2001 – 2003 ZS Range (Overview)

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General Information

MG’s new ZS sports saloon has a distinct dynamic character, race-track looks, a powerful engine and is the basis of the company’s entry into the British Touring Car championship. Prices are competitive too, ranging between £12,680 and £16,640 on the road. With a powerful and smooth six-cylinder engine, rare in a car of this size and unique at the price, the range-topping MG ZS 180 is expected to excite sports-minded drivers.

MG also simultaneously launched MG ZR and MG ZT models to compete with the same affordable-power concept in other sectors of the market.

MG ZS is available in both 5-door hatchback and 4-door saloon body style, and features the 2.5-litre KV6 engine with manual transmission producing exceptional performance or the highly rated 1.8-litre lightweight K Series engine with the option of selectable Stepspeed CVT and a newly introduced turbo diesel.

The three derivatives are available; the ZS 120, the ZS 180 and the turbo diesel. Each features a sports character that has been engineered throughout, with a sports tuned suspension, brakes and steering to transform the driving feel. The body-coloured MG grille distinguishes the Exterior style, with bright mesh air intakes and many body colour linked features. Styled 16" and 17" alloy wheels provide an indication of the performance available.


Chassis Dynamics

As with all the new MG saloon models, the chassis engineering is at the heart of its sporting appeal. One of the starting points for the ZS chassis was, in fact, a sprint/hillclimb car built and driven jointly by Longbridge chassis engineers and engineering apprentices. It convincingly demonstrated the latent sporting potential of the platform, which has double wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear suspension, both excellent designs and ideally suited to the careful tuning process that led to the ZS specifications.

Sports springs are combined with a low suspension set-up and new Delphi ‘2005+’ dampers, provide very firm control of low speed suspension travel (such as roll movement) yet relatively gentle damping at higher velocity inputs (such as road bumps). This is achieved by means of dual-valving, with a secondary valve in the damper, which opens above a certain point on the damper force/velocity graph.

The result is firm body control while retaining a good secondary ride quality. To optimise overall chassis dynamics, the power unit mounting systems have been re-tuned in parallel with the suspension development, with the additional objectives of optimising the sporting engine acoustics. The resultant sound, particularly with the ZS 180 and its V6 engine, is entertaining for the enthusiastic drivers.

The front suspension castor angle has been engineered to 3.0 degrees, and the lower arm compliance bushing has a stiff rubber specification. Other detailed suspension components include a 20mm diameter rear anti-roll bar on the V6-engined ZS 180.

Integrated with the suspension changes are new high-grip wheel and tyre combinations. Standard on the ZS 180, (and optional for the other models) are 17" diameter, 7" rim multi-spoke ‘Straights’ alloy wheels with 205/45 R17 tyres. Regular wheels for the ZS 120 model are 16" diameter, ‘Hairpin’ sports style alloy wheels with 205/50 R16 tyres.

For weight-saving and customer convenience, the ZS 180 is supplied with the latest Instant Mobility System (IMS) instead of a spare wheel. Using a sealant material and an electric tyre pump, this allows most punctures to be repaired in situ, with no jacking or wheel changing necessary. An optional spare wheel is available. The ZS 120 model has a spacesaver spare wheel.

A more responsive steering rack, with 16.4:1 gearing in place of 18.2:1 and re-tuned power assistance valving contributes further to the sporting precision of the ZS chassis.


Powertrain & Brakes

Designed from the outset as one of the world’s lightest and most compact high performance production V6 engines, the quad-cam, all aluminium 2.5 litre KV6 was a natural choice for the ZS 180. This version of the KV6 develops 177Ps and 240Nm of torque and has a special MG calibration for the engine management ECU plus a new throttle actuation cam to give crisp responses to the accelerator pedal. The exhaust system has been tuned to give a classy sporting note while complying with legal noise standards. Power is transmitted by the proven PG1 5-speed manual gearbox with performance-optimised gear ratios, and a positive action sports gearshift with a shorter throw and firmer linkage bushes.

