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.
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.
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The MG6 Magnette.
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