MG ZS Hatchback 2001 - 2004

MG ZS Hatchback 2001 - 2004

Review by it
Monday, May 16, 2016


  • It has perfect handling
  • It looks better than the Rover 25
  • The V6 engine offers excellent hot hatch performance


  • The ride is uncomfortable at lower speeds
  • Space in the back is limited


The MG ZS may just look like a dressed up Rover 25 just with new skirts and spoiler, but the mechanics at MG have done an excellent job of turning the 25’s stodgy handling into a car that you will love to drive. It has sharp and precise steering, superb cornering and its good range of engines especially the V6 unit. The ride is slightly more uncomfortable and jittery due to its stiffened suspension, but that’s not much of a price to pay and it doesn’t ruin the cars overall performance.

Exterior and Interior

The ZS is a much better looking car than the Rover 45 it’s based on with added spoilers skirts and wings. It also comes with five doors which for a hatchback is unusual, but makes getting in and out a lot easier for the back seat passengers. There is good space up front and the seats are all comfortable however the same can’t be said for the back seats where legroom is in short supply. The boot is a decent size and can be expanded on further by folding down the split folding rear seats. The cabin still feels dated though despite MG’s efforts to liven things up and it all feels rather cheap too. When it comes to deciding on a trim level you’re unlikely to be disappointed which ever you go for as all come with a good amount of equipment, even the standard trim that comes with ABS, alloys and remote central locking. The + trim adds a CD player, air-con, electric windows and metallic paint.

Performance and Economy

The entry level ZS110 is a fairly decent engine achieving 40mpg that is only bettered by the diesel engines. However, if you’re after a hot hatch then the ZS110 isn’t the engine to go for as it takes almost 10 seconds to reach 60mph from rest. The ZS120 is better, but it still only gives more of a warm than hot hatch ride taking 9.0 seconds to reach 60mph. It is still fairly economical though achieving 38mpg. If you go for one with the CVT automatic gearbox, which we would advise you against, the fuel efficiency drops down to just 33mpg and is over half a second slower too. The only engine to offer a truly hot hatch experience is the V6 ZS180 that goes from a standing start to 60mph in 7.3 seconds. This does impact on the economy figures though as it drops down to just 29mpg. The diesel engines are there for people who are looking for a vehicle that offers good fuel efficiency rather than a hot hatch experience with both of them achieving over 50mph. The 115bhp unit is the better of the two as it still goes from 0-60mph in 9.5 seconds and actually offers a good ride on twisting country lanes. The diesel engines are also the cheapest to insure falling into group 10, the 1.6-litre and 1.8-litre models into group 12, whilst the V6 falls into group 16.

Like to Drive

MG has done an excellent job of turning the stodgy handling of the 45 into the ZS that has superb handling thanks to its stiffened suspension. This does give it more of an uncomfortable ride, but for the improvement in handling it’s a price worth paying. The steering is perfectly weighted and sharp, it corners brilliantly and the brakes are excellent.

Faults and Repairs

All of these models are likely to have been pushed hard over the years, even the diesels, and as such are likely to suffer from a few reliability issues. The most costly and common fault is with the petrol engines that suffer from blown head gaskets. The suspension also suffers as do the boot struts as the lid is extremely heavy due to the spoiler. Overall we would recommend you get an expert to have a look at the car just to make sure everything is in working order before you part with your cash. The good news is that the ZS will only need to be serviced every 15,000 miles compared to most of its rivals 10,000 miles. By using an independent garage you can also cut costs further so that it works out cheaper than its VW rival. The bad news though is that repairs are likely to cost more on the MG than on its rivals.