Blog : The 200,000-mile MG6 taxicab

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

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:

Replacement costs

  1. Main bearing in gearbox failed at 85,000 miles. Sourced a used gearbox from a car with 15,000 miles and had fitted, £700
  2. Front suspension arms, replaced at 75,000 miles, £500
  3. Handbrake cable snapped (twice), 90,000 miles, 203,000 miles, £200
  4. Handbrake full mechanism sheared, 150,000 miles, £300
  5. Clutch kit fitted every 60,000 x 3, £1800

Maintenance costs

  • 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.

Other issues

  • 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

Bulbs

  • 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.

22 Comments

  1. That was a good read. Thanks for posting. Particularly in view of the comments about the reliability of the MG6 1.8 Turbocharged engine. I have fitted a 21,000 mile MG6 engine into my MG ZT-T 1.8T. I do not expect to do 200,000 miles with that car but, nice to have some reassurances gained from reading about how the engine coped reliably with a range of different drivers and multiple short Taxi journeys.

    By a freak coincidence, I drove the car that 21,000 MG6 engine came from from a few months before that car’s premature demise. When I made an offer to the breaker on ebay I had no idea what the engine would be like so took a chance on it unseen as an unknown quantity.

  2. Shame that the MG6 hasn’;t been totally reliable, but this article shows it’s proved itself in the demanding world of taxi driving.I do recall being in Sheffield in 2002 and most taxi companies used Proton Personas, the MG6 of that era, as they were cheap, very reliable and could take very high mileages easily. Also locally Dacia Logans have appeared as taxis, £ 7000 for an estate car is very tempting.

  3. “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!”

    Because they were totally and irredeemably thick and stupid, that’s why !! Here we have a company with an engine that is known to blow HGs at very low mileages, and which is the main engine option for ALL its cars, yet does nothing about it.

    I have an MG TF 135 of 2009 with an N series engine, so this article is deeply reassuring.

  4. A very good endorsement of the “6”. 200K miles in a family car would exceed all expectations. I think the MG6 is still a good looking car, just a shame it was marketed so poorly.

    Simon states that oil changes are done every 20K miles which surprises me, I thought that the oil should be changed at least every 12K miles, or thereabouts..

    • With a TaXI in constant use, it’s rare for the engine and its oil to ever cool down. Those conditions mean the oil is capable of coping with the increased oil change service intervals. Conversely, any engine doing say only 3,000 miles each year involving lots of short journeys would need to be changed at far less than the manufacturer recommended mileage intervals. Manufacturers also have time constraint oil change guidelines too to address the little use scenario. Little use short trip use can be more harmful in effect than lots of miles on high mileage use.

      Manufacturers renewal and change guidelines are designed to err on the safer side. Particularly with guarantee and warranty concerns foremost in their minds. When timing belts first became commonplace, much longer mileage renewal guidelines were in place by most manufacturers. This initial guideline measure was soon adjusted to lower levels on both mileage and time constraints. That due to data gathered from warranty claims.

      Multiple drivers in that MG6 account too which enhances the status of the MG6 Chinese Version of the marvellous little K-Series which in many instances was asked and stretched to punch well over its weight here in the UK with very little redesign.

      F F Mitchell in an earlier post appears unfair to folks at Longbridge and guilty of the knee-jerk “They all do that” mindset. They do NOT all do that. The two new K-Series Rover and MG cars I have bought did not DO that and both still in the family. The last new K-Series car being a 2003 MG ZS 120+ still in regular daily us by my better half. I’d go further than that and would bet a nice few quid the folks at Longbridge knew what needed doing and no doubt that was present in the IPR files when the Chinese picked up the asset stripped remnants for peanuts.

      Folks with that “Rovers are Carp” poisoned mindset accuse me of being lucky with my cars. One thing I am guilty of doing is lifting the bonnet occasionally and checking things… AS RECOMMENDED BY ALL MANUFACTURERS. In the spearhead of that poison minds agenda were our beloved UK Media with Clarkson and the BBC in the foremost of all that media negativity poison. Yes, despite his protestations, Clueless Clarkson played his part in my no longer being able to buy a new British Built MG or Rover as has been my pleasure several times in the past. I can buy a new MG of course, made in the far east. Not the same for me.

      From the days when the massively asset rich former Rover Group under the control of a disinterested BAEwere sold off, the alien control of the Bavarian asset strippers again sold off spiv like cheap by a poisonous Government in the BLUE corner with their agenda, thus torpedoing the reasonably successful Honda partnership at a stroke. Finally the equally poisonous Govt in the RED corner turning its back on the “numpty” bruvvers up at Longbridge simply because by that time those hugely asset stripped remnants known as MG-R were in “Private” company hands, meant that those same numpties were simply not allowed to do so.

      It’s what us Brits do. We excel at getting important things wrong.. June 23rd 2016 being a rare exception.

      Have worked extensively on numerous K-Series engines over the past few decades. 1.1. 1.4. 1.6 and 1.8 NASP, VVC and Turbocharged and ONE MG6 engine, I can assure anyone that what the Chinese have done to the the “N” series version of the original K-Series, is NOT Rocket Science. Just simple basic engineering techniques that the good folks up at Longbridge were never allowed to do owing to prejudicial Govt fiscal constraints, and alien ownership with clever accounting within asset stripping agenda operations primary concerns. Cue the MASSIVE new Minis…. the neighbour’s latest Countryman of Monster truck proportions… Good grief!

