MG ZR Hatchback 2001 - 2004

MG ZR Hatchback 2001 - 2004

Review by it
Monday, May 16, 2016

Pros:

  • It’s fairly cheap to buy and run
  • It’s extremely fun to drive
  • The petrol engine offers a peppy ride whilst returning good economy figures

Cons:

  • It’s not very comfortable
  • The build quality is poor and it’s not very reliable
  • The diesel engines are very loud and unrefined

Overview

The MG ZR is essentially a Rover 25 that has been subjected to a thorough make over with the handling being improved tenfold as the engineers have done a wonder job with the Rovers chassis. It has been given a much sportier look and a good range of engines too, however, there’s no hiding the fact that inside it’s still a Rover with the small interior and drab looks. Rival cars such as the Honda Jazz make much better use of the same size interior and look much better too.

Exterior and Interior

The ZR’s a good looking car but it has been know to divide people opinions. Some say it looks too much like a ’boy racers’ car, others love the sporty looks. There is enough space inside for all passengers to sit in relative comfort, but the seats could do with being a little softer. The boot is a good size too, but getting into the back row of seats in the three-door can be tricky. The interior is fairly dull and dated and there are other newer cars out there that make better use of the space. We would go for the five-door model as it is far more practical and if you can find one that was built after 2003, go for that as it experienced a facelift just prior to this improving both its looks and equipment levels. The basic Standard trim offers decent levels of equipment such as ABS, air-con, alloys, electric windows and mirrors, sports seats and leather seat trim. The + trim comes with a little more though for not enough to justify the extra expense.

Performance and Economy

We wouldn’t recommend the two diesel engines despite them being superbly economical and managing over 50mpg. They are both extremely unrefined, but most importantly they aren’t suited to the cars bad boy looks and feel. The 1.4-litre is better being very willing, but it’s the slowest in the range taking 10.0 seconds to reach 60mph. The 120bhp 1.8-litre is our pick as it offers good speed being a second and a half quicker than the 1.4-litre and is fairly economical too at 38mpg. If you’re after even more performance there is always the 1.8-litre VVC that is quicker by over a second reaching 60mph from a resting start in just 7.4 seconds whilst still returning 37mpg. The ZR is costly to insure falling into group 16, hence why it is not our favourite. The 120bhp 1.8-litre meanwhile falls into group 10 and the 1.4-litre and 2.0 TD engines are in group 8.

Like to Drive

First off you’re probably not going to like the driving position as the pedals are situated too close together and the seat isn’t as comfortable as you’d like. The MG engineers have done wonders with the old Rover 25’s chassis though making the ZR much more enjoyable to drive. Admittedly the ride can be uncomfortable on bumpier roads because of the firm suspension, but that’s a small price to pay for the entertaining ride it gives you. The steering is sharp and accurate, it corners practically flat and on twisting country lanes it will make you smile.

Faults and Repairs

There are quite a few problems to look out for on the ZR especially when it comes to the electrics which causes most of the complaints so be sure to test everything thoroughly. Other areas to check are that the car runs straight, which if it doesn’t could be because of crash damage or worn suspension which is quite common. The petrol engines are also prone to head gasket failure when the coolant runs low which can be checked by looking under the oil filler cap for any white residue. Also take it for a long run to make sure that it doesn’t overheat. You may want to get it seen to by a specialist too just to make sure you haven’t missed anything some of these cars were bought by boy racers and many have suffered from crashes or lack of care. Servicing costs shouldn’t break the bank, but they will cost you more than most of their rivals.


Overall Rating:
Review by Sam
Monday, May 16, 2016

Overview

"Quick and fun, but needs work"

Exterior and Interior

The car fully embraces the hot hatch stereotype, and inclusion of the back spoiler and spotlights add a sporty (if somewhat overdone) feel. Interior dash feels plastic and a little cheap but the half leather seats compensate by adding a touch of sporty luxury.

Performance and Economy

Economy isn't great, especially if you want to enjoy the car at it's best. Acceleration is quick, but the car struggles to keep revs low at top speeds which can be frustrating.

Like to Drive

If you're looking for a smooth drive, this isn't the car for you as the sport suspension makes it a bumpy ride. As well as this, the build of the car means it is very noisy, especially at top speeds, which really isn't ideal. Despite all it's faults, the ZR has fantastic handling and when looked after properly can be great fun to drive. <

Faults and Repairs

MG's are renowned for issues with their head gaskets, but I've never experienced any problems with mine - best to check water levels and oil quality on a regular basis though, to be safe. In fact, I was surprised by how resilient the car is, and I've only had to do minor upkeep to it in the two years that I've owned it.
Quality
Performance
Comfort
Value