MG battles back with

a bargain

MG ZS, side static
MG ZS, rear action
MG ZS, front static
MG ZS, front action
MG ZS, full front action
MG ZS, static rear
MG ZS, dog in boot
MG ZS, air vent
MG ZS, engine
MG ZS, boot
MG ZS, dashboard
MG ZS, sat nav

GO on, indulge yourself. You've worked hard for your money and it's time to spend some of it...

If the Bentley of your dreams is still a little out of reach here's a car to consider that you may not even have heard of, it's so new.

And so relatively cheap you may be able to afford the poshest version without wincing.

Say hello to the new MG ZS, latest entry to a car market flooded with mid-size SUV models as the world clamours for cars a little taller and tougher looking than a run-of-the-mill hatchback.

Built in China but mainly designed in Longbridge in the British Midlands, this latest wearer of the famous octagonal badge starts at £12,495. And the most you can pay is £17,495 before dipping into the very short options' list.

So a Bentley it ain't. Instead, we have a car designed to double sales in a brand that seemed to be idling in neutral until now.

Even with a hoped for 10,000 MGs nudging out of 90 dealer showrooms in 2018 it will still be a ripple in the car sales' pond, but heading in the right direction at least.

Helping will be a warranty stretching to seven years or 80,000 miles - far enough, says MG, to mean most buyers will always be covered. The vast majority of owners will be private purchasers doing modest miles each year, not motorway-hogging business users.

Every new SUV seems to shared the looks of something already out there and the ZS is no exception, with obvious shades of Mazda CX-3 above all else.

Which, with the Mazda a bit of a looker (and at precisely £1,000 more than the MG) will do the newcomer no harm at all.

Rivals on size (the ZS is 4,314mm long) include the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Ford EcoSport but they are all dearer, in some cases much dearer.

If the looks tempt you to peer deeper into the ZS you'll discover a cabin spacious enough to seat big people with space to spare in front and rear and a boot perfectly capable of swallowing their luggage.

It also looks well finished with just enough soft touch surfaces to shake off thoughts of budget motoring and, with a touchscreen and restricted button count, looking modern in an iPad sort of way.

Standard kit on the entry level XS Explore (£12,495) includes 15ins steel wheels, cruise control, trip computer and Bluetooth. Move to the mid-level Excite (£13,995) and you'll add 17ins alloys, air con, parking sensors, heated and electrically adjusted door mirrors and Apple Car Play.

Then, move to the top Exclusive trim (from £15,495) and you find posher alloys, satellite navigation, reversing camera and remote locking.

Behind the assertive looking radiator grille beat a choice of two petrol engines (no diesel is planned), with either four cylinders, 1,498cc and 105bhp or a three cylinder 999cc unit with 109bhp, thanks to a turbocharger upping the ante.

But the more powerful (though smaller) engine produces worse performance figures than the larger (though less powerful) one, thanks no doubt to being hitched to an automatic transmission without the chance to take a manual instead.

So, the 1.5 litre manages 109mph (1.0 litre 112mph) and hits 62mph in 10.4 seconds (12.1 seconds) while returning 49.6mpg in the official fuel test (44.9mpg) and putting out 129g/km of CO2 (144g/km).

MG says a manual gearbox might be an option if the demand appears in future and a drive in both cars makes a compelling case for DIY gears, only available at the moment with the larger-engined car.

The five-speeder in the 1.5 litre XS needs stirring to provide meaningful performance, while the smaller unit feels more spritely even with an auto box at work. It might feel transformed (and be even less expensive) with a manual gearchange.

The suspension of the XS has been set up for UK roads and it shows, with a ride the right side of firm on our awful surfaces and a modest eagerness to tackle the next corner.

So, it looks fine, drives quite nicely and costs not very much at all. Much bigger brands than MG would be very happy with that.

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