspot monitoring systems that are available as standard on both Excite and Exclusive trim levels but also on a number of other makes and models of motorcar. Yet, there is no denial of MG’s value-for-money price tagging, which is applicable to the first 1,000 UK customers to adopt the new model, which begs the question, if MG can afford to discount its new car so heavily (at an apparent cost of £3.5m), why can it not continue the price advantage, after all, its unit manufacturing cost in China is very low indeed?
Naturally, the ZS is already acknowledged as a well-packaged budget-level motorcar albeit now powered by a clean(ish), efficient and moderately zesty electric powertrain. Combining a WLTP certified range of 163 miles (which will probably equate to a genuine 120 miles), the road tax and congestion charge zone free ZS EV is going to need its rapid charging capability for any trips out of the cityscape. Its top speed is given as 110mph, with 0-60mph being covered in around 9.5s. Fortunately, the same seven years warranty that is provided for all MG models also covers the lithium ion battery pack on the ZS EV. With electricity charges running presently at just under half the price of fossil fuel, you have a small idea of how much it costs to run.
The car majors on interior space, making it ideal for both family and business use. It also features a substantial boot, with hidden storage areas, a split-level floor and practical aspects to keep items secure, when on the move. The bright and well assembled cabin is illuminated by the panoramic, sliding Sky Roof (complete with electric blind), which creates an airy environment for occupants. The 8.0-inch colour touchscreen has a mobile-phone familiarity to its features and incorporates satellite navigation, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth phone connectivity, with audio streaming and DAB radio. It works easily and speedily, linking to mobiles and music systems instantly.
The EV package features a water-cooled 44.5kWh lithium-ion battery pack, feeding a front-mounted electric motor that delivers a modest 140bhp, supported by a very healthy 260lbs ft of instant torque. The battery pack is located beneath the car, for a lower centre of gravity, which helps with handling agility and balance, but the driving experience cannot disguise the greater weight of the drivetrain. Three driving modes and three levels of regenerative braking help the EV to meet driving preferences. The car’s inherent handling is safe and predictable, although the power steering would benefit from better feel and feedback.
Both the car’s familiar internal and external styling elements are largely unaltered, although the ZS EV sports the latest evolution of MG’s distinctive ‘star-rider’ grille design that frames the famous octagonal logo, behind which the CCS charging port is located. A new-style of 17.0-inch diameter alloy wheels is designed to be light and extremely aerodynamic, helping to create a more efficient airflow, and the choice of four exterior colours includes a new Pimlico Blue.
With an enticing £21,495 price point at launch, ZS EV is a compelling option for customers wanting to switch from old school petrol and diesel cars to enjoy some of the benefits of electric motoring. If you feel inextricably drawn to owning an example, just be aware that EV residuals are a flexible feast at the moment. MG is being intentionally disruptive with its affordability aspect but do not be led up a garden path, as it is only the first 1,000 examples that incorporate the ‘deal’, which also includes free installation of a domestic wall-charger. To be fair, it is an excellent deal. However, the true entry-point (post government grant) is £24,995, for the Excite trim level and a further £2,000 for the better equipped Exclusive version, plus wall-box installation fees, which are around £1,000. Deliveries commence in September 2019.
Just as the regular ZS is a perfectly decent package, the EV version continues that trend. However, a punchier, longer range version must be on the cards, if MG is to compete head-on with other ‘budget-priced’ EVs.