Advice on buying the best.
Longbridge 2011, and the wraps came off the car that was claimed to mark MG’S glorious return to the UK market and car production to the Birmingham factory, albeit in kit rather than fully-built form. The newcomer, it was said, would make MG a mainstream name once again, and would prove that Chinese car manufacturers were up there with the best that Europe and Japan had to offer. But was the MG6 launch a case of smoke and mirrors or was there some substance in owner SAIC’S claims?
Despite a tempting price tag and exceptional levels of standard equipment, the MG6 never set the showrooms alight. It was based on the Chinese-marketonly Roewe 550, which was developed on a modified Rover 75 platform and is rumoured to have been the car that was earmarked to replace the Rover 45 had things turned out differently back in 2005.
There was just one body style available at launch – a five-door hatchback known as the MG6 GT – with three levels of trim: S, SE and TSE. All came with the same 1.8-litre tubocharged engine and five-speed manual gearbox, with the TSE identifiable by its larger 18-inch alloys, compared to the 17-inchers fitted to lesser models. The engine, called the TCI-TECH, was an 158bhp unit that was basically an updated version of Rover’s turbocharged K-series, while under the skin the car got a conventional Macpherson strut front-end and a fairly advanced multi-link rear.
Performance was pretty reasonable: 0-60mph in 8.4 seconds and a top speed of 120mph, electronically-limited to keep insurance costs down. It had a combined fuel economy figure of 35.4mpg and a CO2 figure of 184g/km, the latter being pretty poor compared to contemporary rivals.
Two months after the GT appeared, MG released a four-door version, which it called the Magnette, recalling a prestigious name from the brand’s past. Only available in higher-spec trim levels, the Magnette was a slow seller, accounting for just 120 sales in total.
In 2012, MG tried to bolster sales by adding a diesel model to the lineup, its homegrown 1.9-litre Dti-tech unit producing 148bhp and 350Nm of torque, with far more acceptable CO2 emissions of 139g/km. The diesel also acquired a six-speed manual gearbox and electrohydraulic power steering. At the same time, MG reworked the petrol engine to reduce CO2 emissions to 174g/km, along with an improved fuel economy figure of 37.7mpg. In 2014, the diesel engine was updated, reducing its CO2 emissions to 129g/km.
The MG6 was given a facelift for 2015, receiving a range of exterior and interior changes including a 75kg reduction in weight. It was unveiled at the Chengdu Motor Show in August 2014 and went on sale in the UK in April 2015. The main changes were an improvement in efficiency for the diesel, and the withdrawal of the petrol versions entirely. The facelifted model can be identified by its new lights and bumpers, front and rear, and a substantially updated interior, including a redesigned console and electronic parking brake. Indeed, the press were largely positive about the improvements, suggesting that MG had listened to European consumers and taken appropriate action to improve the cabin.
The press were also positive about the MG6’S pricing and road manners, with the handling, in particular, coming in for positive feedback. As most of the development was done in the UK by exmg Rover engineers, this was a big boost for the brand, even if the 6 was struggling to sell, a fact not helped by MG having such a tiny dealer network.
Despite a high-profile British Touring Car Championship campaign, with BTCC legend Jason Plato at the wheel of the Tesco-backed race car, there’s an argument to say that MG6’S limited sales were a result of low brand awareness rather than any major flaws with the car. It wasn’t enough, though, as by 2016 MG had taken the decision to drop the 6 from the UK market.
The MG6 had its faults, not least the quality of its interior plastics, but it also had quite a lot of merit. MG’S subsequent attempts to grow its dealer network and offer a broader range of models, including the moderately successful MG3 supermini, have shown that there is some consumer appetite for inexpensive, well-equipped cars wearing the famous octagon badge.
Whether these and a fresh range of SUVS will be enough to give MG a sustainable position in the UK car market remains to be seen, but a good choice of independent dealers in strategically placed locations seems to be paying dividends. It also means that owning a 6 isn’t a parts-sourcing nightmare, although there are certain components that have a long lead time from the Chinese factory that produces them.
Does the MG6 represent good value as a secondhand car and, if so, what should you look for when buying one?
