First Drive : MG6 GT 1.9DTI SE

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

We’ve been waiting such a long time for this car and there’s a lot riding on it. The MG6 was launched amidst a sense of quiet optimism at Longbridge in May 2011 but, very quickly, it established itself as a slow-seller. Many people blamed the lack of marketing and publicity; and even more decried it  for the absence of a diesel. However, from December 2012, MG Motor UK will be taking orders for its new 1.9-litre DTi-Tech-engined ‘6 turbodiesel – will it finally see a turnaround in the car’s fortunes?

Considering one of the car industry’s best-known badges is nailed to it, the MG6 has singularly failed to capture the collective imagination of the British car buying public. Since it went on sale in early 2011, fewer than 1000 have been sold in what is considered its ‘home’ market but MG is hoping that this is about to change now that a new diesel engine joins the line-up alongside the 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol version.

The good-looking MG6 is roomy and has excellent dynamics – and, as long as you don’t choose one of the top-of-the-range models or the Magnette saloon (only available in TSE form and costing £22,000), it’s also good value for money compared with its more established price rivals. Unfortunately, with an engine range of  one – the 158bhp 1.8-litre turbocharged TCi-Tech – and in a market sector where diesel is king, this is clearly a major handicap.

The arrival of the new diesel version therefore comes not a moment too soon. The all-aluminium twin-cam 16-valve oil-burner is the result of a joint venture between Kunming-Yunnei and SAIC Motor and it has been extensively developed by the Engineers at the Longbridge-based SAIC Motor UK Technical Centre who have worked hard to optimise the new engine for the MG6.

The MG6 DTi-Tech will be assembled in the UK in Longbridge from kits imported from China and, as before, the car was originally designed in the UK and has been significantly reworked over its Chinese counterpart to be suited to Europe’s demanding car buyers.

The MG6 is an interesting package and very much a segment-spanning car. In terms of price, it’s clearly a C-segment (Focus/Golf) alternative but, with its generous length and interior room (especially in the rear), MG clearly believes that it actually belongs in the class above. The two cars the company sees as its closest rivals are the Skoda Octavia and Vauxhall Insignia. Significantly, both of those offer a much wider choice of engines than MG’s two…

The interior quality has taken a step-up since the petrol-engined car was launched, showing that the MG6 is still a work-in-progress. Former nastiness, such as low-grade steering wheel and gearknob have been replaced with new items and, overall, there’s now an air of solidity within the cabin that wasn’t there before. In the SE model (£18,195) we tested, equipment levels are generous – you get integrated sat-nav and multi-media in-car entertainment, rain sensing wipers, speed limit warning system, cruise control and parking radar. Standard-fit 17-inch alloys also look smart.

The driving and pedal positioning are also excellent, but that is tempered by poor rearward visibility and an intrusive A-pillar. The cabin ambiance remains dour, thanks to dark trim, while the ignition ‘key’ is still needlessly lightweight and the handbrake is awkward. Overall, though, it’s not a bad effort and not really deficient in any area –  the interior is easily the MG6’s weakest feature.

On the road, the MG6 is transformed. Although the petrol option remains available, we can’t see many people taking it now. The 148bhp engine delivers a useful slug of torque – 258lb ft – and this is absolutely necessary to pull what is a very hefty car, weighing-in at between 1595-1605kg depending on the model. Trickling through the city, all the controls feel well-weighted and progressive and smooth driving comes naturally (unlike the petrol car) – stop-start is a welcome addition; a system that benefits from the MG6’s new regenerative braking system.

However, you are seldom aware of the MG6’s great weight – it accelerates well (0-60mph takes 8.9 seconds, maximum speed is 120mph) and pulls smoothly between 1500 and 4000rpm. The new six-speed gearbox carries a super-tall top ratio (at an indicated 70mph it’s pulling 1800rpm), but the intermediates are well-judged and rarely will you fall outside of the power band.

Refinement levels are okay – the engine note is slightly course, but never intrusive, and it’s at no real disadvantage compared with its diesel opposition, even if it’s never exceptional. As before, wind noise levels are okay, and tyre noise is well contained. But the MG6 does track well on the motorway and the damping is spot on for high speed driving. It’s here that you’d assume the most development work has been done.

That said, get the MG6 on to an empty A- or B-road, and it’s a genuinely engaging handler – with crisp steering turn-in and almost no body-roll. The ride is firm, but well-damped, too – and rarely will a challenging road upset it. What stops the MG6 DTi earning a top rating for its dynamics are the brakes – although it has bigger discs and the initial bite inspires confidence, it lacks ultimate feel and that nibbles away at a driver’s confidence.

