Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

MGR@10 Month : 10 years on, the latest from Longbridge

Vehicle production at Longbridge may no longer exist as we knew it, but there is still a car assembly presence at the former MG Rover site, with CKD MG models still emerging from the site, along with engineering, design and marketing input for the Chinese-owned MG Motor UK at the former MG Rover offices.

There has been much discussion on this site about the future of MG Motor in the UK and its relevance – but, based on the latest updates to the MG6 model, it looks as though the brand is starting to take the European market a little more seriously. Below, we’ve published a wholly independent first drive of the latest model, which was launched on the 10th anniversary of the day that the death knell was finally sounded for Rover…

With huge thanks to the team at Motoring Research and, specifically, Managing Director, Richard Aucock, who is a long time friend of the site, for allowing us to reproduce its content, which appears below…

Words: Andrew Brady

MG6 review: 2015 first drive

The MG6 faced a tough challenge when it was launched back in 2010. It was the first car from MG as we know it today, under Chinese ownership.

Built in China and assembled at MG’s Longbridge plant in the UK, the MG6 had a lot to prove. Enthusiasts would need a lot of persuasion – they still mourned the loss of MG Rover and the new MG6 would never be as British as their beloved 75, for instance.

The general public would also take some convincing. While its new owners like to play on MG’s heritage for fun-to-drive open-top roadsters, in its later years MG developed a reputation for failed head gaskets, boy racer hot hatches and, of course, going bust.

So the MG6 would have to be very good, then. Or cheap. And it was neither.

We were greeted by an horrendous interior, stodgy looks, and (until 2012) no diesel engine. And it was priced against D-segment cars such as the Ford Mondeo.

Its sales reflected this. Last year, MG sold just 536 examples. On average, each dealer was selling about one a month. That’s just not sustainable. Serious action needed to be taken. And it’s happened.

MG’s knocked £3,000 off the starting price of the MG6. It now starts at £13,995 – and they’ve axed the petrol engine. You can no longer buy a saloon version either – it’s hatchback only.

The interior’s also been revised, the design tweaked (if you look closely), 75kg of weight removed (resulting in improved fuel economy and CO2 emissions) and extra kit’s now fitted as standard. Drastic changes, even if it looks broadly the same. Will it be enough?

MG6 review: 2015 first drive

What’s the MG6 like to drive?

MGs have always been fun to drive, and the MG6 is no exception. It was one of the few good points of the original model. The steering, although a tad on the light side, provided good levels of feedback and it could be flung about in an enjoyable manner.

MG had a good base for the revised model, then, where handling is concerned. But they’ve added a new electronic differential, which transfers torque between the front wheels and even goes as far as applying brake pressure to avoid spinning up.

The difference is negligible in day-to-day driving, but the MG6 continues to be an enjoyable steer. The suspension is borderline firm – it’s certainly liveable with, but drive a potholed road and you’ll find yourself easing off the accelerator more than you might do in rivals.

The diesel engine is a torquey, if slightly vocal unit. Thanks to its lower weight, it’ll now hit 62mph in 8.4 seconds, half a second quicker than its predecessor.

The clutch has a sharp biting point that might take you by surprise, but the gearchange is slick and encouraging. Not that you need to work the six-speed ‘box particularly hard. Torque is available low down and there’s plenty of poke for overtaking slower traffic.

MG6 review: 2015 first drive

Is the revised MG6’s interior good enough?

It’s rare to find an interior of a car that is simply woeful – but that of the previous generation MG6 really let the car down.

Cheap plastics and a perceived lack of quality meant spending any time in it would make you regret buying one over, say, a Skoda Octavia.

The bad news is they haven’t ripped out the interior and started again. The good news is, they’ve done an admirable job of making it more pleasant.

One key difference is the new app-based navigation system, which is standard on both the mid-range TS and top-spec TL trims. MG tells us this is significantly cheaper than the system it replaces, but we can confirm it’s also significantly better.

As well as navigation, the seven-inch infotainment system offers Mirrorlink, DAB radio, iPod compatibility and multimedia playback – should you wish to watch videos. It’s an intuitive system to use, and far better than the MG6’s previous offering.

For the first time, the MG6 also offers an electronic parking brake. Not a big deal, perhaps, but drivers of the previous model will recall the poorly-designed handbrake that seemed impossible to use without trapping your fingers.

