Opinion : MG6 – the future classic, now? Or when?

The MG6 is a car that AROnline tracked from conception to its withdrawal from the UK market in 2016. It started out as a development of the Rover 75 or SAIC’s version of it – the Roewe 750 – and, as such, has quite a bit of British DNA under its skin. It’s a car that I’ve had a love-hate relationship via AROnline, but, on the whole, I still like the car, even though I struggled massively with the way it was marketed and sold across the UK.

This website is packed with lots of might-have-beens. There are so many prototypes that we’d like to have seen make production. It also features cars that didn’t sell as well as they should have, or were under-engineered. Or both. It’s the eternal soap opera. The MG6 slots just nicely into that playbook.

However, as the history of BMC, Leyland, Austin Rover and Rover becomes ever more distant, and fades away into a more ironic and sometimes amusing narrative that encapsulates the worst of British industrial relations for lazy historians, we do need to put the newer output into some kind of context. And that’s probably had me looking at MG6s for sale, and thinking to myself, ‘I wonder…’

Is it a classic? Will it be? Should it be?

Regular readers will know that I’ve been in and around the classic car business for some time now. I’ve commented, written about and analysed the market for more than 15 years and, in that time, I’ve come to realise that there are no surprises, just certainties. And one of those is that all cars will become classic cars. Really? Yes, absolutely.

It’s not a case of ‘if’, but ‘when’. And that is when the inequality of cars becomes apparent. Some cars become classics far more quickly than others. It’s usually attached to the supporter base of the maker, but other factors, such as motor sport success, stellar sales performance, or being a gamechanger come into play.

And I guess all of this had me pondering the MG6 when I found myself scanning through the classifieds for them. Retail dealers’ cars have now dipped below £2k, while auction examples, most often with dead diesels under the bonnet, can be had for less than a grand. So, they are heading for the bottom of the pool now – and quite rapidly, too. So the question is when will people start talking about the MG6 as a classic car?

Probably some time away yet, because one of the things I’ve found is that having an interesting backstory does not take a car down the road to classicdom. Maybe it should. But it doesn’t. What it does do, though, is make them interesting to people like you an me.

Should I buy, anyway?

I’d say so, yes. Probably not a diesel version, though. Who the hell is going to carry parts for that? Who indeed does now? The petrol’s in with a fighting chance, thanks to its K-Series engine (I know, but it is). At least you’ll be able to keep it running healthily thanks to the massive support and parts availability for that power unit.

It’ll be a talking point, too. Still, there are many people out there who don’t realise this car ever existed, and they are curious. They’ll say, ‘I didn’t know MG made cars like this,’ or ‘Is it British?’, or even, ‘I’ve seen those new electric MGs, but what the heck is this?’. Maybe they won’t. But already, having an MG6 will get you into certain classic events – which by my reckoning makes this the first Anglo-Chinese car to do so.

And you know what else? They drive well enough – decent performance and a well set-up chassis mean that you’ll be reasonably amused on back roads. But coming back to the original question, one has to ask when will it become a classic? I guess for non-conformists, we might see some movement in that direction within a couple of years, and for the wider classic car scene, expect some modern classic-type interest once the car hits 15 years of age. It’ll take a certain type of enthusiast to head in that direction – by which time, petrol cars might be banned off the road anyway.

So I ask you… when will it be a classic? We’ll revisit this one in years to come to see how close we were!

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

43 Comments

  1. Thanks Keith,

    An interesting and thought provoking article. Certainly in terms of rarity it may already be there – usual disclaimers!

    I’ve read all the adverse comments over the years on Aronline and have been quietly amused and basically have laughed all the way to the bank.. I wonder how many critics have ever even driven the car? As for Clarkson, he couldn’t even work out to start it for goodness sake!!

    Mine is an ex-Avis one and yes, it was in as new condition when I bought it at 2 years old with barely 10k on the clock. The price? Ah well, that’s why I laugh all the way to the bank.

    It has now done 55k miles and has proved to be one of the most reliable cars I have ever owned. Basically nothing has gone wrong of any significance whatsoever. To flesh that out, the coolant warning light has come on twice – easily fixed by cleaning the filler cap (a known issue). A bottom front suspension joint went at 50k miles but was easily and cheaply fixed since same as the Rover 75. Very occasionally first time in the morning she declines to start on the first push of the key-fob but always starts on the second push and then no further problem (another known issue). And that chaps is it. Nothing else. No squeaks, no rattles despite all the “knowing” prognostications about sub standard plastics etc etc.

