MG ZST Trophy – a glow-up we deserve

It can’t be denied that the MG ZS is a success. It’s one of the reasons why MG Philippines is in the 10 best-selling brands in the Philippines and in the process, helped change the perception of Filipinos about Chinese cars. I can see its appeal but I just can’t look past what it lacks – a more contemporary powertrain, better materials, and snappier interface.

They’re making up for it with the MG ZST. It’s an upgraded version of their best-selling crossover and on paper, has bits and pieces that make it better than its sibling. Can it really surpass the game changer or is it just hype? The answer is yes, it is indeed better. Let me tell you why.

First off is the exterior. It’s simpler with its lack of chrome and accents, only complimented by the black cladding against the body color. Even at the rear, the faux tailpipe finish was tastefully done. The less is more approach worked as it gave more emphasis on the revisions done on the ZST’s aesthetic which is prominent on the front face. This was further elevated by the bright DRL that adorns the LED headlights giving it a sleeker demeanor.

The cabin has a similar shape to the ZS but that’s where the familiarity ends. The ZST stepped up its game in terms of materials, finish, and amenities. First thing you’ll notice is the red accents all over the cabin. It’s not just stitching but whole portions in this sporty red hue. It’s a bit outlandish to some that have seen it, but to me, it’s just tolerable and goes well with the overall appeal of the cabin.

The dashboard now has a carbon fiber accent on the surface that doesn’t feel tacky unlike the sticker like accent they used on the ZS before. The leather upholstery now has red stitching all over with the MG logo stitched on the front seat headrests. There are now rear air vents with USB ports under it, a fully-digital gauge cluster, electronic parking brake with auto brake hold, and 6-way powered driver’s seat that’s also heated.

MG also revised one of the less desirable amenities of the ZS’s cabin which is the infotainment system. It’s now bigger at 10-inches but has a snappier interface and now features Android Auto, aside from Apple CarPlay. It also serves as the monitor for the new 360-camera system that’s also high in resolution, giving you a better look around your car. Unfortunately though, the cover for the panoramic sunroof is still curtain-like so you’ll need to boost that aircon when driving at noon.

Speaking of driving, let’s talk about the engine. The weakest point of the ZS for me is its powertrain because it runs on a 1.5L engine with a 4-speed automatic. It’s already the 2020s and we’re still putting 4-speed AT? On a crossover? It’s not the good kind of 4-speed AT too. MG probably heard that from others as well because apart from boosting the ZST’s engine with a 1.3L turbo, they’ve paired it with a 6-speed automatic that has a sport mode. It’s a good upgrade but on the road, it’s less than thrilling.

It doesn’t really have the zing you’d expect from a crossover with a turbo engine. The weight of the car is just a tad too much for the 1.3L to be really lively. Still, it’s  better than the ZS. It has just enough power to do a decent overtake even at highway speeds, while being more composed in city traffic. Gone are the hunting and confused tendencies that were in the former ZS. It was also economical as the ZST logged 8.6 km/l in the city and 18.6 km/l on the highway.

This is complemented by good dynamics by the ZST. It doesn’t have much body roll but this is further lessened by the bolstering of the front seats keeping you in place. There’s also two modes for the steering wheel – urban and dynamic. Urban makes the steering feather light but still firms up on higher speeds, though not as firm as the other mode. Dynamic puts more weight on the steering and even more at highway speeds. Perfect for those who prefer a more precise handle on their daily drive.

Add to this the numerous safety features of the ZST like Lane Change Assist, 360-camera, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, and you have a well rounded crossover that looks great, feels nice, and very obedient on the road.

If you don’t mind the thin sunroof cover of the ZST, it’s still a great value despite the P1,198,888 price tag thanks to the inflation. Will I take it against its rivals like the Coolray? Possibly. Having Apple and Android in the unit is a huge plus for me who’s Waze dependent, especially since this interface will show up in a 10-inch screen. But more than the tech talk, the ZST didn’t leave me wanting for more, unlike what the ZS did. No wonder my neighbor bought one after selling his Japanese sedan.

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