The new electro-hydraulic steering is well-weighted and the gearing is perfect but, disappointingly, it doesn’t quite communicate road surfaces with the same clarity as the old hydraulic set-up.

The MG6 GT 1.9DTi SE is, then, a good car – one with a character that we can’t help but like. It’s also a great effort from MG (effectively a car company that’s been around something less than 10 years) and certainly feels like a far more convincing all-rounder than the petrol-engined version. Whereas in the original ‘6, you’d find yourself making allowances – be it for the ageing engine or some of the low-rent Chinese componentry – this car feels much more together and harmonious and, although it’s not at the cutting-edge, it is there or thereabouts in most departments.

MG doesn’t have huge sales ambitions for this car, looking at between 1500-2500 sales per year, which, following on from the disappointing sales so far, is probably a realistic goal. It’s targeting business users and fleets, promising low servicing costs, favourable taxation (BIK rather than a headline-grabbing low tax band – which at 139g/km is disappointing) and cheap insurance. The company predicts that 75 per cent of its sales will go to business users and promises that there will be more marketing for the car, which far too few people actually know about at the moment.

Overall, the diesel-engined MG6 is a good effort and, if you go for an entry level ‘S’ model at £16,995, you’ll end up buying a likeable, good value, fun-to-drive, roomy family hold-all, with plenty of pace and a real-world potential of 45mpg all day long. It also has the important stuff, such as the safety kit, air conditioning, all-round electric windows and alloy wheels. Wonder when we’ll start seeing more of them on the road? If there’s any justice, very soon.

Keith Adams

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

68 Comments

  1. bout time, fingers crossed it sells like hot cakes now.
    wonder what hater of anything remotely british CLARKSON will make of it. if he says its rubbish the uneducated will believe him and that will be the kiss of death…

  2. Trouble is the interior is a key factor in showroom appeal.

    It’s a shame they couldn’t have used an existing proven European diesel engine, eg VW, Fiat, GM, Peugeot, to help get them established (also to speed introduction and help local/EU content) rather than use an unknown manufacturer for a key component in a brand that has history of unreliability in that area (K series engine – whether fair or not).

    Also disappointed that they have not fixed the key and handbrake lever yet.

    There’s a good review of the MG6 petrol on Youtube by Channel 5 5th Gear Web TV, pointing out how all the switches feel different – reminds me of the old Fiat Stilo advert. I wish the new MG6 version well but can’t help feeling that development of the original 6 was rushed at the end, possibly due to insufficient resources?

  3. About bloody time! I still think their sales figures are over optimistic. 1500 units perhaps maximum, and note to the windowlickers in the MG PR dept, GET IT BLOODY ADVERTISED YOU HALFWITS!

  4. @3,Its euro 5 compliant i take it? If so one of the prerequisites is not to leak oil larger than a 20p piece over 100k miles or thereabouts, i doubt it has just been banged out of a factory without development testing,it may be a gem.

  5. I notice they expect 75% of sales to be to fleets, which Is what I said was the target market for this car, but was shouted down by several people, and as the Mundano is being very problematic with injectors failing and that bloody dual mass flywheel being a PITA too, there is a chance that this car will snaffle up some of those sales. It will be interesting to see a head to head test between this, and the daftly named Skoda Rapid

  6. Good effort and definately a potential car for me in 2-3 years time. Now they have delivered on the basic package it needs DSG style ‘box and sub 120gm co2 version PDQ. All it now needs is for MG UK to market the bloody thing properly and get it into awards like next years Tow Car of the year. Well done MG UK staff and lets hope it is a dark horse success next year.

  7. Are we to assume a lower powered version is to follow with increased mpg and lower Co2, MG have claimed a 118g/km version is possible, albeit with less power.

  8. Ezee

    You come to a halt, slip it into neutral and the engine stops. When you’re ready to go, dip the clutch and it just fires up. As long as the engine is warmed up, the ambient temperature is not too cold and you’re not loading the alternator it’s an automatic process. It’s pretty standard stuff these days.

  9. Looks like it’ll take the fight to the Skoda Octavia (the car that it most resembles). Seems very workmanlike and worthy to me- now they need to make the damn thing an attractive proposition to buyers- there are no shortage of similarly talented cars out there. It doesn’t have, say, the ‘I want one NOW!’ kind of appeal that the Focus Mk1 had upon launch but such cars come along maybe once a decade or less. MG Motors are nonetheless to be commended for producing what looks to be a very good effort indeed- especially as this is their first crack at it.

