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MG ZT/Rover 75

MG ZT/Rover 75 Published: 24th Jan 2020 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

MG ZT/Rover 75
MG ZT/Rover 75
MG ZT/Rover 75
MG ZT/Rover 75
MG ZT/Rover 75
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Not a bit of it – the ZT is one of the best MG saloons ever for performance and practicality and they remain crazy value. Don't forget the legal Rover either!

As with so many other MG saloons, the ZT is based upon a regular range, in this case the Rover 75 so yes the ZT might well have a faint whiff of Rover about it, but that’s okay because the 75 is a fine car. With the aid of BMW, this MG make over is done especially well to make a splendid low cost yet high quality sporting saloon in the mould of the ZA/ZB Magnette while the classy, cultured, commonsensical Tourer estate could well be the long awaited modern alternative to the late lamented Reliant Scimitar GTE – and all at prices you simply wouldn’t credit. Throw in vibrant owners clubs and forums and it’s easy to see why ZTs are becoming A Plus with their owners.

Timelines

1998 The Rover 75 saloon is introduced with a chunk of BMW’s expertise. Front-wheel driven, allied to the ‘Z-style’ rear suspension first used on the BMW Z1 sports car of the early 90s, it’s all built on an entirely new platform, where the engines are a mix of the Rover K Series, and KV6 units along with BMW diesels plus there’s a good choice of opulent trim levels. 2001 Launched three years after Rover 75, the MG ZT was initially a 2.5 V6 in 160bhp and 190bhp tunes identified by a special MG-themed interior. Estates (ZT-T or the Rover 75 Tourer) are also available.

2002 The ‘180’ tune (itself a mix of Rover 75 (175bhp) and MG (190bhp) parts) is offered but as an automatic only. For Rover use only, a special stretched version called ‘Limousine’ is also offered but few were made. 2003 Range expansion sees a top and tail exercise with the MGF (120bhp) engine now pitched as the entry level model and the X Power-developed 260 as the fast flagship in both saloon or estate formats. Ford Mustang 4.6-litre V8 powered, while the car looked identical to normal ZTs it’s virtually a new design to cater for rear wheel drive (the Rover version is auto only). Another addition to the range is turbocharged MGF engine, good for 150bhp. 2004 Facelift sees new frontal design and general refresh before the sad demise of both brands shortly after.

Driving

The 75 was a commendable effort by Rover. Launched around the same time as Jaguar’s ‘reborn Mk2 S-Type’, it’s generally regarded that Rover did a better, more complete pastiche with a modern P5/P5b twist about it. Turning the 75 into the ZT was by no means just a badge engineering exercise like the MGs of old because they have a distinct character of their own care of their specially tweaked chassis which works extremely well.

Performance from all models (available in 160, 177, 180 and 190bhp tunes from the rev happy 1.8 MGF ‘four’ and 2.5 V6) is as good as any rival and the V6 makes for a particularly vivid yet velvety drive plus the frontwheel drive chassis is nicely composed (on the right dampers) and grippy although the ride quality is understandably harder than in the Rover alternatives thus making the latter the more relaxing cruisers highlighted by their plusher old Worlde cabins.

The fast if not exactly furiously thrilling V8 Mustang-powered flagship is an old school hot rod thanks to the 256bhp V8 being allied to a uniquely engineered rear wheel drive chassis – you can guess the rest! In our opinion, this hybrid hot rod is the modern equivalent of the old Rover SD1 Vitesse and that was a car which, was likened to something Aston Martin would be proud of making – enough said!

That’s the model to mothball, but if you’re only after a cheap daily driver, then the BMW diesels are frisky yet frugal performers although bear in mind, as with all elderly diesels, future legislation on their continued use in major cities and towns may be off putting.

Best models

View as many cars as you can and place condition first and foremost. ZTs are becoming popular at shows and we’d say that the majority have been modified or customised to some degree so showroom spec cars are becoming increasingly rare. We have a leaning towards the estates as they make fine workhorses. The petrol engines on all models are known as weak points and it’s a case of pot luck when buying although proof of proper repairs can be a deal clincher. All things being equal, we’d go for the, 2.5 KV6 (the 2-litre is smooth but strangely sedate given its 150bhp output) if it has a service history but avoid the 1.8 Turbo unless you know it’s sound as a pound.

Rovers are as good if not so sporty or as popular and we can see the stretched Limousine becoming collectible Likewise, the bespoke Monogram models with their unique finishes, inside and out, will be sought after, especially as there’s only a dozen left.

Prices

This will get your attention – rock bottom prices and this includes the sure-fire future classic Mustang-engined ZT where you can get hold of nice if not original examples for £10,000 or so. Regular cars are all over the place at not much more than two grand, with typical ‘smokers’ less than half this. Projects (unless it’s a V8) are plain daft to contemplate although worth considering a basket case being given away for pennies simply for those essential but rapidly depleting future parts you’re bound to need over time – if you have the space, of course.

Verdict

If you’re after a cheap-as-chips daily driver with a touch of class that reminds you of the Rover P5 or the old MG Magnette, a zesty ZT is bound to attract you.

Five years of ZT fun

According to his detailed spec sheet, Patrick Wall’s 2-litre Anthracite Grey diesel ZT 135 CDTi came off the assembly line at 10:16 precisely on Monday 17th November 2003, the 1837th out of a run of 4184. It was one of MG’s lease cars and Patrick bought it with only 37,000 miles on the clock in 2014 from a North London dealer. Costing nearly £4000 the ZT needed work to make it reliable as a daily driver with common ZT problems to the fuel pump and clutch slave cylinder but “now the mileage is 90,000 and it is still going strong”. The car’s slightly modified and customised with a bodykit and a distinctive Union Jack decalled roof. An MG Rover fan, and MG Rover South East club member Patrick just loves his ZT.

Top five faults

General

Electronics are simple for such a modern but water leaks can ruin the ECU on all models while, on the 260, there are specific problems due to the marriage of Ford and Rover hardware, plus this car’s special rear axle and brake system can also be problem areas. Condition rather than spec and trim count most so keep an open mind when looking.

Body

Despite BMW’s help and build quality improvements, this design has its share of issues, not least a depressingly propensity to rot terminally for such a modern (sills and subframe are the main concerns). In other words don’t get taken in by a glossy bodywork but get underneath and scrutinise as repair may outweigh the car’s value.

Engine

K-Series is notorious for popping head gaskets and ruining the cylinder head. In the same vein we’d think twice about the turbo 1.8T given the unit’s reputation. The KV6 can pose a major reliability concern, (pistons and timing belts mainly) not least because parts are drying up, so check for a good service history. BMW diesels are generally fine.

Running gear

Apart from worn, rusty rear suspension arms (which if very bad will write many cars off), there’s nothing too much to worry about although bear in mind that MGs will inherently be driven harder so expect shot dampers, spent springs and beaten up brakes. The front ball joints don’t last very long although they’re easy enough to replace.

Electrics

While the design shares a lot of BMW E46 3-Series bits, electrics have been known to play up, not helped by blocked drainage channels allowing the ECU to become soaked. Airbag lights are frequently illuminated, caused by faulty connectors (Rimmer Bros has a modified part). Ensure you are handed both keys as spares can cost well over £100.



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