Australia’s cheapest electric car, revealed

A parked light blue MG ZS SUV

Tim Nicholson

Posted November 27, 2020

Australia's cheapest EV has landed making it even more afforable to switch to electric.

Buying an electric vehicle just became a little more affordable with MG Motor’s new ZS SUV hitting the market as Australia’s cheapest EV.

Priced from $40,990 before on-road costs (or $43,990 drive away), the ZS EV undercuts all other battery-electric offerings currently available Down Under and is $8000 cheaper than the next-cheapest EV. 

Until now the Hyundai Ioniq Electric Elite was the most affordable EV at $48,970 before on-roads. 

The MG is cheaper than other electrified rivals like the Nissan Leaf, priced from $49,990, and another Hyundai, the Kona Electric crossover that starts at $60,740. Renault’s compact Zoe hatchback is priced from $50,040, but was recently discontinued in Australia.

Mini’s cheeky SE Electric hatch costs $54,800 and the cheapest Tesla is the Model 3 Standard Range Plus which kicks off at $75,425.

MG Motor Australia and New Zealand CEO Peter Ciao says the high cost of EVs is preventing wider adoption of zero-emissions cars, but the ZS could change that. 

“Our vision at MG Motor is to change this situation by making electric vehicles available and accessible to everyone. By removing the affordability barrier, we are seeking to fast-track EV adoption in Australia and New Zealand.”   

RACV’s annual EV survey revealed in July that three in five respondents would consider an EV for their next vehicle purchase. However, 77 per cent of those surveyed said the purchase price would discourage them from buying an EV. Thirty-one per cent said they would be willing to buy an EV if it was the same price as an equivalent petrol or diesel vehicle.

Despite the high entry prices, EVs and other electrified vehicles are growing in popularity in Australia. Figures to the end of October show that while sales of petrol and diesel vehicles are down by 24 and 19 per cent respectively compared with the same period last year, EV sales are up by 14 per cent, plug-in hybrids have increased by 13 per cent and hybrid sales have doubled. 

The ZS EV is based on the regular petrol-powered ZS small SUV that’s been on sale in Australia since late 2017. The turbocharged petrol ZS costs $27,490 for the most expensive grade.

A blue MG ZS SUV parked near a lake

MG Motor reckons it will sell about 3000 ZS EVs next year, which would make it one of the top-selling EVs in the country, sneaking up on the Tesla Model 3 which found homes with about 3800 Australian customers last year.  

While it’s likely to be the cheapest EV available to Australian buyers for a while, the ZS will eventually be undercut by another price-led EV from its own stable. MG Motor is reportedly planning to introduce a Toyota Corolla-sized electric hatchback in 2022 or 2023 starting from less than $40,000. New EV models from Kia, Hyundai and Mazda are expected in coming years, but it’s unclear if any of them will be cheaper than the MG.

The ZS EV is fitted with a 44.5-kilowatt battery and has a driving range of 263 kilometres on the ‘real-world’ WLTP testing cycle. By comparison the Leaf’s is 270 kilometres, the Ioniq Electric has a range of 311 kilometres and the Kona Electric 449 kilometres. Charging the ZS using a standard wall socket can be done overnight, but a public supercharger can get the battery to 80 per cent in 45 minutes. 

Many people will know the MG name from the iconic sportscars of the 1960s and ’70s – or possibly the MG T and ZT models from the ’90s and early 2000s – under the previous ownership of British Leyland, Rover Group and more. But MG Motor is now a subsidiary of Chinese state-owned automotive giant SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation), also the parent company of commercial vehicle specialist LDV. Last year Forbes ranked SAIC as the eighth-biggest automaker in the world ahead of Nissan and BMW, largely due to its massive sales in China – the world’s largest new-car market.