News : MG rolls out in South Africa

Jason Woosey, via IOL Motoring

MG3 made its debut at the Johannesburg notor show
MG3 made its South African debut at the Johannesburg notor show

This century has seen a rocky road for the iconic MG brand, and it looked like the very end when its British-owned parent company went under, back in 2005. Yet the brand ended up with SAIC of China, which maintained a British design and engineering presence in the historic Longbridge plant; the two hatchbacks you see here are the first fruits of that effort.

And now South Africans will get to taste them too, and at lower prices than you’d expect, with Combined Motor Holdings set to sell and distribute the cars, initially through 15 dealers. Both the MG6 and MG3 are on display at the Johannesburg International Motor Show, and the Ford Focus-sized MG6 hatch and sedan will be the first offering – going on sale this month.

The MG6 is powered by a 1.8-litre turbopetrol engine that churns out 118kW at 5500rpm and will be offered in three trim levels – Comfort at approximately R209 000 (£16,900), Luxury at R219 000 (£17,700) and Deluxe, which will set you back R229 000 (£18,500). Each has basic safety features such as front and side airbags and ABS, and comforts such as air conditioning and a CD/USB/Aux sound system, with the Luxury adding a rear parking aid, leather steering wheel, navigation and cruise control.

The Deluxe pours it on with leather seats (heated and electrically adjustable up front), dual-zone climate control and a high-end navigation system. In line with the car’s sporty positioning, all models are fitted with 17-inch alloy wheels.

For those seeking their MG style in a smaller wrapping, the MG3 will be launched next year and, although prices have not yet been finalised, the indicative prices range between R139 000 (£11,250) and R160 000 (£12,940), pitching them slightly above sub-B offerings such as the Ford Figo and VW Polo Vivo, but below the more modern Fiesta and Polo. With its fairly cheeky design elements, and black pillars and roof, the little MG is sure to attract some attention in its segment.

Two petrol engines will be on offer – a 1.3-litre with 65kW on tap at 6000rpm and 117Nm at 4500rpm, and a 1.5 that puts out 80kW at 6000rpm and 135Nm at 4500rpm.

The standard model packs in the basics – aircon, CD player and trip computer – while the more luxurious Comfort version adds niceties such as climate control, electric windows, multi-function steering wheel and alloy wheels.

Both the MG6 and MG3 are built in China, albeit with much engineering input from the company’s British arm. From my brief touch-and-feel inside the show cars, I can say that interior quality is leaps and bounds ahead of any Chinese car I’ve experienced, but still some way off the German standard.

The MG3, in particular, feels cheap in places, albeit with decent build quality, while the MG6 comes rather closer to emulating the European feel – although they did opt for a dashboard that resembles that in the BMW 3 Series. We look forward to test driving these new Anglo-Oriental MGs in the near future, to gain a full insight into their inherent quality and we certainly hope that the keen prices they’ve announced are not too good to be true.

MG South Africa will be represented by 15 dealers nationwide when the brand goes live in October and is planning to launch at least another four models in the medium term.

[Source: IOL Motoring]

Keith Adams
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  1. I would be intersted to know if UK punters are buying the MGs and if they generally like them. seems to be very quiet on the MG on the market front. alex

  2. Good to see SAIC going global with the MG brand, something Rover never quite managed. Europe and USA in the future I hope. Can MG 3 have a smaller diesel engine like the new Kia Rio – 88 mpg is the benchmark if it is to really suceed in Europe at least. Starting to look promising though!

  3. @KC – MG announced a month or two back that they had already sold £5m worth of MG6 in the UK (about 280 cars), think they are over the 300 mark now, which isnt bad considering the majority will be diesels when it is lauched next year.

    One question about the MG3, does its engines derive from the K-series too?

  4. Chris Cs 2nd link

    “the latest MG 3, which looks exactly like a Jaguar car”

    Should’ve gone to specsavers?

    The 750, yes. The MG3 looks more like a Swift/Fabia (as per various previous comments)

  5. I guess it probably suits them to not seel too many that we get get to iron out a few bugs before there are too many out there. interesting to see where the cars come from It appear that Nigeria is getting the Chinese builts cars. what about SA, Chinese or UK built? PS the above MG doesnt look good in that colour. alex

  6. I’ve not seen any new MG 6 models since it’s launch months ago. Can’t see them selling well myself. Very average looking car.

  7. I saw two MG sixes in early June on the roads round Milton Keynes, another one on the M6 toll road ten days ago and I think I saw a Magnette the other day. Can’t be certain of this sighting as I only caught the rear of it as it went by.
    Didn’t they aim to sell between two and three thousand this year? If that’s the case it’s hardly surprising we don’t see that many on the roads. The important thing is that the car establishes itself, hopefully gets itself a decent reputation, and so gives MG a reasonable foundation on which to build.

  8. The only new MG’s that ive seen are the ones in the Showroom near my home 🙂

    I appreciate that the sales forecast for MG were always going to be low. I am still surprised though that I havent seen any new MG’s on the road yet.