    HGF you ask? Well, having had loads of experience of K-Series HGF on my previous MG ZS I was naturally a little cautious but the Chinese do seem to have sorted that particular issue with some aplomb. I’m not aware of any MG6 which has suffered head gasket failure, but willing to be corrected.

    Being used mainly for driving between Edinburgh and London, I concede she has a fairly easy life but she acquits herself excellently for such use and is comfortable, fast, handles brilliantly and is acceptably economical. And like all K-Series engines, she revs beautifully, with the Turbo being the icing on the cake. On a fast drive between the two she will easily return 38 – 40 mpg and I don’t hang around! Not world beating consumption but neither is it “thirsty” in my book especially for a car which is heavy but well built.

    Styling? Well, that’s down to personal taste. But some of the comments about being 15 years out of date are simply laughable and it still stands against modern offerings – Toyota Pious anyone? Personally I have always liked the sporty styling and I still enjoy never (or very occasionally) seeing another like it on the road.

    Inside? Perhaps some chrome might have brightened things up a bit but she shows no signs of wear though I admit I am usually the sole occupant. Space wise she can’t be beaten and the size of the boot is class leading. And as for the handbrake, don’t get me started on that old canard – nothing wrong with it and falls easily to hand and I’ve never, ever “caught my thumb” in it. Where are they putting their thumbs??

    My sole regret is that MG did not see fit to tune it more or drop in a bigger engine which would have made for an even more sporty version and more quickly acquire Classic status. I waited and waited but it never came. The chassis could easily deal with more power and we would have had a bit of a flyer. Hey, ho.

    So, that’s the long term report. Not much to report if truth were told! When I bought her I reckoned I could take it to 70k miles and then afford just to give it away. But she feels as though she’ll do rather more than this without real problems, so maybe she’ll be around for a while yet.

    How does she compare with the MG ZS? It’s a different type of car. The ZS was a bruiser whereas the MG6 is a fast cruiser. Despite having 40bhp less, I still feel that the ZS (with Stepspeed gearbox) would have given the MG6 a run for its money on a B-road but then again I went through 3 head gaskets with that one…

    Would I have another one? Quite probably. The new MG6 is on sale elsewhere in the world but why not in the UK?? True it has the smaller 1.5 litre turbo but it’s performance is more or less the same as the original. And it looks quite good too. Come on MG!

    I’m sure the MG knockers will have a field day with the above but all I can say is that this has been my honest experience of the car and it’s been a good one. You may be right, Keith.

    Jim Robertson

  2. I think it is more likely to drift into obscurity via the intermittent stage of being a Mini Cab before its eventual and unmarked extinction. Whilst interesting in many ways, it is like a Talbot Alpine, Horizon, Solara, just was not special and or popular enough, first time around, to motivate efforts to keep it alive in sustainable numbers to become a Classic.

  3. Not my idea of a classic, but then as there are probably classic clubs devoted to Hyundai Ponys and Fiat Argentos, I’m sure one or two will end up preserved!

  4. If this car ever gets a claim to “Classic” status, then there is something very wrong with the world.
    It wasn’t generally known about when it was new, it was never a known site on the roads and it was the first foray into the U.K. car market of a, previously unknown, Chinese car manufacturer, lurking under the badge of a recently defunct British manufacturer; a manufacturer who had already mostly been known for repeatedly “coming back from the dead” since the 1970’s.
    It probably has even less chance of becoming a Classic than the Tata / CityRover.

  5. Can’t see an MG6 becoming a classic unless it’s a touring car copy or one of the rare Magnettes. It was just too mediocre/never fully developed. Probably most will end up driven into the ground as taxis? Isn’t the diesel engine just a BMW clone?

    IMO the Nanjing MG TF’s might become collectable in the same way that MGRV8’s have become even though they couldn’t be shifted when new. I suspect that the current (non electric) MG ZS might become a classic as the first UK market MG that was truly competitive.

