Published on July 31st, 2019 | by Andy Miles0
MG, A Sporty Ghost From The Swinging ’60s, Rides Again
July 31st, 2019 by Andy Miles
The MG name conjures up memories of classic two-seater sports cars from the ’50s and ’60s. When I was young, a long time ago, ownership of an MG sports car was every young man’s dream. My brother’s friend was fortunate enough to own one, a bright red MG TF with gleaming chromium radiator and headlamps. On a camping trip on my aunt’s estate in Gloucestershire, returning from the village pub, we managed to fit five people in (or at least on) that two-seater sports car. This included the owner, who, having overindulged in the local home-brewed cider, handed driving duties to another member of the party, supposedly more fit to drive. At some point along the way, the unfortunate owner literally parted company with his car, and we could hear his feet flapping along the road as he attempted to run at 40 mph. He survived without injury, and it made a good story to tell afterwards. So that was the swinging ’60s for you; getting drunk and falling out of MG sports cars, but all good fun. Then I was young and foolish, but now that I am old and foolish, I can look back and blame youthfulness for such follies and maintain a dignified reserve.
The MG name is the initials of Morris Garages, where William Morris (not the Pre-Raphaelite One) was the originator of both MG and the Morris motor company which produced the Morris Minor, as well as the famous Morris Mini-Minor, or “Mini” as we remember it now, another icon of the swinging ’60s. MG was eventually swallowed up by the monolithic British Motor Corporation, and then later part of Rover, which ended in 2005. It is now owned by SAIC motors of China, which has introduced one or two MG models back into the UK market.
Although MG is considered to be something of a success story, managing to expand its sales base in the UK at a time of recession in the motor industry, it remains a relatively minor player in the UK car market. The MG name exists as a pale shadow of its former glory: there is no MG manufacturing here in the UK, and after the Chinese parent company experienced something of a slump in the Asian markets, it partially closed down its technical innovation center here too.
A Rabbit From the Hat
Considering its fairly low profile, it was something of a surprise to me to hear that MG was to produce a fully electric vehicle. I first heard about it on Facebook, where I am in a number of electric vehicle groups. There seems a fair amount of enthusiasm for it, and it now has its own Facebook group. Precise details have been hard to come by, but it appears to be based on a conventional vehicle design — a medium-sized, SUV-style, family hatchback — rather than anything like the VW MEB or Tesla “skateboard.” It is named the MG eZS, but is identical in appearance to the MG ZS.
In the UK, the government offers people a grant of £3500 against the price of any battery electric vehicle, and in this case MG is matching the £3500 grant with the same amount again, but only for the first 1000 customers. In the last report that I saw, reservations had already reached 750. For customer number 1001, the price will be going up, and the cheapest version will be available at £25,000. That is still cheap for a new electric vehicle, but not quite as good as the current price of £21,495. It could be a popular vehicle, as it offers good value for money, though the top of the range version will be weighing in at over £30,000. which puts it in competition with all the other EVs in the same price bracket. If the government is ever going to get serious about encouraging the take up of EVs, it needs to increase the grant rather than reduce it by £1000 as they have done. The MG ZS ICE version starts at about £12,500.
Unlike other manufacturers, which are battery constrained, SAIC Motors of China has its own battery production facility able to churn out 300,000 electric vehicle batteries per year. The battery for the eZS EV is a 44.5 kWh water-cooled lithium ion battery pack, providing a WLTP range of 163 miles. Although that might be a little short by US standards, it is very adequate for the European and Asian markets targeted by MG motors. That seems a realistic figure, as I have just been reading a report on the Facebook page of a gentleman who has driven a distance of 136 miles, starting with 97% charge, and ending with 17%. That represents 136 miles from 80% capacity, which would be 170 miles on 100%. It would be very adequate for me as one of the longest journeys I do is 150 miles, so I could do the whole trip with 10% to spare, and charging for free at the local destination charger would get me all the way back. Currently in my LEAF, I can just about make it with one charging stop, and I would certainly stop once anyway, but plugging in would be optional. Being able to charge purely on L-2 would be much better for the battery. Cars with a small battery, like my 22 kWh LEAF, require constant charging, and L-3 charging on any longer trip, so their batteries last less well.
