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Car Reviews / 12-26-18

2019 MG ZS Alpha

A proper viable subcompact crossover


By Kevin Limjoco Photos by Nicolas Calanoc

 

By now you all should be aware that the British heritage brand (since 1924) Morris Garage (MG), which is owned by the Chinese state-owned automotive company SAIC Motor Corporation Limited since 2006, is now officially distributed by The Covenant Car Company, Inc. (TCCCI) which is the master distributor of Chevrolet. So, the MG brand has a solid base to work from and will in fact have a speedy rollout of dealerships by working with many current Chevrolet dealerships while simultaneously forging new partnerships. It is said that by the end of 2019 that MG would have a dealer network of 16 outlets. With this second coming I can see the MG brand flourishing in our market with its new product line focused on maximum overall value supported by a 5-year factory warranty. SAIC Motors has their manufacturing plant for MG in Shanghai, China with design and engineering headquarters in Longbridge, Birmingham, United Kingdom. Both interior and exterior designs are led by British design chief Carl Gotham and his 25-strong team.

We were all very impressed with our first test unit, this domestic top-spec Meteorite Black ZS Alpha. What really struck home for me was that I did not know what the retail price was of the ZS Alpha when I took delivery, yet I was already happy with its overall design and build quality. As a subcompact crossover entry, it is already the largest and most spacious. The current local standard bearer for the segment is the Mazda CX-3, and we have a top-range ACTIV AWD model in our C! Fastfleet which retails for P1,480,000.00. So, when I finally saw the price of the MG ZS Alpha, which is the top-spec, at P998,888.00, accompanied with its fabulous promotional packages like the “All-In” downpayment of P98,000.00, my mouth dropped.

Any reader who has been following C! since we started in 2002 will know that I have a penchant for favoring the best model of an inexpensive vehicle over a low-spec entry version of a more premium competitive model. So, even if I would compare the MG ZS Alpha to a Mazda CX-3 Pro, which is the entry model that compares closely to it but at a price of P1,280,000.00, I would recommend the MG. It is not just the obvious cash savings of P281,112.00. The MG ZS has a longer wheelbase and body than the Mazda CX-3 Pro with a considerably larger rear trunk (448 liters, 94-liters more than a Nissan Juke) that is also accompanied with a much longer list of standard equipment.

Naturally, it can be argued that more dynamic performance focused drivers will point out that the Mazda weighs almost 80 pounds lighter than the MG while having two more transmission gears together with substantially more power, 32 bhp and 31 lb-ft of torque thanks to its much healthier 2.0-liter engine. It is a very strong argument I admit. But given our current driving conditions in our country even I will look at the other features of the MG with kinder eyes. Together with its spacious and tastefully executed interior, the 500cc less displacement helps generate more favorable fuel economy without diluting the everyday practical driving experience.

I like the straightforward exterior design with its key design cues like the LED ‘London Eye’ daytime running lights, front grille, rear light assembly, and the good-looking 17 x 7J alloys wrapped with 215/50R17 91V Maxxis M3 Bravo HP tires. In the cabin, the Volkswagen-esque sport steering wheel feels and looks great with its multiple controls and three-stage boost adjustment (Urban, Normal and Dynamic) but does not have reach adjustment. The faux-carbon trim looks alright, I can even say it’s the best execution of such trim which I would normally shun. Other particular cabin highlights of the Alpha model are the 6-Speaker audio system w/ Bluetooth®, USB & Yamaha 3D (the Yamaha 3D Sound Field allows you to direct audio to any point in the car) managed by a crisp 8-inch Multi-function color touchscreen with Apple CarPlay™, cruise control, panoramic glass moonroof with sunshade, multiple airbags, electric climate control, comfortable faux-leather seating, and rear parking camera. The standard safety equipment suite is very good too; Antilock Brake System, Cornering Brake Control, Electronic Brake Assist, Electronic Brake Distribution, Hill Start Assist, Tire Pressure Monitoring System, and a Traction Control System.

With a similar suspension setup like in the Mazda CX-3 but calibrated for more comfort, the MG ZS uses front Macpherson struts with helical springs and hydraulic dampers, with the rears using a rigid Torsion beam also supported by helical springs and hydraulic valve dampers. The overall handling is great for legal speeds but can get a little twitchy over 140 km/h, nothing scary though. The front vented brake discs are 11.02-inches (280 mm) and the rear solid discs are 10.03-inches (255 mm). The brakes worked well but can get a little grabby at times. Given the price, I forgive the abundant sea of plastics though I do wish that the projector headlights would have LED units instead of halogen and the rear exhaust could have been designed much better.

MG definitely has come back to not just our market but to the rest of the world except North America with the energy, engineering, and financial capacity to really compete with genuinely desirable products. The ZS subcompact crossover is a clear example of this determined effort, it offers strong everyday performance and ride comfort at a very compelling price. It drives way better than expected and feels stronger than it is.

Specifications

Engine

EngineInline-4
Displacement1498 cc
Cylinder Headdohc 16V
Fuel InjectorMulti-Port Injection, DVVT
Max Power (bhp @ rpm)113 bhp @ 6000 rpm
Max Torque (lb/ft @ rpm)111 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
Transmission4-speed AT

Performance

Top Speed179 km/h (112 mph)
0-100 km/h | 0-62 mph11 sec.

Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions

Fuel Milage (km/l)7.1 L/100 kms. overall

Ratings

Price as Tested (PHP)Php 998,888.00
What's Great+Handsome, good-build, generous standard equipment, comfortable, practical, and fuel efficient.
What's Not So-We wish it was packaged with a 6-speed automatic or its bigger stablemates’ 7-speed DCT instead of the Aisin 4-speed automatic. The 1.0- liter 3-cylinder turbo would also be a good optional powerplant. Halogen headlights. Some lingering lower grade plastics.
C! Editors Rating9/10