    What this car needs now is an estate variant, a couple more power variations and DSG and they’ll be there. It wouldn’t hurt if they made some fleet sales to the Boys in Blue, as that always has a halo effect- and most Police forces keep their cars in virtually immaculate condition. Most cars look good with a reflective red stripe or blue and yellow battenburg.

    Maybe I’ll even get to see my first MG6 on the road one day.

  10. @13 – Ah, when you said regenerative braking, I had a type of Volvo iDrive system in my head… ie, the car (or bus, even) shuts down but a supercapacitor allows the vehicle to move forward a short distance before the engine cuts in. Having said that there is no robotic gearbox option (yet), and this is SAIC after all… One step at a time.

    One question though, does the starter double up as an alternator?

  11. @14. Those would need to special order. The Police never modify their cars, apart from the alternator and the obvious electrical equipment, and I reckon the 120mph limiter would hamper progress.

    If anyone remembers the Montego Si which was just an O-Series Montego souped up to MG performance. This was initially a special order for a police fleet.

    Perhaps if they sell de-restricted MG6 to the police, they’ll end up releasing them to the public.

    One other pondering thought… Given that this is a diesel and most likely steel/iron block, I wonder how much punishment this might take as a performance petrol unit? It worked in reverse for the O-series I guess, and I’ve seen performance figures of up to 950hp from one of those…

  12. A 1.8 Petrol turbo in both hatch and saloon variants…

    And now a diesel that matches most of the obvious competition head on. Forget about the doubtful re-sale values, it’s seemingly superb value. It’s now up to you MGMUK to make this car visible and put it into the public eye.

    Only the PR and marketing will doom this motor – Come on MG… take your second bite of the proverbial cherry!

  13. eezee, if you read the article you will see it is an all aluminium block/head. Otherwise I can’t think of many Chinese cars having estate variants, unfortunately not something they seem to go for. they didn’t bother with any ZT/75 estate production so suspect it will be a while before we see estate variants, probably next gen cars which will no doubt be based on the Astra platform…… Still, good effort and hope it bodes well for the MG3!

    • Yes – it’s launched in China today. That’s why they wanted to keep a lid on the release date for first drives. In the end, they appeared in the weekly print mags yesterday, and started appearing on websites yesterday afternoon/evening.

  14. It’s a shame that it will have DPF / DMF etc.

    I still think the petrol could be the smarter buy for the low mileage private individual.

    Does anyone know what injection system it is using?

    Is it bosch, siemens, delphi??

    Presumably it is common rail?

    Hopefully bosch.

    Still would never buy a modern diesel though.

    Final point for rover anoraks. anybody recognise the underbonnet fusebox and A/C pipework?

    Straight from the 75 line!

  15. How many UK suppliers benefit from this car? My guess is none, it will have far less UK content than cars considered foreign, like a Nisian qashqai. I hate to be cynical about MG, a few devlopment jobs and jobs screwing together kits are nice.

    However it isn’t going to do much for the British economy. Even those well known destroyers of industry, the 80s Tories, were sensible enough to insist that the new Japanese plants used local suppliers. Of course we had proper trade tarifs back then, a bit like China, instead of faith in all this open markers rubbish.

  16. People have been saying for ages they need a diesel, it’s finally here and still they moan! Are modern diesels generally that unreliable? There are far more diesel-powered cars on the road than 20 years ago so you would expect there to be more instances of faults (in the same way that there are a lot of complaints about Fords, but there are a lot of them running around).

  17. Well, hopefully, if this starts to sell they might start building more bits for them here.

    It now looks a more interesting proposition. Shame that the figures sound a bit poor against the opposition – 45 mpg does not sound great – my six year old D5 2.4 S60 does 43 mpg!

  18. Let’s see what a test brings in terms of real world mpg. Hopefully, Autocar or Diesel car mag will have a full test soon. Will be interesting to find out whose injection system they use and can anyone say exactly what work is done in the UK in terms of assembly line/supplier input? I like it because it is different. Whilst I like my Audis it is not the same as when I bought my first ’80’ in 1982 when Audi were thin on the ground. So something British (cough) and not run of the mill appeals.

  19. “It’s also a great effort from MG (effectively a car company that’s been around something less than 10 years)”

    According to my research MG has been going since 1924.

  20. At £16,995 it is up against the diesel Skoda Rapid, which while it is an extended Fabia, has similar space to the Octavia.

