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MG6 review (2011 onwards)
What - MG6 1.8 TSE
Where - Birmingham, UK
Date - March 2011
Price - £18,995
Available - May 2011
Key rivals - Ford Focus, VW Golf, Vauxhall Astra
Summary - Good to look at and impressive from behind the wheel, the keenly-priced MG6 isn't fully polished yet but is a good market relaunch for the famous British brand.
We like - Good to drive, nuances of steering feel and ride quality, well priced yet well equipped, big-car status, OK styling, roomy
We don't like - Plain dash is plasticky and shows some rough edges, CO2 and economy, no diesel yet (18 months away), brand relaunch is work-in-progress
The MG6 has been a long time coming, but it finally goes on sale in May. It's the first all-new MG in 16 years (the MGF was the last one) and was actually designed by a Brit, Tony Williams-Kenny, based right here in the UK.
It has also been honed in Birmingham, with engineers spending the last 18 months perfecting ride, handling and other areas for class-competitiveness. Targets? VW Golf for ride, Ford Focus for handling. They're aiming high. Hence the delay.
The MG6's shape is not groundbreaking, but it's neat enough and there are some nice details (the front bumper is pleasingly shaped). Paint quality is very good, too. The fastback-style hatch is big for its family hatch sector, sitting in between a Focus and Mondeo.
Prices are extremely keen. They start at just £15,495, for a 1.8-litre turbocharged car with plenty of equipment. MSN Cars tested the range-topping 1.8 TSE: fully-equipped, yet still just £18,995.
For now, a single 1.8-litre turbo petrol engine is offered, producing 160hp: a more fuel-efficient 1.9-litre diesel will follow next year. Economy aside (as we'll see later), drivers shouldn't feel too shortchanged, for the heavily-revised K-Series motor is a decent effort.
A crisp throttle action feels immediate from the start, and helps accentuate good torque delivery from very low revs: the MG6 will lug from 1,500rpm, meaning it's easy to drive and doesn't demand high revs (fortunately: it gets thrashy over 5,000rpm).
0-60mph takes 8.4 seconds but it's the reassuring strength of response on the move that's more satisfying. It's also a quiet motor on a cruise, despite having only five gears: the shift itself feels vague at first, but is crisp enough once you get used to it.
Unusually, MG has electronically limited the top speed, to 120mph. Derestricted, it is capable of 127mph - the limiter has been added to lower the insurance group rating. It's a clever trade-off most prospective owners accepted happily when polled.
Ride and Handling
Weighty and reassuring steering immediately strikes you on the MG6, and such positive expectations are not disappointed on the move. This is a very well honed car that shows all the subtlety and expertise of skilled British development.
The MG6 handles well, with the front end responding eagerly to the (rather chunky) steering wheel. It tucks into corners with composure and can be steered through twisting sequences with accuracy and real feedback via the confident steering.
It is stable at high speed and MG engineers have paid particular attention to ensuring it doesn't get jolted off-course by potholes and other bumps in the road. This gives it a sense of executive-car reassurance that allays fears it might feel underdeveloped.
The ride is reasonably taut but not harsh, despite the test TSE's 18-inch wheels. It is also extremely well damped - body motions over undulations are fluid and progressive, yet impeccably well-controlled. In this regard, it shows hints of Lotus-like expertise...
Here is where the MG6 impresses and disappoints in equal measure. Certainly, there's no shortage of space, with both front and rear boasting good levels of space (a cut above a Focus, if not on a par with a Mondeo).
The well-shaped 498-litre boot is also way bigger than the Golf-sector norm, but it's a shame a high sill lets it down. Also, while the roomy cabin has an expansive, open-plan dash, it's sorely lacking in stowage space.
Perceived quality is below par too. The upper dash plastics are passable, but lower plastics are very shiny and cheap-looking, while hard switches and a fiddly climate control system give a downmarket air.
On the plus side, it's exceedingly well equipped, the supportive (and high-set) front seats are very comfortable, and the simple design is fairly modern-looking. We could do without the pre-facelift VW Passat-style push-in dash key, though...
Economy and safety
MG admits it won't be able to compete in the company car sector until the 1.9-litre diesel arrives, some time later in 2012. Until then, it's petrol only - and the 1.8-litre turbo is decidedly so-so for fuel economy, averaging 35.8mpg combined.
CO2 emissions are also high: at 184g/km, Band I road fund licence means £200 a year in tax. MG expects a competitive Euro NCAP score, though: the plan is for it to be tested later in 2011.
The MSN Cars Verdict
The MG6 is a good relaunch for the famous brand, that appeals in all the right areas: ride and handling, equipment, practicality, styling and price. It's a car you'll buy for its abilities, not just because of its famous badge.
It's not perfect: interior plastics, economy and diesel engine availability need particular attention. But, for the money, it's a surprise alternative to a Ford Focus, that those bold enough to buy (and who can swallow the CO2 implications) shouldn't regret.
The strange rebirth of MG Rover
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|Need to know|
|Petrol engine||1,796cc 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo|
|Top speed (mph)||120|
|Ratings out of five|
|Ride & handling||****|
|MSN Cars verdict||***|
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