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MG ZR ZS ZT Technical - new ZS180 v Golf VR6

Thinking of swapping my 1995 golf VR6 (which I think is a fantastic all-rounder) and buying a new ZS 180.
Anyone out there driven both and have an opinion?
Any other thoughts?
Simon Swallow

In general the guys here are amazingly magnanamous with questions like this and offer sensible answers and point out the pros and cons with both cars. Yes the VR6 is a fine car. It all depends what you are after. It involves the WHOLE of the driving/owning experience in my view and there is little to compare with the way in which all MG owners buck the trend and perhaps a little bit excentric!

Before I was hooked and bought an MGF 8 yrs ago I had a string of Italian cars which offered good dynamics and an interesting ownership experience. I must say that I havent looked back!

I now have the F and a new ZT260 which is a truely fantastic motor!! No german car can deliver anything like the experience that this thing provides for the money!
I apologise I didnt even consider VW as being a bit too dull and accountant orientated.

A V6 ZS180 is supposed to be one of the best handling cars about, The K series V6 has real character but I would really recommend the ZT's too, they have a very high JDPower score (13th) and are a brilliant car. Get one and you might end up being hooked like the rest of us! Now there's a horrible thought eh!

So the bottom line
Buy a VW with your head
Buy a ZS180 with your heart

As they say "Life's too short" Simon

Whats wrong with getting a test drive from your local distributer ?, nothing's better than your own opinion,
IMO the zs180 is a fine car.
Mike (London Office)

Got a very complimentary write up in the last copy of Autocar, the ZS180 was described as 'uncomplicated fun' which actually wraps the car up quite nicely :o)

If you want a driver's car, rather than a car that simply drives, then I think that you'll get on really well with the ZS180.

I had a look at a couple of ZS's in the local showroom. The latest facelift has been remarkably effective. At last the hideous Honda-derived interior has largely been replaced by something that is far more attractive to look at and more pleasant to use (apologies to Mk1 ZS owners out there).

BUT some of the old, cheap and nasty plastics can still be found in the interior - in the 5-door, the rear speaker mounts in the luggage area/ parcel shelf support remains really really nasty.

If you are expecting current VW interior design and build standards... erm... look else where.

BUT do you buy a car because it has nicer plastics, or do you buy a car because it is better to drive?

Best take one out yourself - and let the cars do the talking. :o)
Rob Bell

Thank you all for your responses.
I did have a test drive but didnít want to give you my opinion before I heard yours.
It was only a short drive but I really enjoyed it. I had drive a Civic type R the day before and was really disappointed with it.
Surprisingly considering the rave reviews.
The engine and gearbox were fantastic but I didnít like the steering at all.
If you accelerate hard with some lock on the steering goes dead and you have to wind the lock off. Never really new what the steering was going to feel like next.
Maybe 200bhp is too much for front wheel drive.
It was also quite noisy at motorway speeds so never really settled down to a quiet cruise.

The MG was much better. Nice V6 snarl when revved but quiet when cruising (bit like my old VR6).
It had proper steering feel and more or less identical power and performance to my car.
I am seriously considering it in spite of the dealer.
MG-Rover were hopeless. Young sales guy who didnít know as much as I did about his own product let alone rivals.
Still, itís all about the product and I did like the car.
Makes you wonder about after-sales though.

In contrast the Honda dealer was really good. Just handed me the keys to the car with no sales rep. No sales pressure at the end of the drive.
Shame I didnít like the car!
If MG-Rover had the Honda sales approach the cars would fly out of the show rooms.
Of course the irony of all this is the ZS is a 9 year old Civic in heavy disguise.
A really tribute to the engineers at MG-Rover.

Finally just to clarify a few things, I am not an accountant (no need for that kind of accusation) but an Engineer, VW build quality is not really as good as its reputation, and I certainly agree that MK4 Golfs could be called dull (although Iíve not driven an R32).

Any more comments would be welcome.

Simon Swallow

Is the dealer Gordon Lambs?
I bought my ZS180 from there, they were OK, but I knew what I wanted, they did not have to sell very hard :-)

You should not regret the purchase, I have'nt,
my car has its third birthday next month, now 41k miles.

A good friend of mine sells VW's and regularly hammers around in R32s which are the old model and there are not many new ones if any in uk now. he sells them at about the price I paid for my ZT260. Frankly thre is no comparison between the two although they are about as fast as each other .
Each to there own I didnt even consider the VW as I said, too expensive for a blandish car

Like Rob says I wanted a driver's car not a car that drives

There's only one real way to find out now
You've had your VW, now go get a MG I think you are going to love the experience and the contrast!!

