MG ZS 180: Spotted

Without wishing to spoil your weekend, some sad news recently reached the PH news desk: the MG Z cars are in severe, quite possibly terminal, decline. Where in 2006 there were 51,116 ZRs registered in the UK, now there are fewer than 8,000 - 84 per cent of those made have now gone. For the ZS the number has gone from 20,055 to 5,478 (down 72 per cent) and the ZT/ZT-T pairing has plummeted from 19,020 to 6,176 (minus 67 per cent). Since 2006, 70,000 of the MG Zed cars registered in the UK have disappeared - 78 per cent of the total, which is huge.

This is genuine concern, too, not sarcasm. The cars weren't perfect, but they showed MG doing a decent job with what they had. The ZR was Britain's best selling hot hatch for a while, offering plentiful performance for not much cash - it was a bit rough and ready, sure, but no doubt it put smiles on faces. The ZT was good looking, dynamically sorted and pretty quick with the V6, with the added benefit of an estate body if you so fancied.

The ZS occupied an odd middle ground in having perhaps the most dubious image with the most favourable press reaction. The V6 car was lauded in contemporary reviews for its fine balance, lusty engine and slick transmission. The Rover-Honda alliance did produce some decent handling cars, and arguably the ZS was the finest of the lot; add in some BTCC cachet, both with the official works outfit and Team Atomic Kitten (yes, really), and it's easy to see how the car won some fans.

This ZS, the only one currently for sale on PH, sadly isn't a saloon for full BTCC kudos; that said it does have the V6, comes with a fairly miserly (for a car approaching 17 years old) 63,000 miles and looks presentable enough, save for a rear bumper scuff and some faded badges. Encouragingly there's mention in the ad of a full MG specialist service history, though not of a recent cambelt change, which is both costly and critical for a healthy V6.

When the ZS was Shed money, the cost of the belt change must have put many off - it being most of the cost of the car - and will have contributed to the catastrophic fall in numbers. With cars like this one for sale at £4k and the impetus surely there to save what is becoming a rare vehicle, hopefully the cambelt change has been done or will be high on the list of priorities.

Those who remember the MG ZS when £750 bought a good one and £3k secured a car with just 16,000 miles will naturally be disappointed at the asking price of this example, though try and find any car of note that hasn't appreciated over the past half a dozen years or so. Indeed trying to find anything similar to the ZS, i.e. a hot hatch with more than four cylinders, is quite tricky. At present there are isn't one BMW 325ti or Volvo C30 T5 on PH, with only this Golf R32 somewhere near the budget having racked up 130,000 miles.

So while the ZS is never, ever going to be to all tastes, those who are intrigued to some degree or other best get a move on; the current rate of decline shows no sign of abating, and the favourable reputation isn't for nothing. Never know; you might actually enjoy it...

Engine: 2,497cc, V6
Transmission: 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 180@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 177@4,000rpm
MPG: 33.2
CO2: 227g/km
Year registered: 2002
Recorded mileage: 63,000
Price new: Probably not much
Yours for: £3,995

See the original advert here

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (63) Join the discussion on the forum

  • JerryF 19 Jan 2019

    The ZS180 handles extremely well. By choice I prefer the Mk2 version with the Zonda climate control panel. However, this one appears to be unspoilt and in good condition.

    Go for it someone, you won't be disappointed and by the sounds of it you will have something that will be very rare soon.

  • kambites 19 Jan 2019

    Looks nice. Not desperately fast but the V6 ZS is definitely one of the more fun hot hatches I've driven. Shame it's such a dull colour.

    Having said that, whilst I might buy one to thrash around for shed money, I certainly wouldn't pay £4k for one!

    Edited by kambites on Saturday 19th January 11:50

  • s m 19 Jan 2019

    Another great handling V6 sports saloon/hatch after the Alfa and Mondeo features

  • Numeric 19 Jan 2019

    Loathsome rebadged Rover 45 with interior so out of date you could cut yourself on the plastics - while the engine sounded great but was gutless so a diesel Golf could murder you unless you revved the crankshaft out of it. Also because of the ancient electrical architecture had none of the electronic features the average motorist was starting to want.

    Of course the British press all said it was great - it had an MG badge and for some reason that made it BRILLIANT!!

    One good thing about them though - every car thief in the UK knew how to disable the security devices so you didn't have to put up with owning one for long!

  • Wheels alive 19 Jan 2019

    As a freelance motoring writer I was fortunate to be invited to the original press launch of the 'Z' models in south Wales in the summer of 2001 (I also attended the launch of the Civic Type R in the Isle of Man, a few weeks later; enjoyed that model too...).

    At the launch there were automotive writers from across the spectrum of magazines and newspapers, and from around the globe. Unusually there was almost complete and universal approval from all those I spoke to, regarding the driving dynamics of the new MGs, and in particular the ZS180.

    On the launch I enjoyed driving the ZR, ZS and ZT over many miles, on main roads and twisting hill routes, and also including some fast laps around the Pembrey circuit. Of the three models I drove, my favourite was the ZS180 with its eager V6; its handling was a revelation too; just stuck to its chosen line and went where it was pointed; great fun.

    The competence of all three versions was praised by most writers attending the launch, and I felt that the ZS180 was a practical and highly enjoyable machine. I would still love to own one!

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