20 years ago, MG's most unlikely Z car was arguably its best – and might still be
By Matt Bird / Tuesday, March 1, 2022 / Loading comments
The Rover 75 was never a sporty saloon, because it was never intended as such. It was the traditional Rover family car, reinvented (albeit in a familiar fashion) for the 21st century. Back then that was what Rover did, because that’s what Rover customers bought. And, credit where it’s due, the 75 fit the bill. But when the MG Z car revolution came even the biggest saloon wasn’t safe from reinvention.
Turning the Rover 25 into the MG ZR made for a hot hatch that looked the part; a BTCC campaign lent kudos to the larger ZS, which was once a 45. But for the 75-based ZT, no such luck. It was the newest of three cars, launched just three years before the MG range, and actually seemed the most comfortable in its Rover uniform. As a supermini and family hatch, the wood and leather look always seemed a bit strange for the 25 and 45. Could the 75, launched as the very opposite, really cut it as a sports saloon?
Back then, many were unsure of the visual makeover for the MG, with bright colours, big wheels, and a spoiler of all things. However, much as with the smaller ZS, the ZT confounded all the doubters with the way it drove. “The MG ZT is surprisingly good”, read one review, reflecting the general pessimism that surrounded the cars. “The ZT is grippy, stable and agile, with much less body roll in corners and sharper responses.” Eventually, of course, it would gain both a Mustang-sourced V8 and rear-wheel drive – but the V6-engined models remained eminently recommendable. The 190 sounded good, offered 140mph potential and felt a better fit for the MG’s billing than the diesel or smaller four-cylinder petrol.
However, it’s not very often you see a ZT 190 nowadays. Those craving the KV6 experience in an unlikely sports saloon could find it in the cheaper, lighter ZS with just 10hp less, and when the V8 model arrived it cost less than £30k, making the V6 easy to overlook. And those that liked the ZT’s styling wouldn’t lose anything going for a lesser variant. Which is probably why they’re not seen up for sale very often, not least with so long having now passed since production ceased. Or owners are so fond of them they don’t want to let go…
This one is a facelifted ZT 190 +, registered in 2005 and with just 65,000 miles. The advert is a little light on detail, instead just repeating the spec, but there are some encouraging signs. The unmarked wheels, for instance, are fitted with matching Continental tyres, and the interior shows precious few signs of wear. That’s it still boasting the numberplates and rear window sticker from the supplying dealer point to a life fairly gently lived (or at least not permanently exposed to the elements).
It’s for sale at £6,675, which makes it the most expensive non-V8 we’ve ever seen. If not inevitable, however, some appreciation for the ZT 190 always looked likely, given its favourable reception and rarity. As V8 values went up, so the V6 was going to follow. Though unlikely to ever be worth crazy money, the community that now exists around the Z cars should keep good ones (as this 190 seems to be) in demand. Because if ever we needed reminding not to judge a book by its cover, the MG ZT would be it.
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