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MG plans big range expansion

Updated: The ZS sports sedan will go on sale later this year priced in the low $40,000 bracket.

MG confirms the ZS sports sedan and ZR hot hatch are headed our way

26 Jul 2004

MG is set to dramatically expand its Australian model line-up with the ZS sports sedan and the ZR hot hatch heading here over the next few months.

The ZS180 will be launched at the Sydney motor show in October and go on sale either that month or in November.

Powered by the same 133kW KV6 2.5-litre as the larger ZT sedan, the ZS will be offered only with a Getrag five-speed manual gearbox and retail in the low $40,000 bracket.

The ZR160 is powered by a 118kW 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine and will also be manual only. It will be launched at the Melbourne motor show next March and will be offered from a starting price of about $35,000.

Performance and cosmetic kits from MG Sports & Racing through the Xpower brand name for the ZR are also being planned.

Both cars have been facelifted and updated to reflect a new MG graphic style that is reminiscent of the SV supercar which may also make it to Australia in 2005, homologation issues pending.

The ZS comes here first because it is already in production, whereas the ZR has only just started rolling off MG Rover Group’s Longbridge assembly line.

Along with the styling update, the ZS received a wider track, 17-inch alloys and a renewed interior. Standard equipment on the Australian model will include automatic climate control air-conditioning, CD player, power windows and mirrors and leather bolsters on the seats, the front seats being straight out of the ZT.

MG Rover Australia is forecasting about 15 sales per month for the ZS. It did debate bringing the hatch version as well, but decided the sedan was “more substantial”.

49 center image The forecast for ZR (left) is set at about 10 per month.

The company is also quite happy to admit both ZS and ZR are quite firm and physical sporting cars, and not as refined as some rival vehicles.

“Honda dropped their Integra Type R because it is too much of an undiluted raw sports car,” said MG Rover Australia national marketing manager Ross Meyer. “But that’s what this car is, it is an undiluted sports car. It handles tremendously well.” The ZS is based on the Rover 45 small car and the ZR on the 25 mini. Both in turn are based on old Honda designs from the Rover’s platform sharing days with the Japanese company in the 1990s.

The ZR and ZS follow on from the recent launch of the supercharged locally developed ZT220S. The ZT range – which is based on the 75 prestige model - has also been rationalised and updated and a rear-wheel drive V8 ZT260 added.

Watch out for our drive impression of the MG ZT260 V8 on Tuesday, July 27, and we wrap up the other new MG ZT models later in the week .

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