Yes it was Gordon Lambs.
Autoworld at Chesterfield may be better and has more interesting surrounding roads for a decent thrash.
I won't let the dealers put me off purchasing if thatís what I decide to do.
I feel a lengthy test drive coming on....
Simon Swallow

you won't regret a ZS180 - mine's done 31k in 15 months and I've enjoyed every mile. It replaced a Civic VTEC and before that a Rover 420 and each one has been better than the previous. I like it's versatility - you can thrash on quiet country roads, do long m-way runs in comfort, it tows trailer and racecar brilliantly, the hatchback takes a vast amount of rubbish to the tip, and it's even OK to sleep in at Le Mans. They seem to be as cheap as chips too - the only downsides are the dealers (most are cr@p) and a drink problem, I get low-to-mid 20s to the gallon.
David S

Simon Swallow WROTE:

>Maybe 200bhp is too much for front wheel drive.<<

Not in my opinion - I have two 200bhp FWD cars in regular daily driver use. Provided everything that could affect things is set up correctly, they are a delight to drive from every aspect. Both Rover Group Products, 250bhp should not be a problem for them either as other enthusiasts' modified cars have demonstrated when I've driven them.

I also have an MGZS 120+ 5 door. Here is a car which is a joy to drive from every aspect. That engine is adequate for our family needs. Combined and contained in the superb all round driving characteristics and handling of the ZS, makes an ideal family runaround. We did seriously consider the 180 version but, the car is mainly used as a family runabout and driven by my wife and teenage son a lot of the time so the ZS 180 would be too much motor, particularly from Insurance aspects. There's another bonus. My wife regularly gets 40mpg on a run and even I get mid 30s ..... and my point to point journey times in the ZS120 differ very little from those in the 200bhp turbos .....

John McFeely

... Oh yes, nearly forgot to mention. When the MGZS120 was new I found the transmitted road surface feedback jolts from that stiff suspension set up, lower profile tyres with the 17" staright spoke alloys, almost too much. Almost but I could live with it because of the other more positive benefits with that set up ... i.e. the handling. However, within 2,000 miles that harshness on less than perfect road surfaces is no longer so intrusive. After 7,000 miles, it's almost eliminated so much so that I do not notice it at all now. I don't think it's because I've become used to it.

With many traffic calming humps in my area now, I always drive the ZS in such a way that I could pass over those 'speed humps' without much effect to the ride at all. Most drivers have adjusted their driving this way and pass over them without much checking of speed now. However, I was not able to line them up for a smooth pass over recently because of the position of large oncoming lorries. Thus I passed over those humps in a far from ideal position for a smooth transit and expecting a large 'bump' in so doing, I was amazed to find that in the event ... it was a non-event. The ZS passed over those humps with less suspension 'fuss' than my other less taught suspension cars would do in the same circumstances.

In a nutshell, the MGZS 120 is an ordinary production car after all. However, I am now delighted with the way the car continues to improve in so many ways as the mileage builds up.... that makes this 'ordinary' car extraordinary in my books.

John McFeely

Interesting info from you all.
Particularly interesting to hear of a ZS180 being used to tow a race car on a trailer.
Presumably David Smith is a racing driver so I assume the feel of his road car is very important to him.
Interesting comments about fuel economy also.
I get 26-32 from my old VR6, which I have always thought is not bad for a 2.8 V6.
One of the benefits of a big engine in a little car is being able to cruise around on little more than tick over but have fantastic performance when you need it.
I probably wouldn't consider a ZS without the big engine.
I think I may have become a cylinder number snob!

Simon Swallow

>I get 26-32

Those figures are possible, and common with the ZS! I average, I would say about 28mpg. Close to payday its 20mpg,& at end of the month its 34mpg :-) If anyone is concerned about ecconmy and tax breaks, the ZS V6 is not for you!



I've seen other MG race drivers with the ZS, ZT and ZTT as tow cars.


>>>Presumably David Smith is a racing driver so I assume the feel of his road car is very important to him
===Hardly ! just a novice with but 4 races to date. But yes, how a car goes and stops and handles has *always* been more important to me than the interior design or whether it has the latest gizmo, or the right badge, since I first sat behind the wheel at sixteen.
David S

I would imagine that a ZS180 could be had for about £12K-£13K from a car supermarket with delivery miles, maybe less if it has the old nose/dash. New price is £17K but does anyone pay this? MG Enthusiast subscribers can get 21% discount.

"ZS without a bigger engine"......what happened to the
possibility of having the 1.8 turbo in the ZS??
(just read a road test on the new Astra 2 litre turbo which was highly praised in all respects-including value for money)

Yes, the 1.8 Turbo is a model I'm surprised they have not made. They do the ZT with that engine, so why not the ZS?

They could make a ZS 160 and it would have a different feel from the 180 but still be fast. The only addition they have made since the launch is the 1.6 ZS 110 - come on MG-R! Even a ZS 160 with the VVC engine would be welcome.
Matthew Semple

get the Octavia RS, and with what you save a fortnight in the sun for you and your good lady.

apparently another non-member troll who doesn't understand that this is an MG board...
David S

Yes,what pride would I have driving around in a Skoda,or Seat,or Lada or Daewoo......

<<a fortnight in the sun for you and your good lady>>

...and four years driving a car that none of here would want?
Matthew Semple

4 years ....naaa they last longer than that ....that's why you dont want one!


