I have to admit I wasn't looking forward to the experience of driving a 1,565kg car with a 118bhp engine, despite the racy looks of the ZT saloon. Compare it with its immediate rivals on size and price from Ford and Vauxhall and the Mondeo 1.8 Zetec tips the scales at just 1,371kg while the Vectra 1.8 SXi is a lithe 1,342kg.
However, the plus side of having the least powerful engine to date in the MG ZT is the improved fuel consumption and emissions, which strengthen the car's fleet credentials at a time when MG Rover's focus is on introducing a V8 model into the ZT range.
Indeed, in the hands of our photographer on the ZT's photo shoot, the trip computer was showing 40mpg. Based on the current lifetime average of 36.5mpg – a little ahead of the official figures – it goes to show what can be achieved if drivers are so minded.
Also, a company car tax bill of £58 per month for a 22% taxpayer is commendable.
The new entry-level MG ZT is distinguished from its 158bhp-plus siblings by five-spoke alloy wheels – an inch smaller than on the previous ZT models, but still quite imposing at 17 inches.
Otherwise it looks pretty much the same as the rest of the ZT range, which is also good news.
At £15,995 on the road, the ZT comes with all the equipment you expect of an upper medium car as standard – ABS brakes, air conditioning, a CD player and electric front windows – and not only does it have a younger image than the Rover 75, it costs £1,000 less.
It has the same interior as more powerful ZTs, complete with figure-hugging seats, short-throw gearchange, sharp steering and firm ride.
Some testers have commented that there is something not quite right about the way the car drives when pushed hard. It is almost as if the ZT was never designed for the taller tyres that come with 17-inch wheels. And lacking in the sports suspension that became relegated to the MG ZT options list nearly 18 months ago instead of being fitted as standard, it doesn't feel as composed as our V6 long-termer of two years ago.
However, it does everything right for most of the time and looks pretty impressive. It will be interesting to see if other testers can live with the 'all mouth and no trousers' aspect of the car with the standard 1.8-litre K-series engine over the next few months.
Company car tax bill 2003/04 (22% tax-payer): £58 per month