Fleet News

Z Cars are back!

Review

THE ZT seems to carry off its styling changes with the most menace. The front end of the car sneers 'get out of my way' and it also has a particularly imposing profile when wearing 18-inch alloy wheels.

Its interior uses dark materials, but is remarkably similar to the standard Rover 75, though the wood has been replaced with a dark grey metallic trim. My first experience of the ZT 190 was on the track at Pembrey, where it performed well but was the least enjoyable of the three. It has the lowest power-to-weight ratio and was the most prone to understeer coming out of the first hairpin. However, it has superb brakes and resolutely retained its composure in sudden direction changes. On the open road the ZT feels the most 'sensible' of the three cars, but still offers strong performance. The understeer which emerged in the extreme circumstances of the racetrack was notably absent on public roads, and its sharp steering and eager throttle response made light work of roundabouts. The brakes also performed well, with supreme stopping power.

  • Model: MG ZT 190
  • Capacity (cc): 2,497
  • Power (bhp/rpm): 188/6,500
  • Torque (lb-ft/rpm): 181/4,000
  • Max speed (mph): 141
  • 0-60mph (sec): 7.8
  • Economy (comb mpg): 28.7
  • CO2 (g/km): 235
  • Service interval (miles): 15,000 Warranty (yrs/miles): 3/60,000
  • Price (OTR): £20,495

ZS offers the biggest surprise of MG's trio

THE ZS proved to be the biggest surprise of the three Z cars. Using the 2.5-litre KV6 in the ZS 180, the car carries an enormous rear spoiler and looks like a Rover 45 after receiving the Max Power treatment. Having recently driven the Rover 45 on the Fleet News long-term fleet, I remember the donor car riding superbly, but having little else to offer in terms of driving pleasure. This is probably why the transformation in the MG ZS is the most noticeable of the trio of cars here. Dr Chris Millard, MG Rover's large car platform director, said: 'It is much easier to improve the handling of a car that rides well, rather than the other way round, trying to improve the ride on a car that already handles well.' The ZS rides firmly, but smoothly, and shares the sharp turn-in and roll-free handling of the ZR. Its sweet-sounding V6 is almost as musical as an Alfa's and offers plenty of grunt as long as you keep the revs up (maximum torque comes in at 4,000rpm). On the track, the ZS felt the better balanced and most entertaining to drive quickly of the Z trio, and it was the most comfortable on the limit. It took longer before the tyres began to let go and when they did the ZS offered predictable mild understeer. Its refined V6 also makes a fine motorway cruiser and its close-ratio gearbox ensures a surprising turn of speed for overtaking. A Ford Mondeo ST24 driver looked visibly hurt when he saw he had been overtaken by something looking like a Rover 45 whose genes had been spliced with a Subaru Impreza Turbo, and it didn't take long before he sailed past to restore some pride.

  • Model: MG ZS 180
  • Capacity (cc): 2,497
  • Power (bhp/rpm): 175/6,500
  • Torque (lb-ft/rpm): 177/4,000
  • Max speed (mph): 139
  • 0-60mph (sec): 7.3
  • Economy (comb mpg): 29.7
  • CO2 (g/km): 227
  • Service interval (miles): 15,000 Warranty (yrs/miles): 3/60,000
  • Price (OTR): £15,595

The road-legal go-kart aims for the GTi crowd

CURRENTLY the range-topping ZR160 uses the same 1.8VVC engine as the MGF Trophy 160. The range is pitched against sporting GTis while the ZR 160 is firmly at the higher end of the sector, somewhere between the Fiat Punto HGT and Clio Renaultsport 172. It includes ABS with EBD, 17-inch alloys, uprated brakes, air conditioning and twin wide-bore exhausts. There are touches of metallic trim inside to emphasise the sporty character, as well as white dials and a prominent MG badge in the centre of the steering wheel. The ZR is in the 'supermini' class and feels quite cosy. This is not a full-time four-adult car. The sports seats give support in all the right places and there is just enough room in the footwell for my size-12s. The first thing you notice about the car is its throaty engine note and super-quick steering. It feels more like driving a go-kart than a road-legal car and the engine thrives on high revs. The drawback is that 3,500rpm is showing at 70mph and if you spend most of your miles on the motorway this is probably not the car for you. Show it a country lane, however, and the ZR turns into a little hooligan, happily revving up to the red line time after time, with a limpet-like grip around tight bends, no body roll while the snappy short-throw gearchange is a delight to use.

  • Model: MG ZR 160
  • Capacity (cc): 1,796
  • Power (bhp/rpm): 158/6,900
  • Torque (lb-ft/rpm): 128/4,700
  • Max speed (mph): 131
  • 0-60mph (sec): 7.4
  • Economy (comb mpg): 37.6
  • CO2 (g/km): 179
  • Service interval (miles): 15,000 Warranty (yrs/miles): 3/60,000
  • Price (OTR): £14,345

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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