  6. It may well: some of even cherish our Maestros. Personally (and with a 75 owning wife and no aversion to the K6V), I would rather buy a City Rover were I to want to remember the death deaththrows of a much-loved marque every time I drove it. Now, a Talbot Horizon… (see above) that would be a different story.

  7. I’m old enough to remember many MG enthusiasts views of the MG 1100 in 1962/3 .’It wasn’t built at Abingdon’ was the cry. As for an ‘MG’ not even made in the UK, I don’t consider it worthy of any comment at all , sorry.

  8. Depends on your definition of classic doesn’t it? The term seems to be bandied about more freely these days and is applied to grey porridge like Marinas, Cortinas,Victors, and Hunters. None of these are classics in my view but I know many hold a different one. So what makes a classic? Does it have to simply old or rare, or exceptional in some way, or historically significant? I don’t know but I think I know one when I see one. And I’m afraid the MG6 isn’t, nor should it ever be.

  9. Is it a classic yet? Yes, if you want it to be. If you like your MG6 cherish it, polish it, look after it, spend money on it and love it long time. Screw those people who tell you it’s not worth your time. You don’t need the validation of others to enjoy your own car. I think they’re rubbish. Nice to drive rubbish, but still rubbish. That’s just my view. My Sterling is rubbish in the eyes of many, but I still get enjoyment from it.
    It’s an interesting footnote in BLARG history, and I hope a few it make it into preservation – I’m not under any illusions that it will be easy to own one long term, however.
    Worried about finding bits for them? I run a Peugeot 605, so know all about the fun of running a car nobody cares about or bought in the first place brings. It might mean it has some down time, and sometimes it might mean getting creative to keep it alive, but you’ll do what you have to do to keep a car you love on the road.

  10. I doubt there’ll be any left inthe UK by the time it becomes a classic. How many Matra Ranchos or Talbot Tagoras are out there now?

  11. The car simply lacks the charisma and cache to ever be a classic. It’s not a sports car, it’s not a GT…it is a people-hauler. There is nothing particularly remarkable about its appearance… and just having the MG designation doesn’t elevate it, as even a latter, rubber-bumpered MGB is not viewed with reverence by collectors. I say it with no glee, but an MG6 is no E Type or Austin-Healey 3000…full stop.

  12. As others have said, it all depends how you define ‘classic’. If a Horizon can be a classic, then I suppose an MG6 can. However, despite the assumed Britishness suggested by the MG badge, I see the 6 as nothing more than a dreary, derivative and sub-standard tin box (and yes I have driven one, so know what I’m talking about) so I find it hard to imagine why anyone would want to sink money into preserving one of these. Unlike the MG6, at least the Horizon was a credible car when it was new (COTY in ’79) But then each to their own….

  13. What defines a classic to many is nostalgia, a car that they remember fondly from the past that their parents used as the family car. Might explain why there’s an array of unexceptional cars out there that are cherished or even commanding decent prices. Cars are more than engineering, steel and prestige but of memories good or bad that take us back to joyous happier times

  14. Poeple laughed when an owners club was set up for Austin Allegros 30 years ago. Now, along with other Austins from the seventies, it’s a perfectly valid classic. Also the bigger engined versions with five speed transmissions probably make more sense as a daily driver than a 1950s Austin A30.
    Possibly the MG6 could become a classic, but unlike the Allegro, it sold in penny numbers and had a poor dealer network, so will be harder to look after in 20 years time.

    • I’m sorry but the Allegro is emphatically not a classic car. Its an old car which has a following among some people who like it or possibly own one as an ironic display of individuality. By the time production was nearing an end it may have been developed into a halfway decent car but no more than that. Think there are possibly owners’ clubs for Moskvich and Lada adherents but that doesn’t mean they are classics either.

      • A classic is very much a matter of opinion. Obviously an E Type Jaguar is one, but someone who loved their Vauxhall Viva and fancied a drive in one again, or even own one as a hobby, would be delighted to know there are hundreds of enthusiasts online and in an owners club. However, except as some kind of in joke, could never see the point of preserving an FSO.

  15. I quite liked the look of the MG6 and it’s a shame it didn’t succeed here in UK. It certainly has a rarity value but not sure if that makes it a future classic. However I think the Rover 75 is more of classic status.

