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Driven: MG ZS180 – on sale now

Factsheet

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Review

A great deal of pressure is on MG Rover dealers to maintain sales of its ageing models while its bosses in Birmingham scratch around for the funding to develop a new mid-size vehicle.

The Rover 45, on which the sportier MG ZS is based, has been in existence for nearly 10 years. As a result, MG Rover has become quite proficient at re-incar-nating its ageing models.

The ZS was introduced in 2001 when Rover resurrected the MG brand following its sale by BMW.

Three years on, the makers have seen fit to give it a more contemporary makeover. Gone are the dated twin headlights, replaced by single unit lamps above a restyled front bumper and splitter. A discrete tip spoiler sits on the tailgate, although a larger spoiler is an option.

Standard on the ZS180, and optional 110, 115 and 120bhp models, is an aggressive bodystyling package of wheelarch extensions, side skirts and wing vents, plus 17in 11-spoke alloy wheels. Despite the elderly chassis, driving the ZS180 is enter-taining. The free-revving 175bhp KV6 packs a good punch accompanied by a pleasantly sporty noise.

Lowered sports springs and firm dampers keep body roll to a minimum and the power steering is accurate and suitably weighted. The only niggle marring the driving experience is an occasional notchiness in the short throw gearchange, and the brakes lack initial bite.

Inside, the ZS180 gets comfortable part leather sports seats and a revised fascia incorporating rotary air vents.

Driver comfort and convenience is also improved over the previous ZS180, with standard features now including automatic climate control, a six-disc CD autochanger and remote boot release.

The knowledge

Price: £17,295
Engine: 2497cc, 6-cyl SOHC, 24-valve, quad cam, KV6 petrol engine
Transmission: Five-speed manual, fwd
Performance: 0-60mph 7.3secs, 139mph top speed
Efficiency 29.7mpg, 227g/km CO2
Service intervals 15,000 miles
CAP RV (3yr/30k): £5,375 (31%)
Rivals: Alfa Romeo 147 2.0 Twin Spark, Ford Focus ST170, Seat Leon Cupra R, Vauxhall Astra SRi

Strengths

Handling, engine, styling

Weakness

Elderly design, woolly brakes

Opportunity

The patriotic petrol-head

Threat

Rover’s future

The USP

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