Currently owning a VW and previously mentioning Honda, I am surprised I have got away without the threat of a letter bombing campaign.
I did borrow a friends TF135 for two weeks last summer and loved it so I might be exploiting an MG enthusiast loophole here.

David Smith: Four races does make you a racing driver in my book.
OK, Frank Williams might not be on the phone to you just yet but itís only a matter of time.
I am sure everyone contributing to this string have had the occasional fantasy about getting a good run through Eau Rouge, slipstreaming Schumacher down the straight and passing him under braking (possibly with a slight nudge into the gravel trap).
So I am intrigued.
What are you racing? (Iíve ruled out Skoda)
What class is it in?
How did you get started?
Best result?
We need to know these things and more.
I am sure we would all be interested in a few lines about your exploits so far.

But back to may original theme, whatís the cheapest new ZS180 anyone has seen?
I have checked out one or two motor supermarket sites but tend to find 120's on offer.


Simon Swallow

>>>Frank Williams might not be on the phone to you just yet but its only a matter of time.
===Er, not much of that either I'm afraid - already the wrong side of 50 :-(
>>>What are you racing?
===anything I can borrow, Metro, Jag XJS and midget, mainly the latter. MG folk are very generous.
>>>What class is it in?
===Cockshoot modified at home, FISC in Europe.
>>>How did you get started?
===grass ghymkhana and treasure hunt in 1978, via autotests and classic trials to sprints in 1998. Foot and mouth year (and a good mate) persuaded me to invest in a race licence, now I kick myself for not doing it 30 years ago.
David S

why not have a ZS 120, and then tune the car at your leisure?

Nice idea, but I really do like the smooth 6 cylinder power delivery, the quiet cruising ability and that nice 6 cylinder growl.
I previously mentioned that I wasn't too impressed with Gordon Lamb in Sheffield and would try Autoworld in Chesterfield.
Popped in on Saturday but they don't have a ZS180 demonstrator.
Came across much more enthusiastic and knowledgeable though.

Out of interest I asked how they were doing with ZT260 sales, and they claimed they had recently sold a new MK1 for £20K!!
The salesman told me he thought the list price was too high and puts it in competition with stiff opposition (BMW etc).
Thought he could sell a lot at £20K if only he could get more at that price from MG-Rover.
Maybe there should be a Club Sport version without bells and whistles for £20K.
ZT260CS sounds OK to me.


Simon Swallow

>> Maybe there should be a Club Sport version without bells and whistles for £20K.
ZT260CS sounds OK to me. <<

Interesting idea Simon! :o) With the positive press regarding the 260s ability on track, this could well appeal to a segment of the market! Make for an interesting alternative to the Scooby/EVO brigade
Rob Bell

Hmmmm, a ZT260CS. Available in gloss (non-metallic) colours such as red and with body coloured dash etc.

Now where have I seen that before....?

Can I assume I am not the first person to think of this?
Maybe that confirms itís a good idea.
(Not sure about red, I may be willing to pay just a bit more for x-power grey.)
Simon Swallow

Xpower Grey 03 ZT260 on Dixon's forecourt on Sunday in Bradford, had been £28k, now £24k. However, I think they would be willing to go lower as they sent me a letter a few months ago offering all models at 'cost', around £22k, I think, for the ZT260.

Having just replaced a f/ns door, I can attest to both the build quality (it fitted without any adjustment necessary) and the mass. If they got rid of all the unnecessary bits, I think it might improve performance significantly!
Martin ZT

No Simon, I think you may be the first to crystalize the idea so clearly. My comment was a tongue-in-cheek dig at Neil who had his ZT260 spec'd with a red dash.

Neil also had an interesting idea about a stripped-out ZR105. Perhaps, between the two of you, you have the makings of a complete line of MG Club Sport versions of the whole range.

Excellent stuff!

ZTX260 perhaps?
Rob Bell

in fact, my dealer - Newtown Motors of Cwmbran, wrote to me, saying I can drive any car I want last Saturday and Sunday. When I arrived holding their letter, I couldn't believe it when they said I could go out in an SV, even as a non driving passenger. Next was a new style ZS180, which I drove. It was a brilliant car. Good to drive, solid feel, good steering, and a good feel of the road through the wheels. I like to feel the textures and bumps of the road, not be shaken to bits by them, and this was it. Excellent. The diesel ZT didn't seem so good after that, as a drivers car, nor the ZR160. A TF160 was suddenly unavailable after a customer had decided to buy it. But never mind. Out of the 3 cars I drove, the ZS was easily car of the day.

Gary, if only my local dealer were able to provide such a service! >:o(

Will try not to start another rant...
Rob Bell

but I didn't ask to drive a City Rover, I think you have to before becoming one of the factually informed. A bit disappointed about not driving the TF 160, but then I have already driven a TF 135, which I liked a lot, and since always been curious about that and the difference with a VVC. The drive in the ZR 160 made up for that a bit. No 200Bhp Hybrid TF either, that sounds very exciting with it's different modes of all wheel drive.

This thread was discussed between 21/06/2004 and 06/07/2004

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