There’s no denying that there’s still quite a lot of cheap plastics in the MG6’s interior, but some nice additions, including a new instrument cluster, take your eye away from the less appealing areas.

MG6 review: 2015 first drive

Verdict: MG6 (2015)

It’s rare that we take a Product Manager’s opinion of a car with anything more than a pinch of salt, but MG’s product man, Andrew Lowerson, told us in the press conference that “when you sit in the MG6, it won’t be as good as a Skoda Octavia. But it’s £7,000 cheaper than the equivalent Skoda Octavia.”

And that pretty much hits the nail on the head. Where else are you going to buy a diesel car with this level of specification and an enormous boot for £14,000?

We can finally report that the MG6 could potentially be a wise purchase.

It isn’t as good as the likes of the Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra. It isn’t even as good as rivals from Hyundai, Kia or Skoda – but they’re moving upmarket, and their price tags reflect this.

There is room in the market for a genuinely affordable car, and the MG6 is finally that. But that doesn’t mean you’d regret it every time you opened the door and jumped inside.

The interior is heaps better than it was. The driving experience is up there with more expensive rivals. And it’s loaded with standard equipment. Even the base-spec S model comes with heated seats.

MG says it’s operating a ‘no haggle’ policy on the new MG6. That’s commendable – you’re not going to buy one only to find a neighbour’s bought an identical one for less money.

We hope, for MG’s sake, it’s enough to tempt buyers away from mainstream brands.

Rivals

  • Ford Focus
  • Vauxhall Astra
  • Skoda Octavia
  • Hyundai i30
  • Toyota Auris

The Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra are conventional choices in this segment, but the MG6 undercuts them both by some margin. The Skoda Octavia is similar to the 6, in that it offers a huge amount of space (even more than the MG), but it’s no longer the budget buy it once was. The Hyundai i30 (alongside its Kia Cee’d sibling) also isn’t as cheap as you might think, while the Toyota Auris shares the MG6’s starting price.

Specification: MG6

Engine 1.9-litre turbodiesel

Gearbox Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive

Price from £13,995

Power 150hp

Torque 258lb/ft

0-62mph 8.4 seconds

Top speed 120mph

MPG 61.4mpg

CO2 119g/km

Craig Cheetham

A serial impulsive car purchaser, Craig has had his name on over 200 V5s over the past 20 years. 10 per cent of those have been either 800s or Austin Allegros, with between 10 and 20 cars usually owned at any one time. Started out as a local newspaper journalist then worked for car mags including Auto Express, Classic Car Weekly and Land Rover Owner. Worked inside the car industry for a decade as an employee of General Motors, now works for a news distribution agency. Home based, which is dangerously convenient for further irrational heap purchases. Lover of all makes of car since childhood, with a particular leaning towards Austin-Rover... Father of three boys, so hoping to spread the car love. Other passions include rugby union, travelling and eating out.
Posted in: MG6, MGR@10 Month

15 Comments on "MGR@10 Month : 10 years on, the latest from Longbridge"

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  1. David 3500 says:

    An interesting article and its sounds as if MG Motor Ltd has taken onboard some of the criticisms aimed at the MG6. What were the reasons for dropping the petrol engine and the saloon bodystyle as I thought the petrol engine accounted for most sales?

    Part of me wishes MG Motor Ltd would offer more personalising potential with the revamped MG6, particularly in terms of alternative colourways for the leather seats, a wider choice of alloy wheel designs and, dare I say it, some visual enhancements to the body based on different mesh treatments for the frontal grilles and even some bodyside protection strips (colour-coded, of course). In the Midlands there are still quite a few automotive component suppliers who are able to produce these items (and others) which could then be fitted as part of the final trimming process at Longbridge. After all, if they can do it for the MG3…

    Let’s hope this update improves sales of the MG6.

    • Ebeneezer says:

      Ironically there is actually less choice on the facelift. Ignoring the dropping of the petrol engine and saloon the colour range has been reduced to four colours (Black, white, grey and red and that’s on the top model, the £14,000 one only comes in white). You can only get one design of wheel (on the earlier model you got 17 and 18inch ones depending on trim) and it’s 16inches in size.

