Iconic MG name is re­born with a car that’s a bit of a Chi­nese puz­zle

Fred­eric Manby is un­sure what to make of the lat­est model to bear the MG name, which sur­vives un­der Chi­nese own­er­ship.

Yorkshire Post - Motoring - - FEATURES -

DENIM Dave is adept at the one-liner. “How’s the blue shed?” Im­me­di­ately I knew he was re­fer­ring to that week’s wheels, a Mag­nette.

Let me be frank. I don’t quite know what to think about this re-born MG. It looks as if it could be re­lated to the old Rover 75 but ap­par­ently only a bit of the front sub­frame is car­ried over. This is not the bit of the front sus­pen­sion that Denim said was apt to col­lapse on the Rover – af­ter I’d pub­licly said I may buy a 75 es­tate. Af­ter his bomb­shell, I may not, but I do like the seats.

The co­terie at the Camshaft Arms were still in stitches at the blue shed jibe. True, the MG6 Mag­nette – made in China and as­sem­bled in the English Mid­lands – was a vi­brant blue but I’m sure it did not re­sem­ble my gar­den shed. There was more in­sult to come. It’s front, he said, was like a Dae­woo. Now this may seem harm­less but Dae­woos were not noted for fronts which wooed Dave or many oth­ers.

Dae­woo be­came Chevro­let in Europe, in case you won­dered and Dave drives a Subaru and says the lat­est in­te­ri­ors could be bet­ter – a lot bet­ter.

I went home, hav­ing ab­sorbed the steep price for a half of Bod­ding­tons (the Tet­leys be­ing Tet­leys in name only these days – a re­gional tragedy) and these hu­mor­ous slurs on the car.

Later, a note came through the let­ter box: it was from Dave, who ex­plained he meant Pro­ton, not Dae­woo. That, as you may guess, was even more calumny on the MG styling.

“MG6 It’s time to fall in love again” says the slo­gan on the web­site. It also tells us it is the last chance to buy a “Bri­tish icon” – the MGTF, which marked MG’s re­turn to as­sem­bling cars at Long­bridge and is now go­ing back to ob­so­les­cence. MG China re­vived the model but I didn’t see many on the road. There are fu­ture con­cepts such as an MG3 and mo­tor sport. The old MG Lola EX265, backed by MG took “a sen­sa­tional” fifth in LMP2 class at Sil­ver­stone on Septem­ber 11. Next year, it re­turns to the 24 Hour Le Mans race.

So, there’s the same sort of rac­ing ac­tiv­ity, un­der dif­fer­ent own­er­ship, which the lat­ter-day bosses at MG Rover sup­ported, be­fore the com­pany went up­side down and sev­eral of them walked off with mil­lions and the work­ers scut­tled off with not very much.

Its ori­gins dated from 1924 at Mor­ris Garages, in Abing­don, near Ox­ford. The first Mag­nette came in 1932 and this sport­ing sa­loon won the Mille Miglia team prize and the 1933 Ul­ster TT. It had a six cylin­der en­gine.

To­day’s Mag­nette is sold with a fast­back or sa­loon body. I tried the lat­ter. The badge says MG6 which could make one think it had a six cylin­der en­gine, but it is a 1.8 tur­bocharged four cylin­der, based on the well-re­garded MG Rover K se­ries en­gine from the last cen­tury. It has

Poor roads brought out the Mr Hyde, shakes and shud­ders and a choppy, un­com­fort­able ride.

old-school five speed man­ual gears and power rat­ings of 155bhp and 158 lb ft. It meets EU5 emis­sions, with a rather lofty 182g/km of CO2, and a modest 35.6mpg over­all. Top speed is 120mph and the 0-60 time is 8.4 sec­onds. There are 17in al­loys and air con­di­tion­ing on the en­try S model, cruise con­trol, nav­i­ga­tion, front and rear park­ing sen­sors and tyre mon­i­tor­ing on the SE. The TSE has leather heated front sports seats with power con­trol, cli­mate con­trol, 18in wheels, im­proved nav­i­ga­tion and au­dio with plug-in ports, au­to­matic wipers and lamps, a rear park­ing cam­era. The price steps are £15,995 to £17,495 to £19,995. This TSE was my test car, fin­ished in Union Blue me­tal­lic, which is a £395 ex­tra. Stan­dard paint is black, white or red.

MG6 GT fast­back prices are a bit cheaper at £15,459 for the S model, £16,995 for the SE and £18,995 for the TSE.

The war­ranty cover of three years or 60,000 miles (in­clud­ing the paint) is not re­as­sur­ing on an un­known new prod­uct from China and the anti-cor­ro­sion war­ranty ex­pires af­ter six years. These war­ranties are medi­ocre com­pared with the best poli­cies be­ing given by house­hold names such as Vaux­hall and Toy­ota or Kia/Hyundai.

The Mag­nette’s size is not quite in the Mon­deo class. At 183in long (4.65m) it is seven inches shorter than Vaux­hall’s ex­cel­lent In­signia. The Mag­nette’s pric­ing may at­tract but the In­signia is big­ger, war­ranted for 100,000 miles, and avail­able with low emis­sion, high econ­omy en­gines for the price of a Mag­nette TSE.

MG’s 41 deal­ers are spread from Cal­lan­der in Perthshire to New­lyn, in the tip of Corn­wall (sited next to the ex­cel­lent Tol­carne Inn). There are two in North­ern Ire­land and one on Guernsey, one on the Isle of Man. The pat­tern is thin north of York­shire, with only two deal­ers in all Scot­land. Sixty deal­ers are hoped to be in place by the turn of the year.

On the road the MG6 is no­table for a quiet en­gine – which over 5,000rpm then be­comes buzzy and un­pleas­ant. The gearshift is clunky when the oil is cold and there were rat­tles in the lever. The sus­pen­sion was fine on good roads with de­cent han­dling bal­ance and steer­ing – which is rather weighty at low speed. At higher speed there is wind noise. Poor roads brought out the Mr Hyde, with shakes and shud­ders and a choppy, un­com­fort­able ride, which made me won­der how stiff is the struc­ture. Over­all, then, it can be noisy and tir­ing.

It has not been tested yet by EuroNcap for crash safety, but the stan­dard fit of items such as elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol will help its re­sults.

The in­te­rior of the TSE is smart, with a com­mend­able lack of tacky de­tail­ing – but some of the plas­tics have a cheap feel and look, and a lack of so­lid­ity when thumped.

Ver­dict: First new foot back in the water for MG un­der Chi­nese own­er­ship, said to be de­signed and en­gi­neered by the Long­bridge of­fice. I quite liked it, de­spite its weak points be­cause it was en­gag­ing. At face value it is well equipped for the price. A diesel en­gine should in­crease sales next year.

“It’s smart look­ing... it will at­tract peo­ple, won’t it” – Josh, a young trainer at the vil­lage gym­na­sium.

0845 303 6464.

The MG6 Mag­nette.

DE­GREE OF AT­TRAC­TION:

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