Simon Weakley recounts the trials, tribulations and pleasures of running an MG6 to 200,000 miles. Now he’s keen to get to quarter of a million…
In 2013, I made the decision to purchase a petrol MG6, have it converted to LPG and run it as a private hire taxi – the first vehicle in my new venture setting up a taxi firm in the market town where I live.
The vehicle was purchased direct from MG Motor UK at a year old, which represented great value, and the LPG conversion was carried out by Maple Garage a well-respected MG dealer and supplier of LPG kits to Humberside Police amongst others. The total cost, including the conversion, was £9500.00.
The Burnt Orange paintwork matched the company’s corporate colours and so set the right image for the new business – in the early months, the car proved very popular with customers.
LPG’s a winner financially
The figures stacked up in so much as the LPG fuel was only 50p a litre compared with about £1.10 for unleaded, and the car has averaged 30mpg with a mixture of town work and a few longer runs in the mix, probably 80 per cent around town and 20 per cent on longer journeys. As a rough rule of thumb, the savings on the LPG have paid for the finance costs and allowed us to run a nearly-new vehicle for minimum initial investment.
The car comes into its own on longer journeys such as airport runs where it’s getting 40 mpg at half the cost of unleaded, thus achieving the equivalent of 80mpg.
At the time of the original article written for AROnline, a number of comments claimed that we would end up disappointed and that we had made the wrong decision to give MG a chance, as the original feature was very positive about the car.
Has it stood the test of time?
The short answer is yes, but with caveats that I will go into shortly. The original plan was to keep the car exactly 4 years as a taxi and then replace it which fitted in with the financials. The car has now completed 205,000 miles and it’s taxi retest is due at the end of September when it will have completed 210,000 miles, quite an achievement for a 1.8 turbo TCI-Tech engine (a mildly-reworked K-Series).
Our mechanic says that no K-Series 1.8 would have achieved that mileage without at least two head gaskets – and probably three! Ours has had no problems in that regard, so whatever engineering changes MG Motor undertook to the cylinder head and head gasket arrangement has obviously worked in our case. In fact, the engine has been 100 per cent reliable with no issues, and gives the impression of going to 250,000 miles and maybe beyond.
We have therefore decided to get the car retested and try and get one more year out of it as, in every regard, it is still very usable and we know its history and service record. After that, if the mechanicals are still sound, then I will run it as a private car for as long as it will last as its value will be virtually zero.
It is true that LPG cars run hotter than normal unleaded cars, and there are stories that the engines don’t last as well due to the lack of lubrication and increased heat generated. That does not appear to be the case with this car.
So a positive endorsement then?
Not completely, there have been many positives but a few negatives that have taken the shine off the ownership experience and called into question the suitability of the MG as a private hire taxi. Maybe we were expecting too much from a car doing 1000 miles a week, mostly town driving with several drivers whose main aim is to get to the next job. Let’s start with the positives and then move onto the negatives.
The positives have been that the MG6 is an excellent family-sized hatchback that can swallow shopping, suitcases and fishing gear. Bigger than a Focus or Vauxhall Astra, it has proved an ideal size without being too large. The road manners and handling in particular have been very positive, a real driver’s car with good performance. The looks have been admired – especially in Burnt Orange – and the car has stood out from the crowd. The fuel costs have been very low and the economy good.
However, looking back in detail at the maintenance costs over the four years, I would have to say we have been a bit disappointed. Here is a list of things which required replacement over and above normal maintenance:
- Main bearing in gearbox failed at 85,000 miles. Sourced a used gearbox from a car with 15,000 miles and had fitted, £700
- Front suspension arms, replaced at 75,000 miles, £500
- Handbrake cable snapped (twice), 90,000 miles, 203,000 miles, £200
- Handbrake full mechanism sheared, 150,000 miles, £300
- Clutch kit fitted every 60,000 x 3, £1800
- Cambelt and pulley and water pump, every 80,000, done twice to date, £600
- Brake pads and discs, every 50,000, £800 to date
- New battery, 200,000, £85
- New front tyres, every 18,000 miles, 11 X to date, £1100
- New rear tyres every 40,000, 4 times, £400 to date
- Oil change every 20,000 x 10, £500
- Full service, every 6 months, £1200
- LPG Filter service, every year, 4 x £125, £500
So, how could it have been improved?
The replacement costs have been okay with the exception of the gearbox main bearing which should not have failed so soon. The replacement secondhand gearbox has not caused any problems at all in 130,000 miles so we have to assume that our original had a manufacturing fault.
Clutch replacement has been more frequent than expected – although the car is doing a lot of town work, other makes in our fleet have faired much better. That said, clutch replacement is much cheaper than a diesel with a duel clutch flywheel.
Maintenance costs have been as expected with the exception of front tyres which have always been a problem. Despite regular tracking, the tyres always wear on the outer side badly indicating a problem in this area that has not been cured.
- The car has suffered from a number of warning light issues.
- The coolant light regularly comes on when there is enough coolant (a warranty fix that has never worked properly), but intermittent
- Airbag warning light has come on a few times usually due to seat sensors needing to be adjusted
- Rear bulbs have never been replaced.
- However, front bubs are still regularly failing, at three-month intervals.
At one point they were failing monthly until our mechanic did a thorough fault-find and replaced some wiring. The job involves dropping the front bumper so there have been 20 incidents over 205,000 miles costing approximately £40 a time, £800. This has been expensive and very annoying – it’s unique to this MG on our fleet and puts us off MG and modern cars generally where bulb replacement is so difficult.
Conclusion: has the MG6 survived 200,00 miles with its head held high?
In some ways the MG6 continues the tradition of BL and ARG cars in that it is a very good design, a great driver’s car and commendable in so many ways, but let down by a number of faults that should not have occurred. In terms of a new car we only have a Dacia Sandero to compare on our fleet and, at 85,000 miles, all that has needed has been regular servicing, a cambelt change at 72,000 miles, a new set of pads and discs twice, three sets of front tyres and one rear, and one fault with the central locking switch, cured for free at the last service.
So the Sandero has been considerably cheaper to run at the same point in its life as the MG6. Probably in truth, the MG6 should be pensioned off, but it is essentially worthless so barring any really expensive failure we will take it to 250,000 miles. It has not been the disaster that a number of people claimed it would be, but it has not been without issue and sometimes waiting for parts has seen it off the road for over a week, not ideal for a vehicle taking £1000 a week in taxi fares.
Score out of ten, I would have to give it seven.
Things it should have had…
A six-speed gearbox would have been nice, and I have still never come to terms with the very low rent interior. That’s okay for a taxi but, as a private buyer, that would have put me off. Mind you, after driving Rover 800s and Rover 75s for years, I have been spoiled by some of the best interiors in the business.
However, I can confirm that MG Motor does seem to have cured the 1.8 K-Series head gasket problem once and for all. That makes me wonder why MG Rover Group, and Rover Group before them failed to make the K-Series the reliable workhorse it should always have been given how great the basic K-Series design is!
There are some very cheap MG6s available now and, as a secondhand family car for around £3000, you can’t go far wrong – assuming, that is, you can put up with that interior, which in truth is no worse than many modern cars with acres of grey plastic, cheap seat materials and cheap felt-like carpeting. It’s just that I expect so much more from MG – so I hope the interiors improve over the years, and MG regains some credibility in the market place.