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First drive: MG eZS to be new EV price leader

MG eZS small crossover racing to be the first Chinese EV on sale in Australia

MG logo22 Apr 2019

By NEIL DOWLING in SHANGHAI

MG WILL target a circa-$30,000 before on-road costs pricetag for its upcoming eZS all-electric small SUV, which could make it Australia’s cheapest emissions-free model when it hits showrooms sometime in the next 12 months.
 
Currently, Hyundai’s $44,990 Ioniq Electric Elite small car is the country’s most affordable all-electric vehicle (EV), while the MG eZS will compete directly against the South Korean brand’s Kona Electric small SUV that kicks off from $59,990.
 
The electric version of the ZS will also sit atop MG’s small SUV line-up, with the Excite variant opening the range at $22,990 and the Essence priced at $26,990 – both driveaway.
 
Like its South Korean competition however, the MG eZS will also receive bespoke suspension tuning for Australia conditions, MG Motor Australia production planning director Pavel Meck told GoAuto during our taste of the new model in Shanghai last week.
 
“All MGs have Australian input into suspension tuning and the EV won’t be any different,” he said.
 
“The launch of the EV into Australia is still some way off but it will be a matter of priority that the ride and handling are up to what Australians expect in a new car, regardless of it being an EV or otherwise.”
 
Mr Meck said buyers in Australia would also be offered a home charger alongside the emissions-free small crossover, but final details on its capacity and charge times were not available.
 
The MG eZS has a charge time using the company’s home charger of about eight hours, however, it also has standard plugs to suit fast chargers that can top up 80 per cent of juice in 40 minutes.
 
Fully charged, its 44.5kWh battery has a claimed range of 335km under the outdated New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) testing protocol. Mr Meck said use under the new Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) was still being done and was not available at the time of publication.
 
Power and torque outputs from the single electric motor is pegged at 110kW and 350Nm respectively, which drive the front wheels through a multiplex automatic transmission that combines the features of a conventional torque convertor with a continuously-variable system.
 
Final specifications are likely to alter the SUV’s features when it hits Australia, but it sells in China – and soon in Britain – with comprehensive safety kit including autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane-change assist, surround-view monitor and seven airbags.
 
On the road last week for an exclusive drive, the MG ZS EV showed it not only paves a new road for EVs, but has impressive economy of ownership attributes for a broad range of buyers, including those who may not have previously considered an EV.
 
It also shows that by basing a pure EV on an existing model, the next step in EVs no longer has to be a science experiment and look uncomfortably different from other road users.
 
The exterior is practically identical to the petrol-fueled ZS because MG’s parent company SAIC said it was shown – in China – that buyers did not want to be seen to be driving an unusual vehicles.
 
The same argument could easily apply to Australia.
 
Cabin treatment is subtle, reflecting the ZS price point, but differs from its sibling by paring back a few unnecessary items such as a gear shifter, replaced with a rotary switch segmented across the top arc into reverse, neutral and drive. 
 
A modest button to set the intensity of regenerative braking is also added, which offers a three-mode choice for the braking effect when the accelerator pedal is released.
 
The tachometer is replaced with a “power” gauge relaying energy use in percentage terms, with 0-60 per cent in a green zone implying economy, and red from 60-100 per cent.
 
Otherwise, the eZS is operated as easily as a press button start to engage the battery, selecting ‘D’ on the rotary wheel and away you go. 
 
The acceleration is brisk with all torque available from a standstill, and all is quiet except for a slight hum of the electric motor. 
 
The EV could easily outgun most traffic rivals away from the lights with no lag and an instant torque kick. It also has impressively strong mid-range power, ideal for overtaking.
 
Dial up the regenerative braking to its most aggressive third stage and the brake pedal is barely needed, saving on brake pad wear for another long-term ownership bonus.
 
Although ride quality is soft in comparison with Australian rivals, reflecting the eZS’s Chinese tuning, we suspect by the time the emissions-free MG hits local shores all kinks will be ironed out.

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