“Design is about everything” — Alex Moulton
with 185/55 VR15 tyres up front and 205/50 VR15 size rubber at the rear.
Body rigidity on the MKI is good, but the TF is 20 per cent better, and the speedsensitive electric power steering was given a 10-per-cent-faster-geared rack for more progressive steering feel. A rear anti-roll bar was developed, and more powerful models often have stiffened alloy four-piston calipers finished in red. Little development of the MGF was sanctioned during the BMW era, apart from introduction of the continuously variable transmission (CVT) six-speed auto derivative in 1999. With the formation of the independent MG Rover Group, in 2000, came an intensive development programme, and cars built after this time are regarded as better built and more reliable. Production only halted in 2005, when the MG Rover Group collapsed.
Despite the proximity of the multi-point fuel-injected motor, mechanical noise is subdued. While the VVC motor is 20 per cent more powerful than the standard 1.8, it has only five per cent more torque, achieved at 4500rpm rather than 3000rpm. Carrying a lower final drive, the VVC still needs high revving to give its best, and the less-powerful engine is more flexible and tractable. The mechanicals are largely hidden from view, and the lined boot behind the engine is big enough to accommodate two sets of golf clubs. A small compartment up front houses the temporary space-saver spare wheel, battery, and screen-washer bottle.
In addition to the high-strength construction, which includes side door beams, reinforced waistline rails, and threemillimetre-thick high-tensile steel tubing in the windscreen frame, durability is improved with single-side zinc coating for outer skin panels and double coating for all others. The car was engineered for the 55kph offset barrier crash tests.
New Zealand–spec cars all came with power steering, along with twin air bags, four-wheel discs, ABS, electric windows, lumbar support for the seats, and 15-inch alloy wheels, while the $3K optional air conditioning was fitted to most. Early UK market examples did not have power steering or ABS as standard. The awkwardly placed air-conditioning box located in the passenger-side footwell gets in the way of the right foot. Along with cheap-looking Honda-style column stalks, the steering wheel is disappointingly bland, and there is no adjustable steering column.
General interior quality is plasticky and drab, and the driving position is less than perfect, with a seating position too high and lacking height adjustment. Pedal positioning could be better, and a slightly shorter gear lever would be a positive. The interior of later cars was improved. Black and white background instrumentation is excellent, and an oil-temperature gauge was deemed better value than an oil-pressure gauge. Red or black woven fabrics dominate interior trim, while VVCS boast leather seat facings with fabric centre panels. Externally, the VVC is difficult to distinguish from its more modest brother.
Dropping the soft-top is quick, and the soft rear window can be unzipped like it can on the MX-5. Leaking hoods are not uncommon, and body-corrosion weak points include sills, side-body air intakes, guards, and subframes. But the MGF is probably no worse than most other cars of the era.
Dismiss the MGF as an oddity at your peril, for it is a fascinating piece of kit, with the mid-engined layout and the best interpretation of interconnected suspension. As Moulton once said, “design is about everything”, and, for this alone, the MGF is worth watching and, perhaps, even owning.