Shed of the Week: MG ZR

This week's Shed is an MG ZR. Here it is.

Oh sorry everyone, there's been a mistake, that's the £9,000 ZR. Here's the correct one, at £675.

Remember when this was an overt hot hatch?
Remember when this was an overt hot hatch?
Price versus value. Being able to tell the difference between those two is a useful skill, not just in used motors but in life generally. Last year, to commemorate too many years of marriage, Shed commissioned a photographer to record Mrs Shed for posterity. Unfortunately the snapper misheard the instruction and took several pictures of her posterior which, blown up to actual size and laminated, now serve as 'keep off' signs on Shed's compound fence.

Still, at least the photographer covered himself by doing her in three different positions for twenty quid, which in Shed's opinion represented good value. He wouldn't have done it for ten times that.

Returning to where we came in, you may think that a £9,000 ZR is a bit rich. Shed couldn't possibly comment other than to wholeheartedly agree with you in the strongest and loudest way possible. But a £675 ZR that looks every bit as nice as a £9K one, and would appear to be in some ways superior to it? Now that's different.

This ZR is from the last year of MG Rover's life. Shed was actually at Longbridge on the very day that insolvency was declared. Nanjing, now SAIC, bought the key assets and the Phoenix Four who were in charge at the time trousered nine million quid each for their trouble. Not bad considering the company was up to its neck in debt to the tune of around £1.4 billion.

Small, brisk, cheap...
Small, brisk, cheap...
Like many late-model MGs and Rovers still running around, this one has a usefully low mileage. If anything, its cabin looks smarter than the £9K car's and the MOT history is reassuringly blemish-free.

The K Series engine's mechanical issues, majoring in the leaky cylinder head department, have been well aired not just here but pretty much everywhere. Shed even heard his missus discussing it at the abattoir where she does an occasional night shift.

Thing is, of course, that there will be hardly any cars left now that won't have had the steel gasket fix. Only maybe the odd low-miler, ahem. The last couple of years' output of ZRs did have problems with their Security Control Units, MGR's name for the ECU that controlled the horn, windows, alarm and central locking, but again you can buy a kit to fix that.

One great point with our Shed is that it isn't saddled with the notoriously rattly ZR sunroof. There will be other rattles to take its place, mind ye, usually trim-related but could be almost anything. Door locks go, and indeed this one failed its MOT on that plus other stuff, but the work has been done to sort it. ZR starter motors are a potential weakness, as are batteries, alternators, and clutch release bearings. The clips holding the carpets in place often break. Brakes need regular checking and the rear wiper can have a mind of its own. The seats are not hard-wearing.

A taste of the 90s in a 21st century car!
A taste of the 90s in a 21st century car!
On the good side, even though this is a 105 and not the 160 or even the 120, the 100 and a bit horse you get in the 1.4 dovetails nicely with the surprisingly adept chassis, the belts have been done on this one and the insurance is low. Plus you can tune a 1.4 quite rudely. Plenty of spares, bits and know-how around to help you there.

These ZRs are great little starter cars for budding young PHers, or nice nostalgia pieces for the more ancient ones among us who remember the good old days. You know, when times were bad. Those days.

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Comments (50) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Jazoli 17 Mar 2017

    Not a bad shed this week, the 1.4 engine is a cracker and they are fun to drive.

  • culpz 17 Mar 2017

    When i look at cheap, sub 1k cars, it is hard to look past MG. I'm sure these are small and nippy but i'm not sold on the looks. In fact, i end up looking at a different brand altogether 9 times out of 10.

    I do like the ZS 180 though. They have previously been SOTW i believe and there's a lovely blue one on AT right now with that daft rear wing on the back for cheap. I think that's where i'd put my money.

  • Butter Face 17 Mar 2017

    We had a (pre-facelift) ZR160 for a while and it was actually a decent car.

    The interior and trim were very 'rover' but it was bolted together well and had a fair turn of pace. We ran that alongside an MG TF and both were good solid reliable fun!

  • forzaminardi 17 Mar 2017

    Not a bad shed this week. Pocket money fun at it's best.

  • ukaskew 17 Mar 2017

    My wife had a lovely pre-facelift 1.4 '105+' in a fantastic shade of Blue, the 17" wheel option was a huge mistake, driving even on relatively smooth roads was back breaking work.

    Sadly and somewhat predictably the car broke, a lot. MG/Rover even supplied a new engine when the first one went bang within 10k.

    I love the fact that the car had a CD player, but slots to store tapes under the centre console smile

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