  2. Ken Strachan says:

    The instrument binnacle looks a lot better than the previous attempt; but the exterior is starting to look dated. On the other hand, it’s a rather convincing price cut. Presumably the diesel-only policy puts a limit on their eligibility for BTCC? – unless they plan to race a diesel!

    • I can probably answer the question re BTCC, unless the rules have changed significantly in the past three years. I was part of the crew that put the works Chevrolet team together with RML for the 2010/2011 seasons (and bloody good fun it was too). We used a 2.0-litre petrol engine that wasn’t offered in the UK, but the rules stipulated, IIRC, that if a particular type of engine was used in the range in one market or another, anywhere in the world, it’d meet the regulations. We had such a unit in Brazil, although UK chevrolet Cruzes were all either 1.6 or 1.8 petrol or 2.0 diesel at the time. My one lasting memory of the Chevy BTCC years was myself and two colleagues running a cross car park relay race at Knockhill to remove the driver’s side door mirror from our marketing manager’s company car so we could get Jason Plato out of the pit garage for race three. He clobbered it into the first bend and it went flying off, but if you watch the race footage on YouTube you’ll see that the works car had one metallic grey door mirror. We got it attached with eight seconds to spare…

      • Door mirrors were on backorder at the time awaiting a consignment from Korea, too, so my colleague had to drive around for three weeks without one…

      • daveh says:

        BTCC rules are now under the NTCC regs. This means the engines are all the same made by a specialist manufacturer based on a GM block.

  3. Hilton D says:

    Granted some improvement with this facelift and lowering the price is an attraction. However not everyone wants a diesel no matter how good they are, so how about adding a more hi-tech petrol unit (along the lines of Ford’s Ecoboost?).

    David’s suggestions of changes to grille and body mouldings is interesting but I cant see MG wanting to do that now. The interior still looks dark and uninviting to me, but I admit it may be better in reality than this photo suggests…

  4. Chris C says:

    No petrol version – that’s brave. Have they made the keyfob nicer to handle? It still really needs a less sombre/sporty “Rover” equivalent. Moving from a Mondeo to a Focus competitor – I had hoped that pitching cars against the wrong sized/value competitors and changing it mid-cycle had died with MGR.

  5. Dave Dawson says:

    ” We were greeted by an horrendous interior, stodgy looks ” – such a remark seems to lack objectivity, is needlessly strong. It simply ain’t true. I like the exterior styling. The 6’s face is a touch distinctive I think. When I’ve sat in various examples I’ve thought the interior at least ok, certainly not horrendous.

    Is the loss of saloon and petrol engine coupled with the much lower price a “run out” policy?

    @ Ken Strachan – Surely they’re not going to exit the BTCC ?

  6. mikelike says:

    Here in our little market of NZ , the MG 6 is as popular as the uk, for mainly one reason.The demographics the car appeals too drive automatics !! Talking to an MG sales rep he feels he could sell ten fold if they came with an auto and personally the cream interior with fake wood treatment in the rowe models of china look very smart so why are the right hand drive models lumbered with a black only interior ?????????

    • Andy Thompson says:

      MG do make a diesel version of the MG6 and indeed also the MG3. They are not offered in Britain either – a country where automatics are now all but essential as a result of the unbelievable traffic congestion (a lot of it sadly government induced by, for example, festooning roundabouts with traffic lights), even on motorways.Offering an automatic in Britain would I am sure help increase sales. I am not sure why MG does not offer this option on its UK cars.

  7. James says:

    It looks really good now in my opinion – certainly a worthy contender against a Focus, Astra etc.

    The wheels look particularly small on the back of that white model and an Automatic would be welcome. Otherwise, can’t argue with the improvements, the price, the spec or the facelift.

  8. probably the reason this is the last year that MG gets support from MG???

  9. Nige says:

    So let me get this straight: This car is being positioned in the market place below Hyundai, Kia and Skoda? Are you serious? Is this really acceptable to MG enthusiasts? This used to be one of the UK s most cherished car marques. Personally,I’d like to see the company wound up as soon as possible to end this humiliating abuse of the famous octagon. What a liberty.

    Nige

    • Tim says:

      Spot on- downgrading the heritage of MG to that of a modern day Lada just won’t work, and the car is just ghastly in my opinion.

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