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