Following the separation of the Newly Named MG Rover Group from BMW in 2000, the new management quickly realised the existing line up of Rover only hatchback and saloon models, along with the MGF, would not be sufficient to ensure the companies short term survival.
It was decided to give the existing Rover Models a sports upgrade and re-badge these upgraded variants under the using the MG marque the following new models were born the MG ZR (Based on the Rover 25), MG ZS (Based on the Rover 45) & MG ZT / ZTT (based on the Rover 75 / 75 Tourer). All the Rover & MG Models ceased production in Longbridge following the administration of MG Rover Group in 2005
The MG ZR was one of Britain's most popular sporting hatchbacks throughout its production life, and in 2004, it was MG Rover's best selling car—the first time that any MG product had been the most popular product of any of the many combines that had owned the MG marque. In addition, there was also The MG Express produced as a car derived van based on the ZR. It had the same trim options and running gear as the MG ZR, with a reinforced load space floor and bulkhead fitted instead of the rear seats, and the rear side windows replaced with bonded panels. A total of 317 Express vans were produced.
In January 2004, the ZR was facelifted with the rest of the MG Rover range, the new design was created by Peter Stevens, who also designed the McLaren F1. A new, more modern look was given to the car through new front and rear bumpers, headlights, tailgate, and various other exterior features.
The 2004 model also received a revised interior with new seat materials and a new dashboard design incorporating soft touch buttons. This gave the cars a far more modern feel and matched the clean, more angular lines of the exterior.
The facelifted ZR also saw the introduction of the Trophy and Trophy SE models. The MG ZR Trophy features a sunroof, 16 inch 'Grid spoke' alloy wheels, new rear light clusters, leather steering wheel, and side sill and rear bumper extensions. The Trophy SE features 17 inch 'Straights' alloy wheels and has air conditioning in the place of a sunroof.
Under the Monogram program, buyers could also select a wide range of options to customize their ZR, such as choosing optional extras from the Rover 25 list. An example of this is rear parking sensors or heated seats.
Body styles for the ZR were 3 or 5 door Hatchback, in 1.4 / 1.8 or 1.8 vvc K-Series petrol variants or 2 versions of the L-Series Diesel engine.
The ZS is essentially a tuned version of the Rover 45 (which was launched in 1999). The 45 in turn is a face lifted version of the Rover 400 which was launched in hatchback form in 1995 and saloon form in 1996.
The model was rapidly created from the Rover 45 after BMW sold off Rover in April 2000. Development of the model was greatly accelerated by the fact that Rover had already created 400 Series prototypes of the car using V6 engines and sporting suspension setups. In fact, MG Rover developed MG versions of all three Rover cars on sale at the time.
The Rover 45 donor car did not have a reputation for being a driver's car, but in fact it was the most suitable car in the Rover range for transformation into an MG,its Honda heritage providing double wishbone front suspension and fully independent multi link rear suspension.
The MG ZS 180 was the flagship car of the ZS range. It was available as a five door hatch or a four door saloon. The 180 included a number of changes over the standard ZS, as well as incorporating all of the features of the ZS+ models, the ZS 180 was equipped with a lightweight all alloy 2.5-litre Rover KV6 Engine, with quad cams and twenty four valves.
The 180 features uprated front and rear brakes, with 282mm front discs (up from 262mm) and 260mm rear discs (up from 240mm) as well as ABS and EBD, lowered sports suspension with uprated springs and dampers, uprated bushes fitted to front upper and rear trailing arms, 17" sports alloy wheels with 205/45 r17 tyres.
Externally, the 180 can be identified with deep front bumper, with front bib spoiler and fog lamps and sculptured side sills. A large rear spoiler could be substituted for a standard size as a no cost option.
2003 MG ZS 180 cabin, with optional Trophy blue trim
2003 MG ZS 180 (boot lid badges)
The 180 was facelifted in 2004, along with the rest of the range, and gained a bodykit inspired by the MG Xpower SV.
The kit incorporated wheel arch extensions with front wing vents, bumper spats and side skirts. The large 'Extreme' rear spoiler became optional, with a subtle lip boot spoiler fitted as standard. Complementing the new bodykit were the new 17" 'eleven spokes' alloy wheels. Both the wheels and bodykit were available as cost options on the rest of the range.
The MG ZS 180's 2.5-litre (2497 cc) V6 engine produces 177 PS (130 kW; 175 bhp) at 6500 rpm and 240 N⋅m (177 lb⋅ft) at 4000 rpm, giving a 0 to 60 mph time of 7.3 seconds, and a top speed of 139 mph (224 km/h), with a combined fuel economy reading of 29 mpg.
The ZS range was available in both Hatchback and Saloon body styles with 1.6 / 1.8 and V6 petrol variants along with L Series Diesel Variant
The basic shape and styling of the MG ZT remained the same as for the Rover 75, but with changes to the front bumper, now with an integrated grille, and detail alterations including colour coding of the chromed waistline, a new bootlid plinth, and different alloy wheels and tyres sizes.
The interior featured revised seats and dashboard treatment, with new instrument faces. Engineering changes ranged, from upgraded suspension and brakes to revised engine tuning (from the Rover 75) for the petrol models. Development of the MG ZT was headed by Rob Oldaker, Product Development Director, with styling changes undertaken by Peter Stevens, who was previously responsible for the styling of the McLaren F1 and X180 version of the Lotus Esprit.
The MG ZT only had one trim level, though the standard car could be ordered with a "Plus" pack. MG ZT models were named after engine unit power output ie a 160ps V6 model was a MG ZT 160, and a 190ps V6 model with a "Plus" pack was a MG ZT 190+.
The MG ZT differed in this way to the other new MG models launched at the same time, as its high-power version could be purchased as a standard spec.
The first models launched were both V6 engined versions, the 160ps and the 190ps. The 160ps used a detuned by software, 177ps unit as found in the Rover 75. The 190ps used a unique version of the KV6 with different camshafts as well as air intake and throttle body changes
In January 2002, the next model to be launched was the 180 Auto. This model used a 177ps KV6, but with 190 cam timing and 190 throttle modifications Then in around August 2002, the diesel models were launched with a 116ps M47R unit. Customers could purchase a Xpower software upgrade, which would increase power to 131ps.
In around July 2003, the 120 models were launched. These were powered by the 1.8 litre K16 unit. At around the same time, the 160 models started to use the 1.8 litre turbocharged version of the K16 unit, and the detuned V6 was dropped. In around October 2003, the much awaited V8 power MG ZT 260 model was launched.
During the first few months of 2004, MG Rover face lifted the design of the ZT and ZT-T to a less retro look, at the same time as the Rover 75 received a face lift. The face lift didn't feature much in the way mechanical differences to the ZT, most changes were merely aesthetic and the main changes to the face lift, included the replacement of the twin headlamps, with a new, clear single headlamp unit.