  21. @26

    Diesel had it’s high water mark in the mid to late 90’s

    Cars like the 306 D Turbo (with the XUD), the TDDI focus, the 75 with the bosch common rail system, the fast mercedes sprinter vans, the landrover 200 and 300 tdi and the old trnsit 2.5di banana engine.

    These were cars that went well, sipped fuel (for their size, weight and lack of aerodynamics) and seemed to go on forever and ever with minimal expense to put problems right.

    The next generation of cars with complicated electronics, DPF, DMF, Common Rail injection (with electronic piezo injection) and ATTROCIOUSLY CHEAP seat fabrics put paid to that.

    Now, a japanese petrol car is about your best bet for an affordable car. Problem is, most are devoid of any character and cost a fortune for parts when you do need them.

  22. @19 I’m sure I read a book called Post War Austins that mentioned that it was sold to the Police first before going on general sale…

  23. At last, the diesel everyone craves – except me perhaps. But I wish it well and the performance figures sound good enough for todays congested roads. Regards the stubby handbrake lever – it looks similar to that fitted to the current Focus’s

  24. If you ask me the only problem is those chinese looking rear lamps.I am sure people can live with a cheap interior what did people do before soft touch dashes. Great effort MG.Can’t wait to see new ad,Hmm maybe “ABOVE ALL IT AN MG” [only joking]

  25. There are some negative blighters on here today! and @24 Bartelbe, how many suppliers are benefitted from the Coprsa, Fiesta, 3 Series, PUG’s etc. I see no relevence to the argument. Yes the CashCow is made in the UK, and has a fair number of UK suppliers, but to me, it’s awful and I wouldn’t be seen dead in one – don’t get me wrong, I’d love the 6 to have more UK input but then I’d love it to be affordable too so sometimes that means chinese parts (like 90% of everything sold I guess) and UK engineering. I wouldn’t choose a car solely on where it was made, and judging by the sales figures, no-one else does either…

  26. Hi mike (36) I know about it but what happens if something goes wrong or needs a service I would have to travel over 150 mile round trip.

  27. @42,you can have it serviced at any VAT registered garage anywhere even aftermarket filters fitted (when available)if something goes wrong then nearest dealer,wouldnt put me off though.

  28. @24, you have a point. If we had trade tariffs like the Chinese ones, then this car would need to be built as a joint venture with a local company (however less well developed they might be) with substantial local content and the transfer of useful technologies.

    Still, at least there’s no pretence that this is anything other than a Chinese engine from Kunming-Yunnei and SAIC Motor. Here’s hoping that it doesn’t create any dent in the sales of the diesels being built by Ford at Dagenham and the 3,000 proper manufacturing jobs that that venture still supports.

  29. @8 – If there is some sort of a problem with the Mondeo (and this post is all I’ve heard of it) then I suspect sales will be snaffled by Insignias and Passats long before this thing gets so much as a sniff. In fact thats already happened (though probably not becuase of some spurious injector fault) Mondeo sales are down sharply against Insignia/Passat and indeed 3 series and C Class.

  30. The Mondeo is striclyspeaking a good car,i have yetto see any injector failures on the Ford/PSA DW16 engines,perhaps the odd “chuffing”injector due to fire seal failure-rare.Clutches are of course wear and tear items and i always replace the DMF regardless because there is no way on this earth im having a customer come back 6,12 or 18 months down the line with his/her guarantee saying the clutch/flywheel is acting the goat and me having to take a pill on it,AND having to drop the subframe down again etc etc,Rover 75 clutches are a piece of cake compared to these.

  31. Keith, I missed that (need new glasses 🙂 ) however with a loosened up engine (10k +) I would expect that to improve so hopefully 50+ mpg is attainable without hypermiling. As for the British made argument just ask people where they think their Corsa/fiesta etc is built! Most car buyers haven’t got a clue and simply don’t care where their car is made (they will probably say in the UK because they are clueless) as long as it does the job they want it to do. Car enthusiasts on sites like this generally forget 90% of car drivers are not remotely enthusiastic about cars so do not buy with the same approach we might take.

  32. I think if this car is marketed aggressively to the fleets, with big discounts, then the MG6 diesel could do well. Also if reliability is proven to be good and used prices are low, I reckon the taxi drivers will be interested in ex fleet cars. Locally diesel Skodas have a near monopoly in private hire as they are reliable and capable of high mileages, but if the MG6 has all these attributes and a lower price, then I hope to see a few MG6s on the rank.

