Buying Guide: MG ZT Diesel

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The MG ZT brought MG back into the world of the big saloon when it hit the road in 2001. When the diesel arrived in July 2002 it combined the MG’s sporting intent with the economy of a modern, refined diesel. Reproduced with thanks from Diesel Car magazine, here’s the MG ZT CDTi buying guide…

INTRODUCTION AND MODEL HISTORY
The similarity between the Rover 75 and the MG ZT isn’t coincidental, as the two cars are very similar under the skin. The MG ZT was the sportier, more dynamic model in the MG Rover line-up and born once BMW had exited the scene in 2000. The Rover 75 was developed under BMW stewardship, using many of its parts, including the well-respected M47R 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine, boasting common rail technology and almost bulletproof reliability.

When the MG and Rover brands were bought from BMW in 2000, the new company that was formed in the aftermath sought ways of livening up the line-up. The master plan amounted to making sportier versions of its Rover 25, 45 and 75 ranges, which were christened the MG ZR, ZS and ZT respectively.

Initially the MG ZT was available just with petrol engines, but in July 2002, the 2.0-litre CDTi engine was added to the line-up in both ZT saloon and ZT-T estate guises, and available with a choice of five-speed manual or five-speed automatic gearboxes. A couple of months later, in October 2002, the power output of the engine was increased to 129bhp and these versions were named CDTi 135.

A facelift to the range was introduced in January 2004, which improved the looks considerably and as a result these models are the most desirable, with a corresponding uplift in price. Early in 2006, MG Rover ran into money troubles and the administrators were called in. The factory closed down and although the assets were bought by a Chinese company called Nanjing, the Longbridge production lines were stripped and shipped to China. Nanjing itself was later swallowed up by the huge Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation and the MG6 succeeded the ZT in 2012.

OWNING
RGS-0201-120The Rover 75 was endowed with the best ride comfort in the business, but this has been changed in the MG ZT thanks to stiffer springs. For diesel variants there were two distinct types – the standard set-up and an optional, firmer MG Sports suspension.

The latter is too harsh and best avoided, and therefore the standard set-up is the best compromise in terms of sporting prowess and comfort. It has to be said that the entry-level ZT models are pretty basic, although beautifully built and finished. So it is best to look out for the better equipped plus models, which feature items like dual-zone climate control and electric rear windows.

There was an extensive list of optional extras available, with things like leather upholstery, rear parking sensors, xenon headlights, satellite navigation with television tuner and electric rear sunblind all available at extra cost. All ZTs came equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights and a chrome mesh grille, so really look the part. Facelift cars from 2004 onwards all came with projector style headlights, and models fitted with the ‘plus option pack’ had a few extra useful goodies.

Things like xenon headlights, cruise control, a rain sensor, auto-dimming rear view mirror, Trafficmaster congestion alert system and prettier 11-spoke alloy wheels were all bundled together as an optional extra. It’s worth looking out for a car that is so equipped. From 2005, all ZT models gained extra equipment, with half leather upholstery, an auto-dimming rear view mirror, a rain sensor and SmartNav all included as standard.

These better equipped 2005 models and earlier facelift models with the plus option pack are the ones to look for when you are searching for a used ZT. With MG Rover having gone bust in 2006, there are some trim parts that are no longer available or in short supply. However, there seems to be a good supply of used parts readily available at scrap yards, which cost a fraction of the price of the items when new. Mechanically, you won’t have any problems as the engine is a BMW M47R unit and there’s a whole host of pattern parts available.

XPart took over the distribution of parts before MG Rover went under, and still have a network of 250 dealers set up to sell parts for MG and Rover vehicles (www.xpart.com). There are also parts companies like Rimmer Bros (www.rimmerbros. co.uk), which carry extensive stocks. Sat on the driveway, the ZT looks imposing whichever angle you look at it, thanks to the meaty, 18-inch alloy wheels and bold front grille. Behind the wheel, the dashboard is elegant, well made and durable and you’ll no doubt be surprised to find soft-touch plastics used in its construction.DC banner

The cabin really does feel plush and the bright, white lights of the 2002 to 2004 models and restful, cool blue lighting of the facelifted versions give a distinctive and special feel to the car at night. The steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake so you can get a comfortable driving position and the sports seats hug your frame, keeping you in place through the bends. Rear seat space is quite limited when compared to cars like the Ford Mondeo, but quite generous when taking into account the ZT’s more natural sporting rivals like the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4.