    Similarly I like the Hyundai i40 and some other current Hyundai’s but don’t regard those as a future classic either

  16. I think almost every car made in the seventies and eighties now has an owners club. Even something as unloved as a Talbot Horizon falls into the Simca Talbot Owners Club, where the handful of owners meet up with people who are into everything Talbot. I still wonder, though, if there are clubs catering for owners of Fiat based SEATs, Skoda Favorits and SAO Penzas.

  17. Hilton D’s comment above has made me think about why exactly I like my Rover 75 Tourer so much. I agree with Ashley’s earlier comment that ‘What defines a classic to many is nostalgia’, as I think my interest in classic cars stems mainly from happy days spent with my grandfather in the seventies, dismantling and re-assembling various bits of his Singer Vogue. My Dad, though, was a Ford man, hauling the family around in a Ford Anglia 100E Deluxe for an amazing 16 years, before it finally gave way to a Mk1 Cortina.
    I took the Rover 75 out for a drive before writing this to see if I could cast any light on my reasons for enjoying it so much, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the overall ‘ambience’ of the car which does it for me. The dashboard (especially at night) is in my view a design masterpiece, which I never tire of looking at. The 1.8K series engine, despite its well-documented failings, is a delight to drive when ‘on song’, enhanced even further by the JATCO automatic gearbox, which still offers silky – smooth changes after 15 years and 63,000 miles. This is a car which showed the world that Britain was still capable of making the very best cars and it still carries that ‘ambience’ of brilliant design and quality, but perhaps with a hint of sadness that things didn’t work out in the way that the car deserved. Most importantly, it has a story to tell.
    Perhaps it’s how a car makes us feel that defines the extent to which it will become a classic. That means that almost any car could fit the bill for an individual. For me, it could be an Anglia 100E evoking memories of family holidays or an Austin 1300 reminding me of the car I learned to drive in. I haven’t driven an MG6, so am not really able to comment on that aspect, but I’m sure that there will be a lot of Rover 75s around for a very long time.

  18. The Rover 75 deserves to be a classic. This was the last full sized Rover and was a good car to drive whatever model you chose. That it has lasted far better than the 800 and SD1 proved Rover got the quality right and ownership is probably less fraught than if you took on a 1979 SD1. Then there are the sporting MG ZT models to consider.

  19. I have owned my 75 KV6 Tourer for nearly 15 years. It really is something special and definitely a classic. I read somewhere that Richard Woolley wanted to design a car that made the driver look back at their car as they walked away from it. When I read that, I realised that is exactly what I did! Every journey gives you a sense of occasion. There are many cars around that are equally as capable as the 75 but nothing that allows you to enjoy every journey you make and makes you smile every time you look at it.

  20. It’s not a classic it’s a horrible warning. It’ll drop dead very quickly and entirely unloved. Cars like the all-aggro, landcrab, landlobster, maxi were unusual – or were technologically advanced (the landcrab/landlobster ride as well as anything modern and at least in the landcrab stakes, would be very successful today with modern updates). This is just a rolling vomit-burp of a car. Too average in a field of averages to even succeed against those. Don’t I remember a year where they sold the total of 6?

    It’ll survive in marketing textbooks as the kobiashi maru of product placement and development long after they’ve hgf’d themselves to death.

    If it was an English King it’d be John Lackland without the political talent.

  21. Is there a danger of history repeating itself – diesel Maestros and Montegos when worth diddly squat were broken for their Perkins Prima engines – could worthless petrol MG6’s become a source of reliable K series-derived engines to keep other MG Rover classics going?

    • I reckon you could have a very valid point there, it’s a bit like all the Metros that were broken to provide A+ unleaded engines for classic Minis, also the later Itals that were cut up in the interests of Morris Minor owners foraging for engine, braking and suspension upgrades. Not to mention the Princesses that died donating their front brake calipers to Cortina and Capri enthusiasts.

  22. A Classic defined by the government must be 25 years old. That means we will have to wait a long time before the MG6 becomes one, and by then there wont be any fuel to run it!

    The term Classic is actually a personal opinion. I think a classic car needs to be at least 30 years old before it’s classed as a classic. How can those who say the Allegro is not a classic car? Yes it was dire when new, but how can an Austin 7 be any better? By their argument Classic should only be those greats from Ferrari or Porsche

    • To me there is a difference between an “old car and a “classic”.

