WHO would have guessed when the Chinese bought the remains of MG-Rover in 2006 that the venerable sportscar marque would be Britain’s fastest growing car company within 15 years?

But that’s precisely what’s happened.

After a hesitant start, MG Motor has come on in leaps and bounds these past few years. It now sells more cars in the UK than big names like Honda and even Citroen.

That’s a remarkable success story.

The formula is simple: give people what they want at a price they can afford.

When the market for sportscars collapsed and everyone switched into SUVs MG Motor quickly dumped the old TF two-seater and started churning out soft-roaders to compete with the likes of Nissan’s Qashaqi.

In 2019, MG sold 298,000 cars worldwide (more than MG Rover managed in its best year), including 139,000 in export markets, and by 2024 - MG’s 100th birthday - it hopes to be selling one million.

Not so long ago that would have seemed like a fanciful notion, but not any more. Rivals who under-estimate MG’s ambitions do so at their own risk. Sales during the pandemic (which prompted the worst downturn the motor industry has seen in a generation) topped 750,000 for the first time.

MG may be owned by the Chinese but it hasn’t cast aside its British roots.

The massive Longbridge factory, in Birmingham, may be no more but not so very far away MG Motor maintains an international design headquarters that is busy working on dozens of exciting new products.

When car historians come to write the latest chapter in the MG story they will point to the MG ZS as one of the key architects of the company’s success.

Bicester Advertiser:

Almost as large as a Qashqai (particularly inside) but costing as much as a Juke, the ZS has been a conspicuous success since it went on sale a few years back.

The ZS has recently been revamped to keep it competitive so what better time to reacquaint myself with the brand?

The ZS debuted a new corporate design language whose most notable feature is the large full-frame grille which allows for a much bigger MG badge to take centre stage. Machined alloy wheels, atypical of a compact SUV at this price point, look good and the whole vehicle is neat and tidy. MG calls it efforts “emotional dynamism” but the reality is that it’s a perfectly fine, if somewhat generic, compact crossover.

The only fly in the ointment is the exhaust collector box which hangs down awkwardly beneath the rear bumper and gives the lie to the twin (fake) exhaust outlets above.

Engine options are a 1.5 DOHC VTI-tech, four-cylinder engine with smooth and responsive five-speed manual gearbox, or a 1.0 GDI turbocharged, three-cylinder, automatic version. The smaller engine is fitted to the more expensive models and it provides ample power. There is also a battery-powered version which has an impressive range of more than 270 miles.

The leather seats are very comfortable and the fascia looks good. MG uses a European sat-nav software solution and it works very well. The system can warn you of speed cameras and if you are exceeding the speed limit.

The large touchscreen looks good but there’s a delay between finger presses and the response. Some of the screens - particularly the DAB radio - are colourful but confusing. However, it’s good to see MG sticking with physical switches for the heating and audio volume.

Bicester Advertiser:

The ZS is a practical car, too. The boot is a good size and the rear seats split/fold.

Good-looking compact crossover that costs less than a supermini, with ample performance and an excellent warranty for peace of mind - it’s not hard to see why MG is on a roll at the moment.

Spec check:

Price: from £16,995 Engine: 1.0-litre/three-cyl turbo Max power: 111 bhp Max torque: 118 lb/ft Top speed: 112 MPH 0-62MPH: 12.4 seconds Combined 51.3 MPG on test

SUMMING UP: It might not do anything innovative, but the MG ZS gets the basics right.