If you need additional space, the ZT-T estate has a large, flat load bay, with seats that fold down. Compared to the Rover 75 that it is based upon, the MG ZT is much more involving to drive, with twisty back roads a real speciality.

Body control and handling are exceptional, though the ride is quite firm. On the motorway, the ZT soaks up the miles with ease, with low levels of wind and engine noise. There’s a little more road noise than its Rover sister car, though that’s due to the large 18-inch alloy wheels fitted to all models.

RUNNING COSTS
ZT-T mk2Whatever power output you choose, saloon or Tourer, the fuel economy is the same. You can expect to achieve around 38 to 39mpg in mixed motoring for the manual versions and 30 to 32mpg for the automatic. If you’re more careful on the throttle, you’ll no doubt be able to improve upon these figures.

Tax will cost you £170 per annum for the manual, and £250 for the automatic. Insurance costs are extremely competitive, with all models falling into group 21 – considerably cheaper than all of its German rivals.

There’s a ready network of XPart dealers up and down the country that can service and maintain your ZT for you. There’s also a network of new MG dealers set up to sell the MG6 and they will be more than happy to look after you.

Service intervals are dictated by the car’s onboard service indicator, which is visible each time you start up the car and, while parts prices are pretty good compared to the opposition, you should still bear in mind that you’re buying an executive-sized car with running costs.

The enthusiasm for these models is based on sound engineering and a good track record for running costs and reliability. Any engine hesitation could be associated with the ECU and a replacement is expensive. A possible cause is the under-bonnet intake for the ventilation system, which can get flooded when the drainage holes get blocked, allowing moisture into the ECU.

A soggy pollen filter also blocks airflow and ventilation. The fuel tank on the ZT is of a saddle design, with a fuel pump transferring fuel between the two. This can become troublesome and mean that the car won’t start if there’s less than half a tank of fuel. The handbrake employs small drum brakes located within the rear discs which need fairly regular lubrication, so check out handbrake efficiency. Watch out also for a soft brake pedal feel too, usually the result of air in the system.

ZT2 Mk2Don’t be put off if your first dipstick check suggests that the oil is low, as this is often a false reading. A second check, after wiping the dipstick, should deliver a true reading. Dual Mass Flywheels can give trouble, indicated by knocking on tickover, and a judder on take-off, and a new DMF could make quite a big hole in your wallet.

The Jatco automatic transmission is a pretty robust unit, but any work on it is best left to a specialist. Under seat airbag electrical connections can throw up a dashboard warning light, which is now an MoT failure item, but is usually fairly easily sorted with some wiggling of the wires.

A programmed new key and transponder will cost you £150 to £180, so don’t buy any car with only one key without negotiating a similar discount. Don’t worry if you can’t find the more powerful 129bhp version of the ZT when you are searching for your car, as there’s a simple tuning upgrade that can take the power of the 114bhp version up to 129bhp and maximum torque from 192 lb ft to 221lb ft. It is carried out by XPart dealers and costs £199.

There’s no impact on insurance, as both the standard ZT CDTi and ZT CDTi 135 sit in the same insurance group. And specialist tuners like Tuning Diesels are well respected and very experienced in gaining more power from the MG ZT.

TECHNICAL Specifications

MG ZT 2.0 CDTi (ZT-T IN BRACKETS)

Engine 1951cc, 4-cylinder,

16-valve, turbo diesel

Transmission 5-speed manual

Power output 114bhp at 4,000rpm

Maximum torque 192lb ft at 2,000rpm

Top speed 120mph (115mph)

Acceleration 0-60mph 11.0secs (11.5secs)

CO2 emissions 163g/km

Economy (urban/extra urban/combined)

36.5/60.7/48.8mpg

Fuel tank size/range 65 litres/698 miles

Insurance group 21

Kerb/max towing weight 1,535/1,600kg

(1,585/1,600kg)

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