Editor's choice
24 Sep 19

MG is back in Europe with a ready steady EV

After 14 years of absence, the iconic MG brand returns to Europe. Not with new interpretations of the legendary TF roadster or sportily re-engineered Rover cast-offs, but as a purely electric OEM – made in China. As the company slogan puts it: “An icon reborn”.

MG never really stopped to exist: after it went out of business in 2005 it lived on in China under the wings of the mighty SAIC. Now the time has come to return to its native continent - as a brand that builds electric crossovers, starting with the MG ZS EV. The car will be available from 1 October in the two dominant 'electric' countries in Europe, i.e. Norway and the Netherlands. In the first half of 2020 the MG ZS EV will enter the Swedish, Danish, French, German and Belgian market.

Let's kick off with the million-dollar question: how much range does it give? The ZS EV squeezes 263km out of its 44.5kWh-battery if you believe in WLTP. That brings it close to its main competitor, the entry-level Hyundai Kona EV 39kWh, which seems a bit more efficient because it gets you 289km from home on a single charge. Close, but no cigar, then? Actually, MG deserves a Churchill, and here is why.   

First of all, it offers great value for money. Compared to its Korean competitor, it is about €4,000 cheaper. Second, it comes with a generous standard spec. Third, it is readily available – something that cannot be said of most other electric crossovers. Indeed, the MG brand puts forward three USPs: Affordable, Available and Fully Equipped.

Three USP’s that fit into the no-nonsense and straight-forward approach of the brand that belongs to Chinese giant SAIC – which sold 7 million vehicles last year of which almost 300,000 overseas - and that gathered the European press last week at a launch event on the C-Mine site in Genk, Belgium. A site which was once a mine coal site and has been completely reinvented into a cultural hotspot. An icon reborn, in a way.

“Many car manufacturers are launching EVs but let’s be honest,” says Frank Meijer, Sales and Marketing Director of MG Europe, “just a handful are really focusing on EVs, whereas the rest are still stuck in the old world and just fooling around a bit with EVs. We are not. We don’t launch promises, we realise EV convenience.”

Thanks to the Chinese connection and the fact that mother company SAIC has enough production capacity and battery supply (through its joint-venture with CATL), MG says it can deliver the car from order within a few weeks’ time. A very important argument towards possible competitors like the Hyundai Kona and the Volkswagen ID3. In fact, there are several thousands of units already on their way to the Netherlands.

There are two trim levels: the basic Comfort version has a price tag of just under €25,000 excluding VAT, the Luxury version is yours for roughly €1,700 more. The latter comes with leather seats, which are heated in the front, a reversing camera, a panoramic sunroof, bigger wheels, hill descent control, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, enhanced connectivity for infotainment with access to Apple Carplay and Android Auto and even adaptive cruise control. Now that’s value for money.

It might be enough to seduce the European private customer. But what about the user-chooser and the fleet manager? Honestly, we were a bit sceptical initially. Some products from the People’s Republic have raised concerns about longevity and quality. As to the latter aspect, we would qualify the ZS EV as reassuringly average. The materials used seem robust and the commands feels sufficiently solid. The seats are quite supportive and there is plenty of cabin space, too. What the dashboard lacks in originality, it makes up in user-friendliness. The boot can take 448 litres, and that’s a whopping 116 litres more than the Kona Electric. 

On the road, the ZS EV does what it needs to do and even a bit more but without the dash that you expect from EVs. Up to a speed of 120kph it is quite silent. You can adapt the driving settings to your liking: eco, normal and sport, combined with three levels of regeneration.

Talking about recharging, the Kona has a 7.2kW onboard charger, allowing it to top up in 6 hours and 30 minutes at a wallbox producing at least that output. The MG’s onboard charger is comparable: it is rated at 7.4kW and tops up the battery in 7 hours and 15 minutes. The Hyundai can take DC at 50kW, which means it can fast-charged at a speed of 210 km per hour. That’s where the MG does better: it can take DC at 85kW, which should correspond to about 350km per hour.

To reassure customers, the ZS comes with a general warranty package of 5 years or 150 ,000km, whereas the battery is covered for 8 years or 150,000km and corrosion should not be a worry for the first 10  years. One big question remains: the distribution and servicing network. MG will not create its own sales companies, dealer network or maintenance centres. “We will work in partnerships and depending on the size of and possible interest of a country adapt our service network. In the Netherlands and Norway we will work with one distributor. In France and Germany, we will work with city clusters,” says Frank Meijer.

Will the ZS EV put MG back on the map in Europe? We believe it could, especially on the consumer market. As a fleet manager it’s worth your consideration if it’s availability and value-for-money you are looking for and if you are willing to take a chance on a new player.

PROS:

  • Availability of cars and battery supply
  • Attractive price tag, generous standard equipment
  • 85kW DC fast charging capability
  • Adjustable regenerative braking, drive mode settings

CONS:

  • Lack of personality and brand awareness
  • Uncertain TCO: residual values, reliability
  • Fragmented rollout in Europe, limited servicing network
  • No corporate sales strategy

Authored by Steven Schoefs & Dieter Quartier