      So there. … Just my opinions of course based on the best evidence available to me. That of my own ears and eyes. Could be wrong on all counts… has been known… 🙂

      • Thanks for your comments Big John. My car’s oil change interval is 12,500 miles but my annual mileage is about 8,000 so gets changed then. I agree with you about the monster size Mini’s. they are about the size of a current Mondeo!

  5. I agree with Big John, there was a lot of Rover hate in the company’s last years. If the company’s products were so bad, why do I still regularly see 25s, 45s and 75s on the road, and most are well looked after. Indeed compared with the M cars and SD1s from the eighties, which seemed to mostly vanish before their tenth birthdays, it seems the numbered Rovers are vastly more durable and if the head gasket is cared for and replaced with a tougher example, quite reliable cars. Remember I see a beautiful, rust free 15 year old 75 every day in town, how many SD1s lasted this long.

    • Those rust free 75s.

      I had a visitor in a T-Reg white example over the weekend. The young couple picked up a set of Rover wheels from me in their beautiful white Rover 75. It was in exceptional condition. That couple flew over from France to collect that 75 and drive it back with the Rover wheels to France. Despite my very rusty schoolboy French and their adequate English, we managed to communicate easily.

      [IMG]http://i67.tinypic.com/ruxo61.jpg[/IMG]

      Not for the first time by many a long chalk, here was yet another example of how highly regarded are the products of MG and Rover in just about every country except for only a few here where they are produced. I have helped folks in far away places such as South and Central America as well as the European mainland and elsewhere where “our” cars are both treasured and highly regarded. Rightly so.

      Our always in a negative mode media have a lot to answer for. Especially that shower in the BBC who pay themselves so very well because they think they’re worth it. A shadow of its once highly regarded self.

    • Isn’t that more a reflection of how well built cars from the 90s were, rather than a specific Rover issue. My 2002 Ford Focus is in perfect nick, for example.

      Indeed that generation of cars has the benefit of being simpler than more recent ones, so “less to go wrong”.

      • Not so sure, Ford produced the dreadful Mark 5 Escort in the nineties, Vauxhall had the fault prone Vectra, and Italian cars still had a poor reputation for reliablility and bulld quality, but the improvements in Rover’s quality from 1988 onwards were immense compared with the Austin Rover era. Something like a Rover 600 was light years ahead of the early 800, and the Rover Metro was a far better made and rust resistant car than the Austin variety.

        • Mk5 Escort was Ford’s low point, they even knew themselves to improve with the Mondeo and Focus.

          Alfa Romeo improved – 156 wasn’t as bad as everyone thought – the weak point was the timing belt on TwinSpark engines, that needed changed every 30k.

          And the Vectra – was it that fault prone? They were still a popular fleet vehicle, drove one with 180k on the clock and it felt like half the mileage.

          The 90s were a peak for the likes of Citroen – the Xantia they’d nailed the suspension reliability and quality, the x06 range from Peugeot was regarded as a highpoint, before they became overly complicated in the 2000s.

          • Another fan of nineties Citroens here, I had one of the last turbodiesel BXs as a loan car in 1994 and was very impressed with the ride, always loved how the car rose up when you started it, the excellent economy and decent performance on long journeys. OK the BX was a bit plasticky and the interior finish wasn’t too good, but it looked distinctive and was far more interesting to drive than a Mondeo of that era. However, the Xantia the area manager had, again a turbodiesel, was a much more modern car and was even better to drive.

  6. To me fair to the m cars and SD1’s the same could be said about other makes of the time. How many ford escorts or cortina’s survive they are equally rare same with cavaliers and astras . Also I think various scrappage schemes took their toll.

  7. A lot of the cars mentioned above seem very undervalued. People on an R75 Facebook group seem to struggle to shift what seem to be sound cars, despite hardly wanting anything for them.

    Out of interest, what are the highest mileages that the Phoenix-era products are known to have reached?

  8. It’s great to see that MG knocked together one if these in a half way decent effort to make it work. It’s just a pity the rest were so poor. Underspeccing components like the gearbox however makes you think what else they skimped on.

  9. Very interesting to see about the airbag warning light and the regular and fiddly to rectify headlamp bulbs, both sound familiar to me as a ZT owner from 2004 until 2013. The headlamps could often be seen flickering slightly on very dark roads and I wonder if this contributed to the short bulb life. The MG Rover dealer claimed after the second failure in one winter that it was a common H7 bulb problem, but my Octavia has done 67,000 miles without a failure. Fortunately I found out once out of warranty that the £55 per bulb he was charging was outrageous. Great to see they can take the mileage though.

  10. My MG6 SE saloon was converted to LPG by Maple Garage a week or so after Simons. Mine is currently at a mere 92k miles. Unlike Simons my car has just one driver and as a result I am on original gearbox & clutch, with no suspension issues and no handbrake problems. I seem to have solved the headlight bulb issue by fitting Osram bulbs with a guaranteed 4 year life span, easy enough to do yourself by dropping the bumper. My front tyres typically last to 24k miles and I have not suffered any warning lights so far.

    It did fail to start on Fathers day 2017 requiring the spade connector on the starter motor cleaning. I did think I had a starting issue and replaced the battery before realising it was because the unleaded petrol used to initially fire the engine was stale after being in the tank for so long.

    Like Simon I also pay just 50ppl for LPG and it always returns a cost equivalent to 70mpg+.

    I must have lower expectations as I like the interior in my SE. I have no plans to part with this car, and expect to add a lot more miles to it over the coming years.

    There are at least three more Maple Garage MG6 out there that I am aware of. Two white GTs and another white saloon.

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