  33. With any diesel if it’s run on cheap rubbish diesel it will struggle to return manufactures figures anyway. I suspect a lower powered ‘Eco’ version might crack 60mpg but the MG6 is a heavy car so without some serious weight cutting and aero improvements it’s always going to struggle against the opposition. My main hope is that the engine has been over engineered, it has been the subject on AR Online about modern diesels and the fragility of many designs, fingers crossed this is a tough lump.

  34. The weight does count against it in many respects but also helps make it a good tow car. One of the problems for caravanners is with car weights now heading south it will make it difficult to find good two cars without going 4×4. Am I correct in recalling the chassis and some of the running gear is basically a cut down 75 platform? If so probably accounts for the above class weight.

  35. I’m not too sure if the 75 was a very heavy car to begin with,but dont quote me,what it did have was strengh of bodyshell BMW could only dream of at the time,and lets face it, 75 or ZT a very fine chassis.

  36. Totally, I had both a ZT-T and 75 Tourer so know well the fine handling/ride/roadholding balance such that Audi could do worse than employ some former MGR chassis engineers to sort their cars for UK roads. I like Audi’s having had plenty (and presently drive an A2) but they are not at their best on UK roads.

  37. I had a ZS 180 and could not believe how well it handled-far better than an Impreza which i benchmark it against for some reason,they had some talent in the chassis Dept. at Rover!

  38. 1600kg !!!! – Just think how much sportier it could be if they lost some lard (and of course improved economy) – thats nearly as heavy as my 2004 volvo V70 at 1600kg.

  39. The chinese do not have access to high quality composite materials or modern metal technology.

    Spot welds and pig iron are the order of the day. Hence the weight

  40. @ 57 But they have a space programme?how do you come to those findings? China being a country full of precious materials and rare earths.

  41. I certainly don’t have much faith in the new MG cars or the company. I purchased a brand new MGTF (12) plate in the spring. On driving it home it had a petrol leak, the passenger door mirror nearly fell off, the chrome read plates did fall off when I got home, the dashboard is warped and plastic trim behind the rear view mirror is sagging revealing wiring. Both front headlights were blown and I found masking tape with overspray on underneath the back of the car. It sat outside for a week (as it was leaking fuel when driven) waiting to be picked up, it came back with a dent on the front wing (they tried to cover it up) with just the headlights and fuel leak repaired. The quality of materials in this car are appalling, customer care has been disgusting even from MG UK themselves. It had to go back to a local dealer as there was now a clunk from underneath when reversing, the dealer didn’t fix the problem instead they trashed the car with greasy footprints all over my carpet and all my interior contents thrown all over the floor and they damaged the interior plastic on the interior of the passenger door. I gave MGUK a chance….will you?

  42. Oh, MG, it’s very fast. Skoda and others, it has heart and heritage. You are not connected to a Rover 75, one of the finest at the end of the millennium. This might be the world’s most perfect car. You need it now.

  43. @Alan Mitchell – please shut up unless you know what you are talking about. The car uses an automotive grade HSLA steel and uses industry standard techniques for chassis fastenings and fixings and body coating. – It’s no different to how Nissan, Ford, or VW construct their cars.. JLR and Audi are perhaps the only guys that might use a completely different technique for their volume production models… ie ally bodies etc..

  44. Diesel. Its what a lot of people wanted, now you have got one available, what else is wrong, shame its not perfection but its a volume car….

  45. I have seen a 12 plate TF.

    Just found out a friend of mine lives next door to an MG UK engineer who runs a 6 compamy car. Could well account for the fact I seem to the only person who seems them pretty often! He must bring home various models from work and only lives arounf the corner from me!

    Just read the Autocar review too which was very positive

  46. An encouraging report – Good to see that the diesel 6 will finally be available from next month and great to read a positive report on the car itself. Also encouraged to hear of improvements on the already sound petrol version.

    As before, howver, the car itself is not the barrier to sales. The zero publicity is the key reason for low sales. The small dealer network won’t help either but surely this would grow on the back of rising sales. The 6 will never sell if people simply don’t know it exists. I’m fairly certain that if I stopped several hundred people in the street not one would know of the MG6 or of MG UK.

  47. I have a 61 plate TF and it is absolutely fantastic. Well made and has had only only one little problem with the airbag warning light (fixed in 5 minutes by the dealer Apple MG.)The car is well made and has been totally reliable. My “bullet proof” Golf has gone back to the dealer with various electricial problems and they still cannot fix one problem. I am really glad that the diesel MG6 has now come to fruition and I can only wish it well in the sales stakes. I wish that I could have one.

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