Some of Britain’s most enduring two-seater sportscars were built by Morris Garages, an illustrious marque that dates back to 1924, and they run in the Malik family for good reason — they were gorgeous. Back in the mid Nineties, my brother had a beautiful off-white 1972 Midget while my cousin owned a sporty, beige 1975 MGB GT and they loved them to bits but as countless owners of these classics will testify, they weren’t the most reliable of cars. My brother has hundreds of horror stories ranging from massive oil leaks, smouldering wires and regular tow truck rides — but that was then. Now, reborn in 2005 under China’s SAIC Motor Corporation, the models being produced are way better than they have ever been and this coincides with a much-needed upward trend in sales since 2015 (following the launch of the the GS SUV) and the latest to hit the streets is the ZS compact SUV. It has been tasked with doubling the brand’s sales within a year and featuring stylish aesthetics (replete with that iconic superhero-like badge), a cabin that is blessed with oceans of space and a very attractive price tag means it has it all in its locker to do just that.
Sharing much of its architecture with the GS and sitting one level below the larger RX5, the new 2019 ZS incorporates several pleasing design cues that help affirm it as an attractive proposition for the younger generation particularly the female market; from a sculpted body with strong character lines, large grille flanked by squinting headlights and clamshell bonnet, it sure catches the eye.
The front end also packs halogen fog lamps, a centre air dam and a skid plate (it is for imitation only) while the profile gets black lower-body cladding and flared wheel arches housing a set of 16in alloys. Around the back it has a roof-mounted spoiler, bulging 3D-design LED taillights and more faux parts in the form of stylish vents and a diffuser.
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The large and comfortable interior has been finished with some sharp and well-executed design flourishes including a dual-tone dash (it has soft-touch materials on the upper section) with artificial metal and carbonfibre trim which does a sterling job in breaking up the monotony of the black plastic.
It easily accommodates four adults and has more than enough room in the boot for all of their luggage too (thanks to the 448-litres of room available back there) while our COM trim tester has some useful tech and kit including cruise control, climate control, keyless entry with push-button start, parking sensors (a rear camera is available on the LUX top spec), leather seats, electric door mirrors, an 8.0in touch-infotainment display, two USB ports and a six-speaker sound system with Bluetooth. On the safety front it nets four airbags, anti-lock brakes, hill assist, and stability and traction control.
Power comes from a 1.5-litre four-cylinder motor which produces 120bhp and 150Nm of torque and it is mated to a four-speed automatic gearbox that directs the grunt to the front wheels. The power delivery is linear and it is remains relatively quiet at low revs (the cabin also keeps road and wind noise at bay) while on the move the ZS displays decent body control and there isn’t much roll in the corners. It also packs disc brakes (with brake assist) in all four corners and offers exceptional stopping power.
There are three steering modes available (Urban, Normal and Dynamic) with the former being extra light to make manoeuvres such as three-point turns a breeze while the latter firms it up a tad to give you more feel. Clearly, the 1.5-litre has been tuned for efficiency and on this front it gets you back a very agreeable 5.8-litres per 100km.
The ZS has many things going for it but when you factor in its low pricing which undercuts many of its rivals, it becomes a very attractive proposition. If you are young and hip and after a reliable, comfortable and stylish vehicle then this ticks all of the right boxes.