For ZS buyers with stricter budgets a high-performance four-cylinder engine 117Ps 1.8-litre twin-cam all aluminium K Series unit is available.

The K Series four-cylinder engines are well known for their eager and efficient power delivery in Rover cars, and are essentially the same engines that power the current MGF sports car models, as well as various Lotus and Caterham British sports and racing cars. In the MG ZS, they have specially calibrated engine management ECUs for sports car throttle response, and the manual gearboxes have sports gear ratios. The 1.8-litre has either the PG1 5 speed manual or the option of the ‘Stepspeed’ CVT automatic – a sporting, high-efficiency transmission provides a choice of ‘Normal’ or ‘Sport’ automatic operation in stepless mode, or a manual 6-speed sequential selection.

The later introduction of the 101Ps turbo-diesel provides high levels of torque – 240Nm@2000rpm – for good performance (0-60mph in 10.3secs and a 116mph top speed) and economy (a potential of 66.4mpg on the Extra-urban cycle).


Special engineering activity has targeted brake performance with a front disc diameter of 282mm, and the rear disc diameter of 260mm, with matching larger calipers all round and optimised ABS tune. All ZS models feature the latest ABS specification that includes electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) for maximum braking efficiency under all front/rear load distribution conditions.


Exterior Design Summary

ZS has the characteristic MG saloon front end treatment, with a body-colour MG grille surround, and bright mesh stoneguards for the grille apertures and the lower air intake. Orange lenses are used for the front indicator lights, and the ZS 180 version features fog lamps as standard.

The bib spoiler on ZS 180 models incorporates an air splitter fitted at the front, with matching side skirt mouldings, while a high plane-type rear boot spoiler completes a carefully balanced, wind-tunnel-developed aerodynamic package, though a more discreet version is available. This is available as an option on the ZS 120 model, which otherwise have a smaller rear spoiler as standard. On all ZS models, the bumper inserts, side rubbing strips and door handles are all finished in body colour. Jewelled MG badges appear at front and rear, while the rear identification consists of a ‘ZS’ badge (plus ‘180’ on the ZS 180) with a Union and chequered flag emblem.

A twin-wall bright exhaust tailpipe finisher is housed snugly within an inset stainless heatshield in the rear bumper moulding. Sitting low on its big, wheelarch-filling wheels, the ZS looks every inch the fun sports saloon, set off by the distinctive MG paint colour range. For the MG ZS, the colours are Solar Red, Trophy Yellow, Le Mans Green, Trophy Blue, Anthracite and Platinum Silver.


Interior Summary

Inside the ZS, the focal point is the special front seat design – shaped to locate the occupants, and especially the driver, securely against the impressive cornering forces the car can generate. An integral part of the MG driving experience, the sports seat uses new dual-hardness foams and forming wires to provide substantial side-bolsters on cushion and squab. The interior trim follows a bold and distinctive MG theme, with a basically ‘Ash’ (dark grey) sports colourway, with colour detailing that co-ordinates with the exterior paint. For example, the ZS 180 has central seat panels in ‘Monaco’ woven fabric in either black/red/green or black/blue/yellow yarns, and leather side bolsters in Ash with either red, green, blue or yellow leather inserts and top stitching, according to paint colour.

ZS 120 has its seat centre panels in ‘Matrix’ woven fabric, a design with a ‘chequered flag’ motif, coloured Ash with either blue and yellow or red and green highlights according to the exterior paint. Ash vinyl covers the side bolsters, and the stitching is either yellow or red to suit the fabric theme. Alternatively, the ZS 180 leather/ Monaco fabric trim is available as an option.

Feature inserts on the ZS fascia, console and door casings are in a special ‘Dark Rhodium’ ‘Technical’ finish, with a matching metallic sheen finished instrument dials with orange needles and illumination. The sports style steering wheel has a new deep rim profile, and a jewelled MG badge set centrally in a machined aluminium bezel. Distinguishing features of the ZS 180 include a leather steering wheel rim covering, perforated on the grip sections, and an alloy/leather gear knob.


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