MG’s Cheap EV Doesn’t Feel Cheap At All

MG’s Cheap EV Doesn’t Feel Cheap At All
Image: Tegan Jones

MG stunned us last year when it announced its fully electric SUV for well under $50,000. This makes it an anomaly in the Australian EV space, so we were interested in how it actually performed in the real world.

MG ZS EV

WHAT IS IT?

MG's EV SUV offering

PRICE

Starts at $44,000

LIKE

One of the cheapest EVs in Australia, comfortable and spacious

NO LIKE

in-built navigation is a bit slow, not the best range

The price certainly is right

One of the biggest barriers to entry when it comes to EVs is the price, particularly in Australia. Expensive baseline costs combined with a distinct lack of federal incentives to encourage uptake, EVs are literally a hard sell.

Which is why it was so surprising when MG announced that the ZS started at $44,000. While this is by no means cheap, it’s comparatively very affordable in world of EVs in Australia. It’s one of the cheapest EVs in Australia and the cheapest SUV EV by far.

To be honest, this price point had me concerned. I assumed that this meant that a lot would be sacrificed when it came to the tech and everyday comforts.

But for the most part, I was wrong.

You won’t find all the bells and whistles of a Tesla, Audi E-Tron or Jaguar I-Pace – but MG has managed to deliver quite an impressive little SUV here.

It’s stylish and spacious

mg ev

The first thing you notice about the MG ZS EV (besides the name consisting of strings of two letters) is that it looks incredibly slick.

From the baby blue exterior to the stylish interior, it feels fancy. And I was admittedly surprised. Once again, the price point tricked me. I thought that perhaps this would be an area that would be skimped on.

Sure, it’s not as luxurious as a $100K car, but it does a lot for the budget. I’ve driven many a cheap and plasticky feeling SUV and MG has avoided this.

It feels modern, front to back. This includes several ports at the front and rear of the interior.

It also doesn’t lean into the trap of making an EV feel too futuristic. While it’s cute when Tesla does it, leaning into the trope doesn’t help normalise EVs for the regular Australian consumer. It looks and feels like a regular SUV, it just happens to be fully electric,

Interestingly, the hybrid version of the this SUV upgraded on this further, but we’ll get to that.

Tech inclusions have been upgraded

Earlier this year I had the chance to try the petrol version of the MG SUV, and I was not a fan to say the least.

I didn’t like how it handled the tech and safety inclusions were outdated and subpar to say the least.

MG seems to have been aware of this, because the ZS EV was given a makeover to address some of these issues.

Image: MG

The 8-inch infotainment system is you standard fair  and worked great, with my only bugbear being that the sat nav was on the slower side. Having to wait for addresses to load up was a touch annoying.

However, that was less of a concern for me personally as I’m an avid Car Play and Android Auto user (depending on what phone I’m reviewing at the time) so using Google Maps was an easy way around that.

Range anxiety is still a problem

MG EV

The MG ZS EV has a 44.5kWh battery and 263 km of range. This is quite small in the grand scheme of things and will drop once you get onto a highway. While it helps to keep the price low, it’s not ideal for an SUV, which many people buy to be able to take on longer trips.

That being said, it’s fine for tooling around town or even a medium sized trip before you have to power up.

This won’t be a problem for people who own their own house with the space to install a charger. But what about the rest of us?

Unlike the petrol version of the MG, I wanted to drive the ZS EV as much as possible. It was a quiet, smooth drive that could hold its own on the road. It was also quick off the mark without making my anxiety spike every time I touched the accelerator. The same went for the brakes – robust but not overly touchy.

But wanting to get the most out of this thing is slightly more problematic when you live in a rental apartment and Australia’s public charging network is still very much in its infancy.

mg ev

This leaves people like me with little to no charging options that fit conveniently into our lives. I’m a busy person and don’t want to be worrying about my car having enough juice every time I go to drive it.

As this is a shame because I’m a huge advocate for EVs, but it’s still difficult to justify one in Australia. Between the high price tags and lacks of incentives, the barrier to entry is already high.

If you then take into account the truly messed housing market and just how many people are apartment dwellers – it makes investing in an EV even less realistic. While some larger apartment buildings are beginning to install a charger or two, this simply isn’t enough at this stage.

Of course, this isn’t a problem unique to MG. Every EV entering the Australian market has to contend with the same issues. But considering this battery is smaller than some competitors, it does give one more reason to pause, despite the great price point.

That being said, if you have a convenient way to regularly charge an EV, this is a great prospect worth considering.

Not ready for full electric? Perhaps consider a hybrid instead

Considering the EV landscape in Australia right now, we couldn’t blame you if you don’t think an EV would quite fit into your home and lifestyle.

If this is the case but you’re still looking to venture into a more sustainable car space, MG also has a hybrid model that starts at $47,990, plus on-road costs.

Much like its full-EV counterpart, the MG HS PHEV balances style and comfort with the ability to handle longer drives. One extra I loved was a very fancy arm rest and drink holder combo in the back seat.

These thoughtful inclusions and spaciousness of the MG hybrid (including a generous boot) made for a very comfortable drive to the Blue Mountains during my review period.

This was earlier in the year as we ventured into the wild for an outdoor rock climbing course. So the car was filled with large bags and gear, which it handled this without a problem, while still maintaining a chic feel.

While there are plans for both Victoria and NSW to encourage EV uptake with some subsidies and a more extensive public charging network, this is still away off.

So while I would love to opt for the full EV model right now, my pick would be the hybrid. A recent family emergency has demonstrated just how important it is to not have to worry about my car having enough charge. I need to be able to jump in and go and feed the metal beast quickly if need be.

And because I can’t charge at home, I need a more accessible public charging network. And a faster one. At the present time Tesla Superchargers are the only public chargers in Australia that don’t need hours and hours to inject a decent amount of power into the car.

So until more is done to make EVs accessible in terms of the cost, public accessibility and time — I’d be opting for MG’s lovely hybrid.