  9. If you look at photo of the 3, its clearly a left hooker, look at the wipers….And I’ve only seen one MG6 on the road around here, and that was being driven by someone who looked almost dead. Lack of dealers, plus a lack of a diesel has doomed them in my view, along with a stupidly high road tax band.

  10. Good to see MG back in SA despite them being Chinese imports rather than UK one’s. I’ve still only seen one real MG6 in the UK (a black LHD model on the A1 in Yorkshire) in July. Sales of 43 in September seem disappointing to me, but I hope things pick up for them, after the wait since 2005.

  11. Nigeria’s a left hand drive country. South Africa is RHD though, so can somebody confirm that their 6s are coming from China and not Longbridge? Over on there’s a thread in the MG6 section which has been tracking UK sales of the 6, and so far it’s quite disappointing. I hope things build up from here.

  12. I travel the M62/M1/M621 in Leeds every day and have yet to see a new MG. Competent cars I’m sure, but it hasn’t got that raw appeal that the ZR/S/T had which made people quite fancy them who wanted a change, especially when they realised how different they were to drive when compared to the standard Rover models they were based on.

    These new ones from China just remind me of Hyundais and the like, which is a real shame.

  13. @ Neil Turner @ Chris C, according to How Many Left website there are presently total 80 examples of the MG 6 on UK roads.

  14. Hello i am from Greece and i like very much English cars.
    Does anyone knows if MG’s cars will come at Greece sometime?
    Sorry for my English if i have done any mistake.

  15. Hi Mario
    I believe European sales will start late next year with the introduction of the MG6 Diesel.. the car everyone including MG is waiting for!

  16. To Steve,
    I know that, but it’s better from nothing.
    I hope that future models will be 100% English.

  17. 199 sales to the end of September. It will be slow until the deisel goes on sale. I have seen a few, but I live relatively close to Longbridge

  18. Judging from the comments above, it seems that sales of the MG6 in the UK to date really are extremely low. Why are sales this few? The limited range and equally limited dealer network are obvious factors. As is the lack of advertising. Haven’t seen the TV ad for a while or any other form of advert. However, even given all these constraints, I would have thought those with inside, enthusiast knowledge would have pushed UK wide sales at least to a thousand. Aren’t MG UK worried? I know it was only meant to be a ‘soft’ launch but these sales figures are ridiculous.
    We have been able to view the finished car for many months now. At this rate by the time the range is more complete, the dealer network more established the MG6 will be getting long in the tooth.
    Loyal buyers of the 25 & 45 who are not overly knowledgeable of the situation since the demise of MG Rover need to be made aware, ie a much stronger advertising campaign. Then, when the car becomes a relatively common site it will start to advertise itself to once 25 & 45 owners. Come on! Get the brand re-established! What are you doing?
    I recently spoke to the once Rover, MG Rover dealer in West Cumbria. A strong, loyal customer base here of once Rover owners. To my surprise the guy at the now Nissan dealer told me MG had yet to establish a dealer anywhere in Cumbria. Good God!!

  19. MG Sold 43 new cars in September this is compared to 32 in September 2010, however for the year they have so far sold 227 cars, this compares to 250 for last year, so considering last year they were selling a donkeys year old roadster, and this year they are selling a brand new hatch and saloon, sales are down nearly 10%.

    This is not really good, maybe they should have continued with the Tf for a while to keep sales bolstered, maybe a striped out mega cheap version, just to keep sales numbers and market share high.

    With the release of MG3-7 and the SUV and new Tf, things will improve, but until then people will be suspicious of a company that cant sell brand new cars, compared to selling more old cars.

  20. Ironically had they chosen to start by selling a more Focus shaped and sized car they could get away with a petrol as so many cars this size still come equipped with one. Problem is you’ve got what appears to be quite a big car like a Skoda Octavia but without the diesel engine which this type of car requires.

    I’m sure they know this though and no doubt their weekly sales meetings cover just this very topic.

    I have to admit the SMMT sales figures are very disappointing especially as they seem to being beaten by Proton. I didn’t even know Proton’s were still imported to the UK? Even Saab who haven’t made any cars for months comfortably outsold MG in September.

    It’s early days, time will tell I suppose. They can’t be that brassed off or else people would have been sacked by now.

  21. @Steve Bailey

    The ZR/ZS/ZT may have been good and better than their Rover counterparts but people didn’t like them enough to buy them in sufficient numbers to keep MGR in business.

  22. MG have to expand the dealer network to get better coverage, no question. Once the 3 arrives (and the 6 diesel) I think that will happen. In a way it doesn’t matter how many cars they sell here for the time being – bigger volumes are to be had elsewhere.

    If you look at what MG is proposing in terms of range expansion (3, 5 & 7 etc.) and the suggested timescale of that expansion, I think the MG6 is not destined to be around for a long time.

  23. @Richard

    “The ZR/ZS/ZT may have been good and better than their Rover counterparts but people didn’t like them enough to buy them in sufficient numbers to keep MGR in business.”

