A much delayed one-year owner’s report
As I write this, it is 5 months to the day since I promised DTW’s esteemed editor a one-year report on living with what was, at purchase, an unusually pristine and little-used example of MG’s last-chance, last-shout, last-hurrah (and doomed from the start) sports saloon. My attempt at winning the ‘most delayed DTW article’ award aside, how has 18 months with the ZT190 been?
To start with, the ZT has been, by a comfortable margin, the unluckiest car I have ever known: In the short time I have owned it, it has been crashed into by other drivers twice (at low speeds but still necessitating costly repairs), has lost two tyres to a fight with a sharp piece of metal and just plain lost one of the brackets holding the exhaust in place. To its credit, not even the last of these could be said to be the car’s fault (a replacement exhaust fitted before purchase had not been screwed on properly) and only the tyre puncture left me stranded.
Nonetheless, a reader might wonder what the effect of the aforementioned events might be upon the ‘ownership experience’ of the car… and that’s before considering the increased cost of fuelling a car like the MG, whose 90s-tech, and fairly highly-tuned, KV6 engine loves a good drink of 98-octane-only-please.
It would be dishonest to claim that the troubles described above have not sometimes had a dampening effect on my enthusiasm for ownership of the MG but it would also be disingenuous to associate such troubles with this specific car: They are all simply the product of bad luck.
The MG itself remains a very nice car indeed: Comfortable (remarkably so, given its sporting aspirations), swift enough, nice to drive, reliable, possessed of a lovely V6 engine note and able to transport four people and their luggage with ease. Taste is personal but I continue to consider the Mk2 ZT a handsome vehicle and I would even go so far as to say that, fuel costs aside, it’s a pretty practical proposition too, helped by the fact that what was a large car at the end of the 1990s, is now very much medium-sized (and relatively narrow).
Aside from its misfortunes, the MG has been as reliable as I expected, given the quite trouble-free experiences of owning two examples of its Rover 75 sibling, the only significant niggle being the unusually persistent (as in it literally never turns off) backlighting of the lighting switches to the left of the steering wheel. This has been determined to be a fault in the electronic module (a large affair, being 90s tech and all) behind the dashboard, which will shortly be replaced. This, in common with the damage repair following the two minor crashes, does highlight a downside of owning an older car from a defunct manufacturer: Parts availability is increasingly becoming an issue.
I am reliably informed that the last new MG ZT rear spoiler (of the later, non-obnoxious style) that was available now adorns my car, following an inattentive van driver mistaking the boot of my vehicle for the open road. Should a similar accident occur again, my garage has no idea what we could do to effect a repair. Fortunately, the second driver to park their car within the physical extremities of mine was considerate enough to do that at the front and Mk2 MG ZT front-end assemblies are still available new. How long this will persist is anyone’s guess. That lighting switch module has been a long time underway from the UK to the Netherlands…
Such difficulties are part and parcel of ‘modern classic’ ownership and in no way unique to the MG of course. I’m informed that the parts supply situation for the Rover 75 and MG ZT is actually pretty good for a late 90s / early 00s car, despite the manufacturer’s demise. Accidents notwithstanding (though that is a pretty big caveat in this case) the MG has been just as easy to own as its Rover predecessors and any doubts about keeping it are really doubts about whether I should own a car at all: I have written previously in these pages on the matter of the environmental impact of our beloved vehicles and won’t revisit the subject now, other than to say that the matter does play a large part in my deliberation as to whether retention and use of a personal motor car can be justified.
After 18 months of use, and more than its fair share of trials and tribulations, the new-old-car sheen the long-stored ZT still had upon purchase is gone and familiarity has excised the excitement of what was arguably a unique example of a no-longer common vehicle. Nonetheless, I still find myself casting appreciative glances towards my automotive steed as it sits patiently in the street outside my home and (with the notable, odd, exception of my bonkers old chipped Fiat Panda Turbo) I can’t think of much anything else I would rather park there. That seems like a pretty good score for a long-term-test.