MG ZST SET TO TAKE ON THE COMPETITION

The Chinese-owned MG company continues to make an impact on the Australian market with an expanding range and a prominent marketing campaign leading to impressive growth figures

Tapping in on our love of sport MG has sponsored the Melbourne Stars team in the local Big Bash cricket competition, the Port Adelaide AFL club and the Australian National Basketball League.

This after producing a limited-edition version of the ZS Essence tagged Anfield as a tribute to Liverpool FC’s win in the 2019-20 English Premier League.

This week’s test is on the MG ZST, the topline model in the ZS range of mid-sized SUVs. It comes in two variants, Excite and Essence.

STYLING
MG ZST is effectively the same as the standard ZS but with a gloss-black grille, front and rear bumpers matched with front foglamps, front and rear smoked LED headlights with 21 LED light clusters at the front and eight at the rear.

The overall styling is neat and attractive with the stand-out feature being the large honeycomb grille.

Both variants have 17-inch two-tone machined alloy wheels each with different designs but both highlighted by red brake callipers.

Black high-gloss is used on the door mirror housings as well as side sill inserts.

Not surprisingly, given the distinguished MG heritage, the badge is prominently displayed. It not only sits in the centre of the front grille but also on the tailgate (where it doubles as the boot opening handle – the wheels, floor mat, key fob, and the headrest in the Essence.

INTERIOR
Inside, the ZST has a high-quality feel throughout the cabin with soft-touch materials, synthetic leather upholstery on the seats, a leather-wrapped perforated steering wheel and gear selector, and a front leatherette centre armrest.

Essence adds a virtual instrument cluster, heated front seats with powered six-way adjustment for the driver.

There’s excellent rear seat leg and headroom even with the sunroof in the Essence although there’s no centre armrest.

Rear storage space is 359 litres with the rear seatbacks in place expandable to 1187 with them folded.

ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
Power comes from a three-cylinder 1.3-litre, turbo-petrol engine generating 115kW of power and 230Nm of torque. There is no all-wheel drive option with power going to the front wheels through a six-speed torque-convertor automatic.

SAFETY
The MG ZST doesn’t yet have either a Euro NCAP or ANCAP rating as yet but based on the 4-star achieved by the standard ZS and the raft of additional equipment it’s seems likely to gain the extra star.

Basic safety features in both Excite and Essence include six airbags; enhanced ABS brakes; electronic stability program; active cornering brake control; rear parking sensors; and a reversing camera.

Also standard is an excellent range of advanced safety equipment that’s bundled together within the MG Pilot Safety Suite. This includes forward collision warning; automatic emergency braking; lane departure warning; traffic jam assist; adaptive cruise control; blind spot monitoring; rear cross traffic alert and automatic headlights.

INFOTAINMENT
The MG ZST uses a high-resolution 10.1-inch tablet-style touch screen for its info display which splits into three large components providing access to audio, satellite navigation and air conditioning settings. Switches below the screen are there as an alternative for audio volume control and aircon fan speeds and temperatures.

Wireless connectivity is provided by Bluetooth, while for wired connections and smartphone charging there are five USB inputs – two in the front, two in the rear and, cleverly, one beside the rearview mirror to power a dash camera.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.

DRIVING
With its fairly high roof, entry into the ZST didn’t cause any problems and the front seats are comfortable and supportive. The steering column only has height adjustment.

Around town the mid-sized SUV is in its element with sharp acceleration and agile handling with a pleasant three-cylinder sound. Out on the motorway the 115 kW and 230 Nm provided more than enough for smooth and comfortable cruising.

The only disappointment with the ZST lies in its suspension which is quite harsh on even moderately rough roads.

Steering is lighter than we prefer although it does get firmer as speed increases.

We’re not fans of driving assistance and infotainment systems that rely predominantly on touchscreens and so can be distracting but the size and simplicity of the controls here do reduce the effect here.

The combination of mirrors, parking sensors, reversing camera and the 360-degree camera should make for hassle-free parking.

Although, strangely, fuel consumption is not listed on the specification sheet we understand that it’s rated at 7.5 litres per 100 kilometres. On our test we averaged 8.6 L/100 km.

SUMMING UP
As with Asian predecessors from Japan and Korea MG based its early marketing campaigns on aggressive pricing and, while this is still largely the case, its confidence in the ZST is such that it has chosen to position its pricing into the same ballpark as its numerous, and mostly well-established, competitors including the Mitsubishi ASX, Hyundai Kona, Kia Seltos, Nissan Qashqai and Toyota C-HR.

The MG ZST could well be the coming-of-age car for the Chinese automotive industry onto the Australian market. The brand’s overall quality has steadily increased after an inauspicious start back in 2013 and the ZST is, in our view, the best MG offering yet.

It’s a neat, attractive and very well-equipped vehicle that’s competitively priced with the bonus of a seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty.

MODEL RANGE
ZS Excite 1.5-litre: $23,490
ZS Excite Plus 1.0-litre: $24,990
ZS Essence 1.0-litre: $26,990
ZS Essence Anfield 1.0-litre: $27,490
ZS E electric vehicle: $43,990
ZST Excite 1.3-litre: $29,490
ZST Essence 1.3-litre: $32,490
Note: These are drive-away prices and include all government or dealer delivery charges.

SPECIFICATIONS (MG ZST Essence 1.3-litre turbo-petrol five-door wagon)

ENGINE:
Capacity: 1.349 litres
Configuration: Turbocharged four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 115 kW @ 5200 rpm
Maximum Torque: 230 Nm @ 1800 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 91 RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 7.5 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: NA

DRIVELINE: Six-speed automatic

DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4323 mm
Wheelbase: 2580 mm
Width: 1809 mm
Height: 1653 mm
Turning Circle: NA
Kerb Mass: 1295 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 45 litres

BRAKES:
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc

STANDARD WARRANTY:
Seven years / unlimited kilometres

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