The 6 was sold with a six-year antiperforation warranty, which is quite poor by modern standards, where many manufacturers offer 10 or even 12 years of cover. However, with the oldest cars now out of the bodywork warranty period, there don’t appear to be any alarming rust issues to worry about and the paint quality is generally good.
It’s worth noting, too, that all Ukspec 6s were assembled at Longbridge in CKD kit form, which means that the underseal and rustproofing wax were applied here and not in the Chinese factory, so quality control should be well up to expected European standards.
One ailment that does seem to be a common fault is water ingress into the boot, caused by failure of the rubber seal around the bootlid aperture. The boot seal will have been replaced on many cars during routine servicing, but if there are any traces of dampness in the load bay then it makes sense to check whether or not a modified seal has been fitted and, if not, see if an MG dealer will carry out the modification as a goodwill gesture.
Some owners have reported problems with the driver’s side door lock mechanisms failing, which is often related to the radio frequency from the key not being read properly by the body control module. The problem is usually occasional rather than frequent, and lies within the wiring loom, though the car can still always be unlocked manually with the key.
Finally, the radio aerial mount is a known weak fitting and can break free, resulting in poor radio reception.
There was a lot of criticism levelled at the quality of the 6’s interior plastic when new, with hard and shiny surfaces that failed to live up to the expectations of European consumers. The complaints tend to be directed more at the look of the material than its quality, as the cars hold up pretty well, with no reports of cracked or damaged trim.
One thing that does seem to be a cause of frustration is a squeaky driver’s seat, which tends to get noticed when driving over bumps and ruts in the road. There’s no known cure, although some MG6 drivers have reported limited success by using silicone-based spray products on the seat mechanism.
By far the most widely reported gripe with the 6, though, relates to the car’s infotainment system. All but the entrylevel cars have an integrated head unit that features the radio controls, CD player, sat-nav and Bluetooth. It was one of the 6’s main selling points when the car was new, but the units appear to be unreliable, with sat-navs randomly cutting out, the Bluetooth functioning only sporadically and a common ‘blank screen’ problem that cures itself when the car is shut down and restarted, but can be frustrating when it cuts out completely mid-journey.
Some of the problems relate to short circuits in the wiring loom, and there was a recall in 2013 to fix this, after engineers discovered that insulation could wear off the wiring on the loom and short against the bodyshell, causing some electrical systems to shut down. With any potential purchase, check whether or not the recall has been carried out – if not, an MG dealer will carry out the modifications free-of-charge.
Interior fabrics appear to be pretty hard-wearing, with no reported problems – we’re aware of one MG6 that has covered more than 200,000 miles on minicab duty with no major wear and tear issues, so this bodes well for the future of less heavily-used examples.
The underpinnings of the MG6 are based partly on those of the Rover 75, which although advanced in years remains one of the smoothest riding front-wheel drive chassis around. Many of the front-end components appear to be interchangeable, but there’s nothing official to confirm this. The 6 does tend to suffer from the same lower balljoint wear that’s common on 75s, with the repair being one of the first to normally get carried out. Otherwise, it’s a fine handling car, winning the Auto Express Silver Award in the ride and handling class of its Driver Power survey in 2014, while the multi-link rear end is quite sophisticated for its class.
Some owners have reported noisy gearboxes beyond 50,000 miles, though there are no known cases of transmission failure. Other minor gripes include a ‘creaking’ from the front suspension during cornering, which can often be traced to looseness in the Macpherson Strut top mounts, as well as premature wear to the rear suspension bushes, which tend to need replacing at around the 75,000-90,000-mile mark.
None of these repairs is particularly major, but a lot of components are only available on back order and need to be imported to the UK on demand, which can lead to delays of up to six weeks for less common parts – not a problem for faults that can wait, but a genuine issue if it takes a vehicle off the road.
There was a recall in 2014 affecting some of the earliest diesel cars, which related to suspension components potentially chafing against the brake lines, at its worst leading to a fluid leak. Again, check with any MG dealer if the recall work has been done and, if not, it’ll be inspected without charge.
Outside the MG plant Birmingham in 2011.
British Touring Car Championship edition offered to the public from January 2013 to December 2014.
MG6 TSE interior.