We’re in interesting times for MG. The rebirth of the marque in the UK has been painful, controversial and frankly embarrassing at times, but there are glimmers of hope that the products now rolling out of Shanghai could well be the ones that we could do business with here.
These pre-launch shots (first shown on CarNewsChina) of the four-wheel drive MG GS clearly show a car that combines the visual punch of B-sector crossovers, such as the Renault Captur and the all-round practicality of the all-conquering British-designed and built Nissan Qashqai. You can easily imagine buyers rolling up to the dealers to buy a GS, and not feel embarrassed about the past few years’ of MG failure.
In terms of size, it’s a little larger than the Captur, measuring 4500mm by 1855mm, which puts it up with the Volkswagen Tiguan. Showing its Chinese origins, it’s petrol-powered only for launch, getting a turbocharged 2.0-litre 217bhp four-cylinder engine, and that should be enough to keep up with the turbodiesel crowd it’ll be fighting here. The turbocharged 1.5-litre will follow – as will the inevitable 1.9-litre turbodiesel as seen in the MG6.
So all is good, then? In China, this and the recently-launched MG GT (below) should prove more provide a much-needed fillip for MG dealers, whose cars haven’t exactly been flying out of the showrooms, thanks to the dominance of the Roewe marque there.
However, here in the UK, where we don’t get Roewe, the MG GS – along with the MG3 – should see those dealerships finally being stocked with something more desirable. So, should we be applauding the turnaround and final resurrection of MG? I’d like to say that there’s a bright new future for MG and that the cars are about to be seen on every street corner in the UK, but I’m still struggling with the whole sales and marketing operation in the UK.
It’s not that I don’t think the GS isn’t good enough to make a splash here, but there are other issues to consider. I summed up my feelings elsewhere, but they are worth repeating in concise form here because, as things stand at the moment, without changes at Longbridge, this promising new car’s prospects of success really will be hamstrung.
The problem with MG Motor UK is that it’s a company of two halves in Longbridge. On one side you have a world-class Engineering Team that works under the SMTC UK banner and is designing and engineering some genuinely excellent product. Then there’s the other half – the MG assembly and retail/marketing arm.
They’ve have numerous opportunities to relaunch the MG brand in the UK intelligently but, so far, each and every one has been squandered. BTCC – where’s the publicity? MG6 – poorly priced and undermarketed. MG3 – brilliantly priced and presented, stymied by a lack of marketing.
Until very recently, these cars were being presented as British. Nominally, I don’t have a problem with that – but, in truth, it’s pretty naive and a dated approach. What they should have done is been bold – and trumpeted them as UK-designed cars built to world-class(!) standards in ‘New China’ (or some such, I am not a marketeer). Instead, it chose to promote itself with MGBs, Morris Minors and Tea-Cosys, and then wonder why enthusiasts were cynical.
Now I have driven the MG3 and the MG6 – extensively. For the first all-new products from a brand-new company, they are both very, very impressive. Compare them, say, with the 1974 Hyundai Pony or 1991 Kia Pride, and they are aeons ahead. I like both, understand them, and would happily buy either. But here’s the crunch – I’d buy them had they been sold by just about anyone other than MG Motor UK.
I suspect MG’s credibility window is now closing fast, and the first Euro-standard Chinese company – Qoros – has taken the initiative. And that is exceptionally disappointing given the good product that SMTC (and its Chinese counterpart) gave to MG Motor UK.
And if it doesn’t change, the GS (and GT if it comes here) really will struggle.