    Sadly true, although I knew a few people who changed to them for a vast array of marques and all were pleased with their cars – shame more people didn’t take the plunge (Rover’s past traumatic history was probably putting me off). Still wasn’t enough (and don’t get me started on the overpriced CityRover and the fabulous but time and money wasting V8 rear driven versions!)

  24. “This century has seen a rocky road for the iconic MG brand”

    MG as a brand is only actually 87 years old !

  25. @Steve Bailey

    I agree that a lot of people were pleased with their Rovers and MGs once they’d taken the plunge and bought one. I always thought the biggest problem that Rover had was image, that they were ‘an old man’s car’ etc., and I don’t think Rover advertising particularly helped the brand either. By concentrating so much on the ‘olde Englishe’ appeal of the cars (chrome, burr walnut etc.) they pleased older buyers but utterly failed to attract younger customers who prefered the more contemporary designs that could be found elsewhere.

    Rover in its day was more than a match for the likes of Mercedes, but that day was long gone by the 90s when Rover was still claiming to be something more than its rivals (remember the ‘Above all it’s a Rover’ slogan?). This attitude carried on into the MGR era. CityRover is a good example of this. The car was by no means brilliant but it was an OK cheap runabout. What it needed to be was priced at £5000 and then it would have sold in thousands. Kia did this with the Picanto at about the same time and had nothing but success. Instead MGR dressed it up a bit and priced it from £6500 to £9000 if I remember rightly. What an absolute nonsense. I agree too about the V8 versions that MGR brought in. Absolutely fabulous but a complete distraction (like the SV) when the company needed to be concentrating all its resources on a 45 replacement and other potentially bigger-selling products.

    • @doodle

      Not sure – I haven’t removed anything, but we have changed ISPs over the weekend and some posts may be sat on the old (now redundent) server. Just post them again.

  26. mg are currently not producing due to poor sales and if they believe the diesel is the saviour they are very much mistaken,the professionalism shown by saic to promote the product is very poor ,the current manufacturing employees that build the cars are in town shopping centres trying to sell them, if they want to be taken seriously then they have to invest in dealers ,sales people with global experience,,they invested heavily in plants in china and t5hats whats needed at lonbridge ,yes they have invested in the design block but stripped cab 1 of everything .

  27. the whole plant needs rebuilding ,the paint shops are derelict ,they only used the top end of paiht shop 3 . the car wash is out of date, ,everything seems to be trying to be done for nothing ,mg is a global brand with the right marketing can be very successful ,,the current employees of longbridge should be producing cars for nigeria and any other global source or market they intend to be part of and no disrespect to saic but if they carry on down the road they are at longbridge i fear the worst.we have now gone 3yrs in production with tf .mg6 , no increase in employment sales are low ,i fear for my family and friends currently employed by saic,

  28. the reason why we don’t see many mg6’s on the road is obvious lack of advertising is the main problem most people i kn ow don’t know mg is back,it would also been a good idea to offer the non turbo 130 bhp version as well .

  29. I agree that not enough people know that MG is back. More advertising would help. Maybe that will increase as and when more models come on stream (the diesel and the MG3).

    Longbridge suffers from decades of under-investment and all the problems associated with that. I don’t see SAIC suddenly pumping in millions to get all the lines rolling again but I hope that maybe in the future they will realise that Longbridge built MGs will have even greater appeal in the UK (and elsewhere).

  30. The only MG6 I’ve seen was at a car show in the summer. The MG 6 was well built but it just doesn’t stand out from the crowd. I looks like the last every Nissan primera with a front and rear face lift. Not seen any on the roads.
    But as said by others, who knows what the future holds for chinese cars in 20 years time.In the 1960’s, Japanese cars were no where in the mid 1960’s, BMW were making bubble cars to surve, Audi no one had heard of them as they were aclled DKW. Lancia out sold BMW by thousands. 20 years later the car market had changed as we all know. So don’t write off the Chinese.

  31. Steve Bailey – Comment 33

    For a brief period in the nineties I think Rover had managed to achieve an image which was something above mass market producers such as Ford & Vauxhall. Just compare an R8 to an early mk IV Escort for example! Or a Rover Metro compared to a Nova. Under the halo of R8 even Montego, once ‘Roverised’ had a classier ambience than many of its rivals. The ‘grilled’ 800 was a far classier option tha a Granada.

    Viewed as a whole, the company had made a massive leap forward compared to the not too distant Allegro days. BMW should have capitalised on this transformation in image and quality, producing a range of ground up Rovers, which the 75 started.

  32. When I purchased my 75, I immediately wrote upon the file containing its documents – ‘Above all, it’s a Rover’

  33. ‘Above all, it’s a Rover’ was about the worst advertising slogan ever, almost as bad as ‘you’re never alone with a Strand’. It exemplified everything that was wrong with the way the marque was perceived by successive managements who believed that all you had to do was kit a car out in chrome, leather and burr walnut to make it desirable. The company thought it and its products were a class above the competition and they weren’t.

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