MG ZT Saloon 2001 - 2004

MG ZT Saloon 2001 - 2004

Review by it
Monday, May 16, 2016

Pros:

  • Great sporty image and improved performance
  • Spacious and practical
  • Great diesel and V8 versions

Cons:

  • Some reliability issues
  • Lack of a dealer network support
  • Look out for corrosion-related issues

Overview

Although the face seems familiar, the MG ZT is not exactly a rebadged version of a Rover 75. The MG was re-launched as a sporty brand shortly after the "divorce" from BMW. Apart from the sporty styling both inside and out, and a few exciting tuned engines, the MG cars also feature advanced suspension to make handling even more agreeable to drive. The car was supplied both in saloon and estate versions, the latter soon becoming one of the leading players in the "sportwagon" niche, competing with cars like Mercedes C-Class and Alfa-Romeo 156.

Exterior and Interior

It’s the same classic body shape that is so well known from the Rover 75. The stylish plastic body parts and a rounded grille suggest that MG might be a little different from its executive cousin. What makes it even more appealing to the type of buyers that might be interested in a sports saloon (or estate for that matter) is the daring colour palette. The MGs were available in very intense shades of yellow, green, blue and red. To match the aggressive exterior, the interior was redesigned accordingly. It’s a good balance of convenience and performance. The interior design is very sensible and elegant. It doesn’t obviously look like a cockpit of a supercar, but the improved seats with better side supports, a sporty steering wheel and a glossy panel in the dashboard makes it look exciting.

Performance and Economy

The most amazing thing about the MG ZT is that the V8 engine (borrowed from a Ford Mustang by the way) is available even with the standard trim level making it a very affordable sports car. A comfortable 5-seater saloon with a Mustang’s engine is a great recipe for fun times behind the wheel. The car is ideal for people who cannot afford a weekend car as it combines the functionality of a family car with dream-like performance. It does zero to 60mph in 6.2 seconds and its max speed is electronically limited to 155mph. The performance comes at a pretty heavy price though. The V8 MG only does 21mpg. Unlike all other ZTs, the V8 version is a rear-wheel drive car. At the cheaper end of the scale, there is the 1.8-litre engine. It’s nowhere as exciting as the V8 accelerating to 60mph in 11 seconds, but on the positive side it does deliver 36mpg. As a budget sports car, the diesel option is actually much better. It will deliver up to 40mpg, while the dynamics is even slightly better than with the smaller petrol engine. The 2.0-litre turbo diesel doesn’t really feel like a diesel, it accelerates to 60mph in 10.3 seconds and reaches a max speed of 120mph. The middle of the range 2.5-litre petrol V6 delivers great performance and economy of around 30mpg.

Like to Drive

Thanks to the new suspension, there’s plenty of fun to be had in even the most basic 1.8-litre MG. It is hard-sprung, but that doesn’t mean it’s uncomfortable. The suspension won’t battle with potholes as well as the Rover 75’s suspension, but it is still acceptable and the ZT can be used as an everyday car. It has a well-positioned driver’s seat offering great visibility and conveniently laid out controls. The ZT is a joy to drive, especially the V6 and V8 versions.

Faults and Repairs

The V8 model needs special attention. It was built as a sports car and in many cases has been used as one meaning that the engine has seen excessive loads. Normally cars of such specification come with a full service history. If it doesn’t, be careful. In maintenance the V8 needs the best care that you can give it. The civilian ZTs with front-wheel drive are much easier to care for. The engines are prone to overheating so checking coolant and engine oil levels has to be done on regular basis. Other than that, there are only small niggles and faults that are quite easy to sort out. Today, the MGs are mainly enthusiast cars. Due to the non-existent dealer network, they eventually end up with people who can sort out the majority of the problems themselves with the help of the widespread UK enthusiast network.