Introduced in 2001, the MG ZT was based on the more sedate and comfort-oriented Rover 75. The cars were thoroughly re-worked under the skin, being well tuned to the requirements of British B-roads. This was no cynical marketing ploy, for underneath the stylish bodywork was a true sports saloon.
Thanks to MG Rover’s management issues, and mounting financial woes, production ended in 2005 along with all other models. More than ten years later, the ZT still carries a loyal fan base, with these well-rounded MGs making an excellent value used buy today. Read on to see what to look for when buying one.
Which MG ZT to buy?
The range kicked off with a 2.5-litre V6 in 160 and 190 flavours; it was soon expanded to include the 114bhp CDTi diesel with a more powerful 129bhp 135 CDTi version arriving the following year – along with a petrol-powered 180 Sport automatic. The 160bhp V6 was short lived, as it was replaced in 2002 by a 1.8-litre turbocharged unit which produced the same power.
The ZT was available in either a saloon or ZT-T estate body style, and the transmission options were a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic gearbox. Suspension components were comprehensively upgraded from the Rover 75, consequently making the ride much sportier. While the regular ZT’s ride is still relatively comfortable, the optional ‘Plus’ sport suspension can make for a less compromising option. Most ZTs came equipped with 18-inch alloys, apart from a few low-spec 1.8 models with 17-inch wheels.
Standard specifications were not particularly generous on entry level cars and some of the nice-to-have options to look out for are cruise control, leather seats and satnav. The 2004 facelift brought about newly designed headlights, trim and an improvement in standard specifications. The last-of-the-line models came fitted standard with features such as half leather upholstery, rain sensors and SmartNav.
Most of the ZT model range is great to drive and while the base models may lack a bit of power they all have a pleasant fluidity to them thanks to the well-developed chassis and portly curb weight. For our money we would go for either a ZT190 for its smooth V6 or the torquey 135bhp turbo diesel, in estate form if added practicality is required. Choices are somewhat limited but there are still a number of decent cars out there. As with all MG Rover products, build quality suffered as the years went on, so an earlier car will feature better quality trim as well as tighter fit-and-finish.
Performance and specs
MG ZT 190
Engine 2497cc 24valve DOHC V6
Power 188bhp @ 6500 rpm
Torque 181lb ft @ 4000rpm
Top speed 140mph
0-60mph 7.8 seconds
Fuel consumption 28.8 mpg
Gearbox Five-speed manual
Dimensions and weight
• Thanks to an enthusiastic following, parts availability is quite good for the MG ZT. Specialists such as XPart and Rimmer Bros stock a large range of components.
• While the engines are generally robust (especially the V6 and BMW sourced diesel) the 1.8-litre K-series in both naturally aspirated and turbo engines are known for to head gasket failures. There are a number of reasons for this, however as this tended to occur at around the 30,000mile-mark, most cars on the road today should be relatively trouble free.
• If a car has had a recent head gasket change, ask for proof that it was done correctly with an uprated MLS gasket – a well known upgrade that will prevent premature failure again.
• Tyre wear can be uneven as the ZT is very sensitive to poor alignment. Make sure that the fuel tank is full when getting it done. Suspension springs have been known to snap so have them checked over.
• Three major recalls were carried out during production; two affected the front springs while the third was to cure an issue with the engine cutting out. These should all have been resolved however it is worth following up on.
• The heating system can blow its radiator hoses, upgraded replacement parts can be sourced.
• Brakes are generally trouble free, although the rear drums for the handbrake can bind after sitting for long periods.
• Climate control units can be temperamental, poor airflow however might just indicate a blocked pollen filter.
• Water in the cabin could be from blocked drainage ducts in the plenum chamber, check the ECU for any signs of water damage too.
• Airbag warning lights may be due to loose wiring underneath the front seats, but check that all the electrics are working correctly as repairs can be labour intensive.
• There should be at least two keys with every car, replacement units require re-coding and can cost up to £180 each.
• Remapping of both the 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol and diesel units is commonplace, however only trust a reputable tuner to carry out any modifications and be wary of the petrol units tendency to overheat if the cooling system is not functioning optimally.
2001: MG ZT 190 and 160 launched. ZT-Tourer introduced as well as 115bhp CDTi diesel derivative
2002: ZT 180 sport auto launched. More powerful 129bhp CDTi introduced. ZT 160 V6 replaced with turbocharged 4 cylinder with same output.
2003: Entry level ZT 120 introduced with 1.8l 118bhp engine
2004: Facelift carried out across range. Headlights changed to single units and standard specification is improved
2005: Final year of ZT production
Owners clubs, forums and websites
• www.mgownersclub.co.uk – MG owners site
• www.xpart.com – Stockist of a massive range of MG parts
• www.rimmerbros.co.uk – Parts stockists
• www.75ztcommunity.co.uk – MG enthusiasts site
Summary and prices
Residual values have been pretty dismal for the ZTs, this is great news for knowledgeable second hand buyers as there are some serious bargains to be had. Prices start at £500 for the earliest high-milers although we would spend at least £1500 to minimise the possibility of expensive repairs down the road.
Prices tend to be influenced more by condition and mileage than spec, there being very little variation across the range. The ZT-T estates are most common with the diesel engines while the saloons tend to have a V6 under the bonnet. The finest examples of either one will set you back at most £3500, V8 260 excluded. The fact that this is all you need to own such a well built and enjoyable sports saloon makes the MG ZT a seriously desirable machine.
Words: John Tallodi