The car also comes with MG Pilot driver assistance suite, which includes advanced emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeper assist, and adaptive cruise control. The car comes with a panoramic sliding sky roof offering the same kind of open sky feel as the Model 3, though sunburn might be a problem in some climates. It has very good internal space and plenty of luggage room, able to accommodate all the family paraphernalia of bicycles, baby-buggies, and baggage. It comes in a choice of four different colors, and unlike in a Tesla, exercising that choice comes at no extra cost.
The car has an 8-inch color touchscreen featuring satellite navigation with Android Auto, Apple Car-play, and Bluetooth connectivity, with MP3 and a superior DAB radio. I would assume that it has rather more practical functions available too, but that is not mentioned in the press release.
Although the eZS EV is based on a conventional ICE version, the battery pack is bolted to the underframe, creating a low center of gravity with no intrusion on the interior space.
As in most electric vehicles there is a choice of driving modes and levels of regenerative braking, so that drivers can enjoy sporting performance on local journeys, and more sedate efficient driving for squeezing out more range from the battery on longer journeys.
Also, like a number of other EVs, the charging point is hidden behind the front logo, and lifting the MG badge reveals the CCS charging port. I had heard some comments that this seemed a little flimsy, but that was from a video they had seen and they changed that view on seeing the real thing.
Comments From the MG eZS Fans
I have asked members of the MG eZS Facebook Group (many detailed photos on that page) to provide any personal impressions they might have. They have the advantage over me of having seen more than just a press release. The following are some of their comments used with their express permission.
Michael Procter — “It felt very similar to my Leaf 40, which I will be swapping it for. Similar performance & weight, and handling. The sunroof is brilliant but on a very hot day is too much! Like a cabriolet I get burnt if I’m not careful. As the vehicle was pre-production the 8” infotainment system was laggy and currently there are no EV specific sections to it. Like it has just been taken from the petrol version. There is no steering level adjustment I was informed by the man from MG yesterday at the EV Festival at Gaydon. It felt well put together. I suffer from a bad back and the seats have no lumbar support. My test drive in a Pimlico Blue one was short, about 12 miles of town & motorway. It was as easy to drive as my Leaf. The levels of regeneration (KERS) were good. The boot is impressive in its size, but there are no hooks for securing anything down with.
“The driving position, despite no reach on the steering wheel was fine on my short trip. I’m sure I noticed a footrest for the left foot. The A pillars are much less intrusive than the ones on my Leaf or the previous Leaf 24 I owned. Rear seat legroom was really good. There is no ‘transmission hump in the rear either.
“Overall it is a great package, even at the £30,495 less the PIG, (Plug-in Grant), price for the Exclusive model. It is an affordable family EV. I will be changing my Leaf 40 for one ASAP.”
Derek Nicol — “I think the most important things about the ZS EV are (a) affordability and (b) availability. (SAIC/CATL say they have battery supply for 300,000 electric cars a year).
“I saw it at the London Show but everything electrical was disabled (public day, not press day) so I learnt very little about it. The only useful thing was that I was reassured a little about the charge flap which looks dodgy on video ,but isn’t quite so flimsy in the flesh. I just wish they had sent a Pimlico Blue one to the show (I still haven’t seen it). Black is a strange choice for an indoor Motor Show, it didn’t stand out well and was covered in finger prints. I was measuring it up against the Tesla Model 3, and I was impressed with the ZS EV spacious comfortable interior. Its biggest feature though is that its not made of pure Unobtainium.”
Hugh Maguire — “I drove one round Southampton and to be honest it didn’t feel like it was built on a small budget. The handling was benign and inoffensive, much like most SUV type vehicles. Surprisingly fast off the line in sport mode and the panoramic roof makes the car feel much roomier than it probably is. On that subject though it’s got plenty of room for 4 adults and the boot space is enough to carry their luggage.”
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