During our recent visit to the Silverstone race track for the #MGLive2018 event, we managed to get our hands on the much awaited and highly speculative (for India) MG ZS SUV. The quick drive lasted about ten minutes as we drove around the outer periphery of the racing circuit but later, I had more than ample time to spend with this compact SUV. So while there have been lot of speculation about this being the first offering from MG for India, the recent update is that we will get a much larger version to begin with, something that will allow MG to lock horns with Hyundai’s Creta. Nevertheless, here is our quick impressions about the Ford Ecosport / Hyundai Creta rivalling MG ZS.
The ZS is a smart looking compact SUV that is slightly longer than the sub 4-meter SUVs on sale in India. The front is dominated by a huge grille, something that we also saw on the new MG6 a day before. The swept back headlamps look neat and get DRLs and the ZS gets a rather longish bonnet to give it a sporty stance up front. The rear is what reminds us a lot of the Hyundai Creta for some reason but we aren’t complaining as the end execution is clean and crisp. There are silver skid plates on either ends along with matte black body cladding. Finishing up the exteriors are the well crafted 17-inch alloy wheels that wear 215/50 tyres. The white example you see here gets red inserts around the exterior design while the normal models do with a dash of chrome.
The cabin is what impressed me even more, thanks to its clutter free design and the huge 8″ screen that supports navigation and Apple CarPlay. Only five buttons are present under the screen for the audio system and then the climate control buttons / knobs further below. The touch and feel is premium and up there with the best in the segment. And then the cup holders and a huge open space behind the brake lever to park your cell phones. The steering gets controls for the audio system and the toggling between the driver info display. Look closely and you will notice the retro looking round air-con vents on either end of the fascia. Nice touch there MG.
Space up front is generous and with the front two seats adjusted for two six feet tall people, there is ample space at the back for two more tall passengers. Space remains impressive in the boot too, with the ZS offering 448 litres, only 5% less than that of the larger Hyundai Creta! The version you see is the top end ‘Exclusive’ which gets all the bells and whistles including leather seats, side and curtain airbags, cruise control, reverse camera etc.
The model we drove comes with a 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that is good for 111 PS of power and 160 Nm of torque. These figures are less than that of the Ford EcoSport Ecoboost but the ZS has an ace up its sleeve and that is the 6-speed automatic gearbox. For those who love numbers, this one will sprint from standstill to the ton mark in 12.4 seconds along with a top whack of 180 km/h.
However what matters for an urban SUV is the way it drives in traffic and in this regard, I did like the ZS a lot. For starters, the seating posture is nice and the steering is light, something that I want in cars that belong to this segment. The gearbox works well, changing ratios seamlessly and given the stick, does downshift quickly for that required momentum. The low profile tyres do rob the car of a good ride and if and when the ZS comes to India, it will be fair to assume the set-up will shift to 60 section on 16-inch wheels.
Worthy of a mention here are the steering modes, a first in this segment of compact SUVs. Drivers can pick between Urban, Normal and Dynamic as per needs and each mode changes the steering effort and behaviour. The Urban mode, as expected, provides a lighter steering for slow speed usage while the Dynamic mode weighs up the steering for maximum engagement. There is an increased steering effort along with a higher damping effect and you can feel the change between these two modes. By default, the steering remains in Normal mode.
The ZS starts at roughly Rs 10 lakh in the UK and if and when it comes to India, thanks to lower cost of labour and production, a starting price of Rs 8-9 lakh cannot be ruled out. It is larger than likes of the Maruti Brezza and Ford EcoSport but smaller than the Renault Duster / Hyundai Creta which might just allow it to create its own niche between the sub 4-meter and 4-meter plus SUVs. When will this eventually happen? Well, we just hope MG India is reading this right now!