MG’s new ZS is a car carrying a big weight on its compact crossover shoulders.

Billed as the start of a new era, the sports utility vehicle leads a bid by the Chinese-owned brand to double its UK sales, which are expected to total 4,500 by the end of this year.

MG says it is steadily reducing the average age of its customers and believes the new model will extend the brand’s appeal to younger buyers.

The ZS aims to capture sales from the likes of the best-selling Nissan Juke and pitches in with an entry-level Explore model priced at £12,495.

But even MG says most buyers will opt for the more expensive, better-equipped models. The car driven here is the top-of the-range Exclusive model, powered by a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, 106 horsepower engine, costing £15,495.

It comes with a leather-style interior, Apple CarPlay on an eight-inch touchscreen, and perhaps most importantly, like all ZS models, it comes with a seven year/80,000-mile manufacturer warranty.

Matthew Cheyne, head of sales and marketing at MG Motor UK, said: “This is MG putting its money where its mouth is. With the introduction of a seven-year warranty, we are making a clear statement of intent about the quality of our design, engineering and manufacturing.”

Externally the ZS is neat, contemporary and stylish, but take off those large MG badges and I challenge anyone to distinguish it from any of its Japanese or Korean counterparts.

Inside, the cabin is a proper step forward from previous MG models with pleasant soft-touch materials spread across the top of the dashboard, though hard plastics still lurk down below.

Where the five-seater ZS really excels is in the provision of space. Though I am short, a 6ft-plus passenger could sit behind me with acres of legroom. The boot too is sizeable with a useful split floor,

Engine choice is simply between the 1.5-litre petrol, linked to a slick, five-speed manual gearbox, or a pokier 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged unit, developed with GM, which is mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox and adds £2,000 to the price.

The four-cylinder is revvy and happily zooms around country roads, but runs out of puff at motorway speeds.

MG says its engineers spent six months specially tuning the car for UK roads and they haven’t done a bad job. Though the ride can be a little harsh on less-than-perfect surfaces, there is not too much roll in bends and the traction control quickly steps in if you get overkeen.

Steering is light and comes as standard with three switchable power-assisted modes. The urban setting is useful for parking and town work and the dynamic setting adds some more weight to the wheel, but the normal setting is fine for everyday use.

The Exclusive and Excite models come with DAB radio and Bluetooth hands-free and remote central locking is available across the range. Cruise control is also included, while air conditioning comes as standard on Excite and Exclusive models, and satellite navigation and a rear parking camera are standard on the Exclusive variant.

Apple CarPlay, which is fitted to the Excite and Exclusive models, extends the display of an iPhone to the large touchscreen allowing you to get directions, make calls, send and receive messages and listen to music.

With plenty of space and plenty of kit, if you are looking to buy a new value-for-money spacious SUV, the ZS has to be worth checking out.

Auto facts

Model: MG ZS 1.5 Exclusive

Price: £15,495

Insurance group: 11E (1-50)

Fuel consumption (combined): 49.6mpg

Top speed: 109mph

Length: 431.4cm/169.8in

Width: 180.9cm/71.2in

Luggage capacity: 16.9 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 10.5 gallons/48 litres

CO2 emissions: 129 g/km

Warranty: Seven years/ 80,000 miles