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The MG ZST is a popular family car for good reason. (Image: Tom White)
mg zst 2023, mg zst reviews, mg reviews, mg suv range, family car, family cars, small cars

Up front there is quite a bit of headroom and overall space for the driver. (Image: Tom White)

mg zst 2023, mg zst reviews, mg reviews, mg suv range, family car, family cars, small cars

The sunroof helps create a feeling of more space in the back. (Image: Tom White)

The MG ZST range arrived on our shores a little over a year ago, since then I have been seeing quite a few of them pop up across the neighbourhood and it is easy to see why.

For the price point, the MG ZST is comfortable to drive and handles the suburbs relatively easily, but its real standout area is around its value offering, even though it’s quite a bit more than the MG ZS.

The Essence is the top-of-the-range MG ZST at $33,990, the Core is the base model at $25,990. There’s also the Vibe for $27,990 and the Excite at $39,990 in between.

It competes with other small SUVs in this price range like the Kia Seltos, the Mazda CX-30 and the Mitsubishi ASX.

What does it look like?

The MG ZST looks a bit fancier than the lower spec models and the design sets the car apart from some of its rivals, giving it a higher end look than the price might suggest.  

The wide grille and central logo placement work with the sloped headlights to help tie its stylish look together while the fog lights on this model work as a design feature.

The paint option on the review model is ‘Pebble Black’, which is included in the price. ‘York White’ is the only other no extra-cost colour.  

The side view of the Essence ZST is clean. It does look like some other small SUVs on the market, but the two-tone 17-inch alloys help it stand out.

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The wide grille and central logo placement work with the sloped headlights to help tie its stylish look together. (Image: Tom White)

The gloss black detailing on the exterior matches with the interior design, as do the red brake callipers.

At the back, the ZST Essence receives a new curvy bumper that adds to the more expensive feel, and ties in beautifully with the new tail-lights and curve of the boot.

Inside the Essence has the red MG logos on the front seats and it gives it that extra oomph, particularly on the Pebble Black version.

Inside the premium vibe continues. Every ZST receives a leather steering wheel, with contrast red stitching, and leather-appointed seats. On the Essence they look good. The tech and display is also very modern, and quite minimal.

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At the back, the ZST Essence receives a new curvy bumper that ties in beautifully with the new tail-lights and curve of the boot. (Image: Tom White)

How does it drive?

The little 1.3-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-petrol engine produces 115kW/230Nm, drives the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission, and provides a decent drive around the suburbs.

During the two weeks I drove the MG ZST, I travelled down the New South Wales South Coast from Sydney, and did quite a bit of city commuting, as well.

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Under the bonnet is a little 1.3-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-petrol engine. (Image: Tom White)

I did have a couple of moments while driving on the highway where the car lacked grunt and the drive didn’t always give me confidence I could overtake, particularly driving up steep hills.

I also couldn’t adjust my steering position adequately, which was a bit frustrating, but more for my father, who drove the car and is 191cm (6’3″) tall.

The 360-degree camera view is a great feature for parking in shopping centres or a busy street, plus the steering is nice and predictable for the size of the car.

How spacious is it?

Up front there is quite a bit of headroom and overall space for the driver, the driver’s seat is easy to position with the electric controls, and I felt very comfortable with the amount of space I had.

Sitting behind my driving position ( I’m 178cm/5’10”) I had a good amount of room around me and was comfortable for a short drive, but would have also been fine on a long one.

I still had quite a bit of headroom with the sunroof and I felt like it helped create a feeling of more space in the back.

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Up front there is quite a bit of headroom and overall space for the driver. (Image: Tom White)

mg zst 2023, mg zst reviews, mg reviews, mg suv range, family car, family cars, small cars

The sunroof helps create a feeling of more space in the back. (Image: Tom White)

How easy is it to use every day?

Overall, the Essence ZST is pretty easy to use every day. It took me a while to find the controls for the front heated seats because there isn’t a button, as is common on other cars.

They also aren’t particularly warm/strong, and you need to navigate through the climate control panel to adjust them, which I found awkward while driving.

There are bottle holders in all four doors, plus two cupholders and a main storage area up front for your phone. There is also a decent-sized glove box and handy console space.

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The floor level of the boot can be lowered to increase cargo space. (Image: Tom White)

There are no directional air vents for the back seats, which isn’t good for summer, and with the black paint option and leather trim the car heated up quite quickly, so the sunroof was a good relief.

The boot space is fairly generous, I was able to fit a large suitcase with heaps of space to spare when I visited my sister. We were able to fit her large pram and her groceries easily.

You can also change the floor level of the boot, but I think it is worth pointing out the Essence only comes with a space-saver spare.

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The MG ZST has a decent-sized boot space for its class at 359 litres (VDA). (Image: Tom White)

How safe is it?

The ZST received a four star ANCAP rating, from a possible five, in 2017, but that’s from the ZS model which doesn’t have the same MG-Pilot safety features.

It has six airbags, including driver and front passenger and full-length side curtains.

The whole ZST range misses out on rear AEB but does get traffic jam assist, rear cross-traffic alert, frontal AEB, lane keeping assist and blind spot detection, plus adaptive cruise control.

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The ZST received a four star ANCAP rating, from a possible five, in 2017. (Image: Tom White)

The front camera also detects when you need to dim your lights or switch to high beam at night. 

There are two ISOFIX points in the back. They are clearly marked and easy to access, plus there are three top-tether anchorage points in the boot. 

If you need to install a rear-facing child seat, there is enough room for the front passenger, which is good for this class. 

What’s the tech like?

The 3D digital instrument cluster is great visually and easy to understand, while the large 10-inch multimedia screen looks impressive.

Unfortunately, it is one of the areas that lets the car down, because the touchscreen needs some work.

It has a user-friendly layout and I could find the screen I needed – like the climate control – while driving, but the touchscreen is not very responsive, which is challenging when driving on the highway.

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The 3D digital instrument cluster is great visually and easy to understand. (Image: Tom White)

The MG Essence does have a great assortment of tech features, particularly when considering the price point, including in-built satellite navigation, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (meaning you need a USB cord), plus there’s a decent six-speaker sound system.

One standout is the car has five USB ports. I know, that’s a lot, right? You get two up front, two in the back and there is one mounted on the rearview mirror for a dashcam.

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Inside is a large 10-inch multimedia screen that looks impressive. (Image: Tom White)

How much does it cost to own?

This top-spec model comes with a large sunroof, 17-inch alloys and a fully digital instrument cluster. You also receive a few other features compared to other models, including the sunroof and front seat heating. Overall, it’s a competitive price for a small SUV with these inclusions.

I think the broader value proposition is a big reason the MG ZST is gaining popularity. It has a seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty (like Kia). Mitsubishi is the only brand that offers a longer warranty, at 10 years.

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The ZST Essence comes with 17-inch alloy wheels. (Image: Tom White)

Roadside assist is provided for seven years, along with capped price servicing.

If you have the car serviced with MG, it works out at roughly $300 annually over that time. The Essence does need a check up more frequently than some of its rivals at every 10,000 kilometres (or 12 months).

My petrol usage was surprisingly good during my highway trip and around the suburbs, at an average of 7.9 litres per 100 kilometres.

That’s close to the official figure of 7.3L/100km on the combined cycle (and that rarely happens).

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