Shed of the Week: MG ZT


Have you noticed how certain used cars always have those nasty lightweight aftermarket mats put in them? The mats you used to see in Halfords, but are now mainly on eBay, that are nice and cheap and look like it, apart from the nice part.

These hairy things resist every effort to clean them, whether you're using a state-of-the-art vacuum or your fingernails. You hardly ever see them in German cars. That's because German car owners tend to stick with close-weave OE mats that stay flat, and will even hunt them down on the internet if their original ones are worn out.

Proportions so good it worked for RWD too!
Proportions so good it worked for RWD too!
But you do regularly see these flimsy efforts in MGs of the ZR, ZS and ZT variety, usually in a dirty grey and edged in a charity shop pinky-red colour that only makes them look worse. Shed's theory on these hateful things is that old ZTs are bought by stingy older gentlemen who like the idea of stuff that they think looks expensive but isn't.

And sure enough, here they are in this week's Shed, an otherwise very classy ZT190+ in dark metallic grey, besmirched only by the dreaded curly mats.

Luckily, we can forget about the mats - nearly - by concentrating on everything else that is good about the ZT190+, and there's plenty of that. Much of it is in that small + sign, which stood for 'plus lots of kit'. The vendor hasn't bothered to list all its bits and bobs, but they should include things like climate control, sat-nav and a pipe rack. It looks like this Shed doesn't have a sunroof, which is a relief as they are known for both leaking and jamming.

Beneath all the baubles, the ZT was a fine-handling and fine-riding machine. It ran from 2001 to 2005, meaning that this car was conceived under BMW rule - sorry, under the terms of the Rover/BMW merger which lasted from 1994 to 2000. BMW blamed the notorious failure of this collaboration on the strength of the pound against the euro, which would be a lesson from history if it wasn't generally believed by most industry observers that it was actually mainly down to a catastrophic underestimation by BMW of what they had bought. Well, that and the poaching of many of Rover's best people by British Aerospace.

Well of course we have the most powerful V6
Well of course we have the most powerful V6
But let's not get all political. BMW notwithstanding, these ZTs were generally nicely engineered cars, with the odd exception which we'll get onto in a minute. The restyle mods over the 1998 Rover 75 were penned by McLaren F1 designer Peter Stevens, and it had another refresh in 2004, but our Shed is a pre-facelift '03 model with an acceptably low mileage. Pre-facelifters aren't famed for their interiors, but this one looks pretty smart with its not-too-naff half-leather seats.

The twin-cam 24-valve KV6 engine arrived on the scene in 1996 and needn't give you much cause for concern. It was pretty advanced for its time and reputedly the most compact V6 in its class. It's torquey enough, if a bit undergeared with the five-speed Getrag gearbox, and a solid performer. A single long belt drove the inlet cams and the water pump, while the exhaust valves were spun by short belts running off the end of the inlet cams.

The KV6 wasn't related to the K-series four-pot, so it wasn't plagued by head gasket failure (just some cylinder liner trouble on early pre-'98 units), but you do have to watch the coolant side of things. Make sure the rad fan is working properly, the plenum chamber drain isn't blocked, and that there's no unwanted liquid languishing in the valley twixt the heads. Also check the air-con. It probably won't be working, and on balance that's a good thing because then you can just pretend you're an old-school motorist and not worry about the (probably wasted) cost of fixing it.

The main glitch with these motors is the VIS (Variable Inlet System) motor. One of BMW's 'improvements' was to replace the metal butterfly valves with, guess what, plastic ones. BMW plasticised the thermostat housing too, btdubs. Predictably, that's another common area of failure. Unfortunately, accessing these (or the timing belts) isn't easy on the KV6, so you'd be pleased to see evidence of this work having already been carried out by some previous poor mug.

Ditch the floormats though. Please
Ditch the floormats though. Please
Bodywise, check that the boot and the spare wheel well in particular is dry. Water can get in through the rear light seals or through a vent under the side bumper. Electrics can play up in a sometimes alarming fashion, but many of these sparky problems can be traced back to weakbatteries.

If you think £1,300 is a lot to pay for an MG saloon, here's another 190+, a little lower in mileage admittedly but considerably more expensive at nearly £5K. The difference in price must be down to the factory mats. It's certainly not the rear lenses.

Let's scurry back to the cheery security of our good-value Shed. Here is the richly detailed ad.

MOT Valid Until 19/05/2018

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (91) Join the discussion on the forum

  • mrpenks 22 Sep 2017

    I bloody hate those matts too.

  • Turbobanana 22 Sep 2017

    So, Shed has £500 more to spend and now he’s gone all sensible. Dullest SOTW write-up for a long time.

    Car looks alright though. Always fancied an estate myself.

  • dotgillingham 22 Sep 2017

    Was looking at these only yesterday. Always liked the looks and seem good value now. Tempted.

  • YellowCar 22 Sep 2017

    Must be a record for the shortest ad?

  • sdiggle 22 Sep 2017

    That was my car 2 weeks ago. Part-ex'd with Carlians. It's in amazing condition, was one owner from new. Engine is strong, suspension stiff. Great fun. Sorry the mats offend, but they looked better on ebay and are a damn sight better than the rubber ones it came with!!

    The lovely elderly gent I bought it off made me promise I would look after it! Hope the next owner does the same....

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