On a personal level, I’ve had a fair bit of experience with the MG6 over the years. Not only have I driven a few of them, I have even undertaken two first services on a brace of 1.8 petrol models and so gained something of a feeling for the model – both inside and out. However, there are mixed emotions as I type this out – again, I yearned for a great car to come alive once handed the (rather light and flimsy-feeling) key only to be left feeling a tad disappointed.
Gone is the Magnette saloon which I thought looked rather smart suited and gone is the 1.8 turbo petrol – which was a decent re-working of our old friend the K-Series. So we now have just one shape with one diesel engine in manual six-speed form only. The car I have driven for a week is the top of the range TL and, to be fair, comes decently appointed for the asking price. Dual-zone climate, cruise, leather and heated seats and a vastly improved touch screen infotainment unit all come as standard toys, so as far as knobs and buttons matter few should feel short changed – the TL is £17,995.
Styling wise, the 6 benefits from new bumpers and lamps both front and rear. DRL units occupy the space where the fog lamps used to live while the rear clusters are a new design which looks much better in terms of both appearance and quality to the outgoing model. Oddly enough, for a five-door hatch, there is no rear wash wipe and it’s not ideal in heavy rain – I found this out during a heavy downpour on the M23 at night. Other visual changes include a switch to smaller 16in alloys with higher profile tyres which I feel robs the stance of the car and takes away the sporting accent this model claims to have.
Smaller wheels means lower rolling resistance = better Co2 and better economy so I suppose it’s all in the quest to be greener – MG have brought the emission figure down and claim better fuel economy. I posted 46mpg as an average which seems a bit, well, average but not considering the majority of my mileage in the car was a daily commute to Gatwick and some zesty back road driving – the latter being a place where the 6 really does excel just for the record. Sadly though, and in my own humble (ahem sniff) opinion, this re-style dilutes the sporty nature that the brand suggests.
On the inside, the hilariously poor handbrake lever of old has given way to an electronic item and also in the same zone the ashtray has been repositioned further forward. The plastic trim around the handbrake has a pleasant-looking grain effect to it and both the ashtray and cup holder cover work with a defined push, opening with a damped action and giving the driver a subconscious feeling of added quality. The infotainment system is also drastically bettered upon and now works by a touch screen featuring a very easy to use satnav with decent screen graphics.
The radio controls remain the same which contains a little flap for a USB connection though I found the access difficult with my clumsy sausage fingers – thank God for Biros. Streaming your music through the audio is hassle-free and easy to do once paired to a smartphone and I also found the speakers to be of agreeable quality to my ears. General build quality is a leap ahead of the old 6 and the rotary select button above the wireless seems to be more robust than before and less likely to snap or pull off with a hard wiggle but some other plastics on the facia are still way behind most rivals.
Instruments feature analogue dials with LEDs for fuel and coolant status. One thing I didn’t like was the tiny numbers and graphics on the central binnacle display area – they really are teeny-weenie and the font looks like something akin to a 1980s hand-held game console. Another odd thing is the sloping gap of the instrument cluster to the main facia moulding – it’s not a build issue, it’s actually been moulded that way and looks a bit weird to the eye. There was no problem with comfort, though, as the leather chairs, although seeming initially over-soft, support well and feature lumbar, electric and heated functions.
Head and leg room are absolutely fine but, if like me you sit high over the wheel, the rim obscures the top sections of the tacho and speedo. Getting settled into the 6 presents no worries, the doors open and close with a reassuring clunk, the climate system works well (albeit a little noisily) and the actual driving position is very good. However, the footrest seems too wide and I found my clutch foot catching the side of the rest in urban driving. You’ll find no issues with the gearbox either as the change quality impresses and the lever itself is a new type that looks better than it used to – the quality of the moulding could be improved upon, though.
Firing up the engine brings a little more than average noise and I noticed a fair bit of NVH through the steering wheel and pedal at some low and high speed revs. The 6 pulls well and cruises with serenity at the legal maximum on a good road surface and benefits from having a really strong belt of torque from around 1300rpm. Overtaking on back lanes and single A roads is rapid but it gets very loud in the cabin as you throw the needle round the rev counter. The smaller wheels and larger profile tyres seem to have done no harm to the chassis or its manners – just as the old model was known for, it’s still able and nimble on its toes.
Fast driving is good fun thanks to the aforementioned chassis and good strong brakes as it tucks in and powers out of bends with a nice level of accuracy via the thick rimmed steering wheel. Mid-bend bumps don’t really scare the 6 and, although potholes and ruts bring in a noticeable level of noise from the suspension, the ride overall is impressive regardless of solo driving or with a full compliment of occupants. On paper the MG6 seems to tick most of the boxes for most people’s motoring needs but does it really stack up tall in the most aggressive of market sectors?
I have to brutally honest here and, with a very heavy heart, I have to say, no. The test car came with a lovely application of gloss white paint but peer under the bonnet towards the back of the inner wings and the quality is really quite, well, rubbish, really. Gaffer tape is used where rubber grommets should be and loads of rough overspray made it look like a crash repair – it really was that messy. There was also more gaffer tape on the bottom edge of the front doors only here it was already peeling back – all this on a car with 1600 miles on it.
Exposed threads poking from the bulkhead spoil what is an impressive engine installation and the boot required a really hard slam to close properly – a problem ‘er indoors had until I adjusted the rubber pegs on the tailgate. High-speed driving found the front wheels to be out of balance and the icing on the quality cake came in the form of the cruise control showing a fault – twice – with the only way of clearing it being to pull over, switch off and re-start. All this on a car that’s barely a few weeks old and with minuscule mileage on the clock too – nor was it being used and abused… It was also noted that it’s quite easy to stall – something several people found with the Magnette diesel I sampled last year.
Sadly, this has been my gripe with MG for a long time – it’s the whole quality thing that lets it down. In some areas the car really brings a smile to your face but in others it makes me grit my teeth with pent-up rage. The leather on the seats smells nothing like leather, the lower dash plastic feels bone hard and scratchy while the whole under-bonnet paint finish and the aforementioned gaffer tape thing makes the overall package feel so out of touch with what is really expected in the current market place regardless of the re-aligned pricing.
I think MG would have done better by keeping the pricing the same but spending much more sorting out the little things that matter. After all, it’s those little things that add up when it comes to committing to buy – in the case of the 6, the detail is the devil. It’s a bit of a shame really because, under the skin, there is a great car with a great chassis screaming to get out. Sort out the NVH, give it a decent dash, tighten up the build quality here and there and then MG might just pick off some extra sales and give a much-needed boost to the public’s perception of the brand – in engineering terms, it really wouldn’t blow the bank or require a Herculean effort to make the MG6 a sorted and viable option.
Sitting alongside the actually quite good MG3, the new MG6 still seems a decade behind and way below class standards. With a twinge of sadness and based on my present and previous experiences, I’m hard-pushed to recommend it as a new car purchase at the moment – in short, if you are not desperate for a brand-new car and are prepared to look at something around a year old, there are currently better choices out there for similar money.
I’m sure the Rover-tinted spectacle brigade will accuse me of MG bashing but, believe me, that’s really not the case – if, like me, you have a keen eye for engineering and quality, you will understand why I have to tell it as it is and you will find the lack of top-to-bottom attention to detail below expectations. Come on MG Motor UK, let’s get a grip as this is letting the brand and the Longbridge workers down quite badly.
To conclude, I will quote Mr Roy (Catchphrase) Walker by saying, “it’s good, but it’s not right.”