Fleet News

MG ZT-T 160+

Review

YOU'VE got to take your hats off to the designers at MG Rover. When the company was taken over from BMW in 2001, the bosses found themselves in control of a pretty average bunch of cars.

The 45 positively has whiskers on it, while the other two models don't sit easily among the accepted parameters of fleet. The 25, for example, is rather large for a supermini but too small for a lower-medium car, while the 75, although well built, is too big for an upper-medium car but isn't exactly a premium model either.

But with an MG badge on the front, some engine tweaking and the addition of some 'only big men need apply' goodies on the outside, fleets can now choose a stunning line-up badged ZR, ZS and ZT. It's enough to set the blood of any young sporting type racing.

Our MG ZT-T 160+ is based on the 75 Tourer and sits at the bottom end of the ZT-T range with a 1.8-litre 158bhp turbocharged engine.

There is no doubt by looking at our car that it has sporting pretensions. It boasts low profile tyres on 18-inch alloys, mesh over the front grille and a little Union Jack badge on the back that now adorns all Rover models is joined here by a chequered flag. The effect is complete with a paint job which looks different colours from different angles.

That's one option I certainly wouldn't allow if I was a fleet decision-maker.

The other day a passing lorry flicked an empty tin can up in the air and on to the bonnet of our car. The resulting deep chip in the paintwork will require more work to repair than if the paintwork had been a standard or 'normal' metallic finish. Inside, the sporting theme continues. Gone are the walnut and leather of the 75 and in its place are masses of silver and grey sporty-looking fabrics and plastics. The seats, too, are two-tone figure-hugging ones.

Under way, the slower driver could be forgiven for assuming that this car is under-powered. After all, the ZT-T is a big lump for a 1.8-litre engine to drag around and under 3,500 rpm things are sluggish.

But hit that magic rpm figure and something suddenly wakes up under the bonnet (the turbocharger presumably) and this car becomes a flyer.

The suspension is on the hard side (just how I like it) and the steering a tad on the heavy side (again how I like it) so all in all, this car has made a big impression on me. I have recently undertaken two long journeys and on both occasions I alighted with no aches, so I would have to disagree with my colleague Julian Kirk (Fleet NewsNet May 29) that the ZT-T is not an ideal companion for long-haul trips.

The other day I found myself needing to take a trip to Wickes DIY store for some planks of wood and here the ZT-T came into its own again. By flattening the rear seats, the car was transformed from sportster to load lugger in no time.

The MG has now been returned after three months on our fleet. Its stay was virtually trouble-free, aside from a nine-day wait to get the airbag warning light problem resolved (Fleet NewsNet April 24).

Company car tax bill 2003/04 (22% taxpayer) £79.67 per month

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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