By: Tarek Hawchar
The Chinese-owned British carmaker MG Motor is gradually re-establishing itself in the Middle East. The leading Chinese brand has many crossovers and SUVs in all shapes and sizes in our region. There is the subcompact ZS, the compact RX5, the winner of the 2020 Middle East Car of the Year (MECOTY) award—the MG HS—and finally, the mid-size, 7-seat RX8.
Style-wise, the facelifted MG ZST has a sharper and more aggressive look compared to the previous model
Speaking of the ZST, it is one of the most stunning subcompact SUVs currently available on the market. First introduced in 2017 as MG Motor’s second SUV after the now discontinued GS, the MG ZS aims at competing against the likes of Nissan Juke, Mazda CX-3, Renault Captur, and Seat Arona.
In 2019, a facelifted version of the ZS was unveiled in China before later arriving in the Middle East for the 2021 model year. The 5-seater SUV has soldiered on with notable changes inside and out. With its clean exterior lines, revamped interior, state-of-the-art technologies, and, above all, its affordable price tag, we found the new ZST, which we had the chance to climb behind the wheel of, a great choice among the most popular small and affordable crossover SUVs.
Style-wise, the facelifted MG ZST has a sharper and more aggressive look compared to the previous model. It’s possible to glimpse some design traits borrowed from the Mazda CX-3—the front end and headlights, to be specific.
Billed as being a “fantastic evolution” of its predecessor, the new MG ZST now comes with a revamped black sport grille and new blackened LED headlights and taillamps. The compact SUV also adopts a sportier front bumper, a more aggressive rear bumper, and new fog lights. Other design highlights include restyled 17-inch alloy wheels, additional body-color elements, black door mirrors, red brake calipers, and faux aluminum trim, to name but a few.
Customers can also choose from five exterior paint colors, including pearl white, pearl black, silver, red, and blue.
In terms of dimensions, the MG ZST is 4323 mm long, 1809 mm wide, and 1653 mm tall, with a 2585 mm long wheelbase.
The MG ZST’s red-and-black interior also has new switchgear, a new front armrest, leather upholstery, and unique red stitching
Once you step into the facelifted ZST’s cabin, you will realize that it’s pretty sporty. The range-topping ZST has a new digital instrument cluster, aka Virtual Panel, along with a larger infotainment system with a 10.1-inch touchscreen compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Elsewhere, soft-touch materials and high-quality finishes dominate every spot around the cabin, except for a few places where hard plastic has been used! The MG ZST’s red-and-black interior also has new switchgear, a new front armrest, leather upholstery, and unique red stitching.
Other amenities include a panoramic sunroof, three-spoke flat-bottom leather steering wheel, keyless entry, an engine start button, six-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat, a six-speaker audio system, heated front seats, climate control with rear vents and air quality management, USB ports, Bluetooth connectivity, and cruise control, among other features.
On the comfort front, the seats are certainly very comfortable as they provide an ample amount of legroom and headroom, even in the back seats. Open up the boot, and you will find 359 liters of cargo space, which can be increased to 1166 liters with the 60/40 split-folding rear seats down.
When it comes to safety, the 5-seater SUV has an assortment of high-tech, driver-focused technologies, including front, side, and curtain airbags, anti-lock braking system (ABS), electronic stability control (ESC), tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS), hill launch assistant, electric parking brake with auto hold, a 360-degree parking camera, a blind-spot warning system, ISOFIX child-seat anchors, parking sensors, and reversing camera.
If performance is your main concern, opt for the powerful 1.3L turbo engine equipped with the range-topping ZST variant
Engine and Performance
Buyers in the Middle East will be able to choose between two engine options for the facelifted MG ZS. The base 1.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine pushes out 118 hp and 180 Nm of torque. This engine allows the compact SUV to get from zero to 100 km/h in 12.8 seconds, before maxing out at 170 km/h—as you can imagine, the performance of this engine isn’t great! Power is channeled to the front wheels via a CVT transmission.
If performance is your main concern, opt for the powerful 1.3L turbo engine equipped with the range-topping ZST variant. The four-cylinder mill delivers 160 hp and 230 Nm of torque. Hooked to a 6-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the front wheels, the 2021 MG ZST will accelerate from zero to100 km/h in 9.8 seconds, before hitting a top speed of 185 km/h.
Overall, there’s good body control and not too much roll in bends, while the steering is light and reasonably direct. The suspension setup, which consists of a MacPherson strut at the front along with torsion beam rear suspension, brings with it higher levels of ride comfort to meet occupant expectations.
In a crowded segment with models like Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Nissan Juke, Renault Captur, and others, it is a little surprising to see a Chinese model that outshines those established European and Japanese offerings. The facelifted MG ZST is a subcompact SUV that offers high-quality materials, cutting-edge technologies, a powerful 1.3L turbo engine, and a spacious interior, and is also pleasurable to look at.