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BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Introductionword count: 106
How we chuckled when, in the aftermath of BMW pulling the plug on Rover, then owners the Phoenix Consortium unveiled plans for the MG ZS, based on the Rover 45. How could a car that oozed a genteel charm turn into something that would be in any way credible? It just couldn't happen. Thing is, it did. Although we still scratch our heads and wonder how they pulled it off, MG Rover have a car of genuine talents in the MG ZS. As a used proposition it makes a lot of sense, combining a mixture of tried and tested mechanicals with some agreeably modern styling cues.
Modelsword count: 2
Historyword count: 268
The history of the MG ZS can be traced right back through the Rover 45 to the Rover 400 of 1995. Offering a 'new' car based on a six year old design would appear to have been suicide in modern terms. Offering a sporting model based upon the tweedy 45 further dented the MG ZS' chances of success. As the centre tine in MG Rover's three-pronged launch in June 2001 the ZS had its work cut out. Knives were sharpened as journalists pre-planned their savaging of the car yet when they emerged from the ZS on its press launch their faces betrayed a combination of bemusement and admiration. The ZS was enormous fun. There was no avoiding the fact. Two body styles were available, four-door saloon and five door hatch with a pair of engines; a 115bhp four-cylinder unit in the ZS120 and a 175bhp 2.5-litre V6 in the ZS180. Upspec ZS120+ models were also offered for those who hankered after a few extra creature comforts. Later in the year the 100bhp ZS CDTi diesel model was announced. In 2002 MG Rover began offering dealer approved LPG conversions on the ZR120 models. A major facelift was visited on the MG ZS in the Spring of 2004. The changes included, updates to the interiors but the major alterations were focused around the front end. A revised grille and twin lens headlamps were brought in as was an integrated splitter for the front bumper and a reshaped boot lip that curls up into a spoiler. The last models rolled from the production line in 2005 as MG Rover went bust.
What You Getword count: 254
Aside from the obvious spoiler kit and alloy wheels, most of the changes that truly transform the ZS have been wrought out of sight. The car has been lowered by 20mm and fitted with stiffer springs and meatier dampers. Suspension bushes are now made of rigid polyurethane instead of rubber to give more road feel and sharper reaction to the driver, who can now react to said changes more effectively thanks to a quicker and more accurate steering system. Bigger brakes mean that you can overtake other traffic without recourse to speeding. If you need to work that one out in your head, you may not constitute the ZS target market. Inside the car the transformation is not all good news. The pedals, seat, steering wheel and gear stick all feel beautiful, and as they're the parts you directly interface with, you'll relish every nuance. Unfortunately the rest of the cabin isn't really up to scratch, the dashboard looking a bit of an eighties relic and certainly not up to the class standard. In an slightly desperate attempt to lick the Rover 45's somewhat frumpy lines into shape, stylist Peter Stevens, who has the McLaren F1 and Subaru Impreza P1 on his CV, probably wouldn't view the ZS as his finest hour. It's not an ungainly car, just one that looks a little aftermarket. Still, that front end treatment does have genuine overtaking presence and the bibs, skirts and spoilers are said to have a beneficial effect on downforce, engine cooling and aerodynamic efficiency.
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