Words: Clive Goldthorp Photographs: Simon Davies/Pegasus Photographics
MG’s choice of the Goodwood Motor Circuit as the venue for the Media Launch of the new MG6 Magnette, the saloon version of the MG6 GT, was particularly apt – Lord March’s grandfather, Freddie, raced one of the original MG K-Type Magnettes back in the early 1930s and was the then MG Car Company Limited’s first Racing Manager.
However, the presence of a 1956 MG ZA Magnette and a 1958 MG ZB Magnette Varitone outside the circuit’s Old Control Tower sent a very clear message about how MG Motor UK intends to position the 6 Magnette in the marketplace when the car reaches UK showrooms next month – based on feedback from Customer Clinics held last year, the company sees the 6 Magnette as an affordable alternative to sports saloons such as the Alfa Romeo 159, Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series or, looking ahead, the mooted, next-generation Audi A3 Saloon. The key question then is: how realistic are MG Motor UK’s ambitions for the 6 Magnette?
In The Showroom
Like the MG6 GT, the 6 Magnette straddles the conventional C and D market segments and so has the advantage of being larger and more spacious than cars in the C-segment but more compact than most D-segment competitors – that, MG Motor UK claims, broadens the potential customer base and offers them a value for money proposition.
The three trim levels, S, SE and TSE, mirror the 6 GT’s but with several specification enhancements whilst metallic paint is the only optional extra. S and SE models run on 17in alloys while the range-topping TSE has 18in alloys. Standard S trim includes electronically controlled air conditioning, all round electric windows, ICE consisting of a radio with RDS, CD player, MP3, USB and aux-in capability and a rear, boot-mounted spoiler.
The SE trim adds satellite navigation, front and rear parking aides, cruise control and one-touch operation for the front windows. The TSE’s ‘class-leading’ features include Graphite Grey leather sports seats, a full colour satellite navigation system, a reverse parking camera, one-touch operation for all the electric windows, the addition of Bluetooth, electronic dual-zone climate control and an electric glass sunroof.
The MG6 Magnette will be available in seven external colours: Pitch Black, Regal Red, Union Blue, Granite Grey, Platinum Silver, Arctic White and Champagne, which is exclusive to the Magnette. The on the road prices at launch are: S – £15,995, SE – £17,495 and TSE – £19,995 – all three versions are scheduled to reach MG’s now expanding Dealer Network by mid-July.
Interestingly, both an Audi A4 1.8 TFSi and a BMW 320i SE Saloon would come out at around £33,000 on the road if ordered with the same level of equipment as the MG6 Magnette 1.8T TSE – those figures certainly do seem to give weight to MG Motor UK’s assertion that the 6 Magnette will be an affordable proposition.
On The Road
The Union Blue (why do we keep picking that colour at AROnline?!) MG6 Magnette 1.8T TSE which MG’s PR and Events Manager, Doug Wallace, allocated to us handled and rode as well as one would expect having read Keith Adams’, recent articles on the MG6 GT. See: First Drive: MG6 GT 1.8T TSE, AROnline, 15 March 2011 and My motoring week: AROnline and the MG6 GT, AROnline, 20 May 2011. That said, most of the A- and B-roads on the 40 mile route through West Sussex were impressively smooth and pothole free but the 6 Magnette still proved an engaging partner even if, perhaps, a tad less agile than the 6 GT. You would probably have to drive the two models round the same route back-to-back to discern any precise differences.
MG Motor UK claims that the 6 Magnette covers 0-60mph in 8.4 seconds and, while we were unable to verify that, the time does feel about right on a subjective level. However, the five-speed gearbox might preclude a spirited driver from achieving that time – admittedly our car had only done around 500 miles or so but the gearbox did feel rather notchy and that made finding a rhythm on some of the twistier B-roads difficult. Mind you, the gearbox in the 6 GT 1.8T SE which we borrowed from Chester-based MG Dealer, Graham Walker Limited, recently was much better so the problem was probably down to our particular car.
The design and operation of the MG6 GT’s handbrake has also come in for some criticism elsewhere in the motoring media. Unsurprisingly, given the short time between the two launches, that design has been carried over to the MG6 Magnette. However, anyone who can remember the Alfa Romeo 75’s palm-pinching affair would probably not have any problems with the operation of the handbrake in the MG6 – we reckon that most potential MG6 owners would soon adapt and become used to the procedure…
AROnline still plans to take a closer look at how both versions of the MG6 stack up against the competition in the showroom at some point during the coming weeks. However, given that both the 6 GT and 6 Magnette are, at least initially, being pitched primarily at retail customers, we still have concerns about both models’ likely real-world residual values.
MG can justifiably claim that the 6 Magnette does provide an affordable alternative to, say, an Audi A4 or BMW 3 Series with a similar specification but both those models have pretty rock-solid residuals. Depreciation data for the MG6 GT 1.8T TSE published by one of Britain’s leading motoring weeklies recently suggests that term might not apply to the MG6’s residuals…
A final point: Lord March, who joined the Journalists invited to the Media Launch for lunch, was asked whether or not he had driven an MG6 and replied: ‘No, I haven’t yet, but I’m looking forward to doing so.’ We rather think that the guys at MG Motor UK might just have missed a trick there!
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