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
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?
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
Engine 1.9-litre turbodiesel
Gearbox Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Price from £13,995
0-62mph 8.4 seconds
Top speed 120mph