      A classic car needs to have a some special meaning either in the way it moved automotive standatds forward ie Citroen DS, Jaguar XJ Ado16 or moved the market forward ie original Renault 5, Peugeot 205 and original Fiat Uno or they shaped the market ie Ford Capri and Cortina or most interesting of all, they damaged their manufacturer ie Lancia Beta and Allegro.

      The MG6 fails on all these, it was not special in anyway, did not change or shape the market and did not revive or kill it’s manufacturer.

    • The government doesn’t define a classic whatsoever. You used to get free tax at 25 years but that was halted in 1997 and remained so until recently when a 40 year-old exemption was brought in.

      This is just tax and doesn’t denote classic status – although I’m sure you could have fun arguing with the owners of 1979 and 1980 Minis that only the 1979 one is a ‘classic’.

  23. The Question to if a car is a classic is “Would we have missed it, if it had not happened”.

    For example, would we have missed the Mini had it not happened, yes as the evolution of the small including the Ado16 would have almost certainly been different.

    Would we miss the MG6, probably not, can’t think of anything of importance that would be different had it not happened.

    • That’s because it hasn’t happened yet, the forthcoming Chinese manufacturer dominance of the western car market. MG6 was the first step.

      • 50 years ago people laughed at the first Japanese imports, considering them vastly inferior to anything British and how no one who remembered the war would buy them but the first few buyers who did found them to be very reliable, excellent value for money and cheap to own. Then as the designs and driving abilities improved and people started to realise owning a Datsun wasn’t such a bad idea, the floodgates opened. I’m sure by the end of the next decade, Chinese cars, like Korean ones now, will become as respected as anything from Europe or Japan.

        • Yes indeed Glenn. My Dad’s first Jap car was a Mazda RX4 in 1973 after having previously owned Vauxhalls. The Mazda was a good looking car, well equipped and built well, compared to British offerings at the time. In time Chinese built cars will become more prevelant. I see quite a few MG3 & ZS crossovers now

          • I’ve noticed on some car spotting sites that Chinese Cars are becoming common in 2nd world markets, so I guess manufacturers are gradually building up experience before trying to get a foothold the first world in a big way.

            The Japanese & Korean brands similarly expanded a step at a time.

          • Well, I can remember that Chinese imports mostly consisted of shoddily made children’s toys and transistor radios that sounded awful and were built to a price( ie cheapest available). Now they’ve cornered the market in producing laptops, mobile phones, consumer electronics and clothes for Western companies and the quality is no different to when they were produced in the West, only considerably cheaper. I reckon in 10 years time SAIC will be as big a name as Ford.

  24. I have an MG6 and I hate it…… I have owned 2 Rover 75’s one of which I bought at two years old and an MG ZTT and the MG6 is not a patch on any of them, the engineering is nowhere near the quality of the Rovers, in fact it’s a modern day Montego……. it will be my last MG which is sad as my family and I have owned Rovers since the SD1 was new and my old man still has a low mileage 800 vitesse which was two years old when he bought it but no more MG for any of us, the total disinterest from MG UK, the crap dealer network and the crap car have finished it off for me.

  25. Yes, it does eventually deserve to be a classic. It’s a piece of MG history regardless of how good or bad a car it was.
    Even now it’s a rare car to be seen on our roads.

  26. All the comments above saying an E-type is a classic but an MGB isn’t, or classic cars have to be sporty or expensive, make me laugh. Why the need to be so prescriptive?

    Show me a bog-standard Metro and an E-type and I’d rather give the Metro a drive. I’d also get more looks and comments at petrol stations!

    There is no ‘official’ definition of classic. Some see it as pre-1960, some at 15/25/40 years-old, some anything which is interesting and no longer made. I’d side with the latter definition, which is still purposefully woolly.

    A MK1 Cavalier – once ubiquitous but now extremely rare and sought-after by some – is no doubt in my mind as much of a classic as a 40s Roller or 60s Jag. At a car show I’d go and look at that because that’s what a like. I’m sure everyone else does that too.

    What’s sad is I bet had the ‘6 been made in the UK many of its disparagers above would be crowing about its ‘bad luck’ and ‘pluckiness’ and how it bravely fought and failed at the hands of an apethetic, SUV- and German car-obsessed public.

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