First Drive: MG6

2011 MG6There’s little room for sentimentality in the motoring business. Your average car buyer may get all misty-eyed when recalling their first four-wheeled ticket to freedom, but snap back to reality and there are few people willing to spend their hard-earned on a nostalgia trip.

It is this harsh reality that faces the MG6, the first offering from the rejuvenated MG Motor Company that is back selling new cars in the UK. The previous few years have seen the development of the business and its facilities alongside limited production of the MG TF. But now it is back with a brand-new product and a production line in the UK, albeit for completion in Birmingham rather than starting from scratch.

The MG6 is a mid-sized hatch that sits between the traditional C and D segments – think Ford Focus and Mondeo – handily priced near the former but with space approaching the latter. It’s a good summation of MG’s approach for its new beginning: paying homage to driving enjoyment like its cars of old but underlined with value.

It’s certainly an attractive car on first meeting. There’s very little in the way of harking back to the past: this is a modern exterior design, and stands up well to rivals that have the benefit of vast resources. Look closely and you can see the barrel-sided effect last seen on the Rover 75 which helps the strong stance, and although it is less pretty from the rear MG have done a fine job of creating a modern interpretation of the brand.

Climb inside and there is an immediate feeling of space. With a crucial extra few centimetres over the standard C-segment template the MG6 offers a little bit more, although this is somewhat tempered by the choice of dark colours for the cabin finishes.

The dashboard layout is broadly conventional with clear instruments and a centre stack carrying all the major controls. Premium-seeking customers may be a little disappointed: the MG6’s cabin plastics are a little mixed and a shade behind Korean rivals although the actually build quality appears very sound. Equipment levels are certainly above standard however, with the top-spec TSE models getting satellite navigation, climate control, Bluetooth and a reversing camera as standard. Even the entry-level S model is well kitted-out, giving the MG6 a large dose of showroom appeal.

2011 MG6At launch the engine range is limited to a 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol unit producing 158bhp, and while some will be searching in vain for a diesel option from the start, the petrol does have a lot going for it. Regardless of model the 1.8-litre unit is matched to a five-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels, and in keeping with the sporting edge to the MG brand it gives the MG6 a strong turn of speed. With a 0-62mph sprint time of 8.4 seconds it is comfortably rapid if not hot-hatch quick, but on a suitable stretch of road it has more than enough power to make the journey interesting. Driven in a more sedate fashion it is respectably refined, but when stretched to deliver maximum performance noise levels do increase.

That will be of little relevance however when the first bend looms in the windscreen, because the MG6 is certainly worthy of its well-known badge thanks to the responsive and able steering and suspension. Initially the steering is surprisingly heavy, but after a few miles it becomes clear this is merely a reflection of the accuracy and consistency it offers. Even when driving in town or in traffic, well-weighted controls are less taxing for the driver. And when the conditions are just right, the MG6 is thrives on challenging bends and demanding conditions.

Stack the MG’s overall performance against its rivals and the results are something of a mixed bag. On paper the top speed and acceleration are par for the course: by limiting the MG6 to 120mph its insurance grouping is significantly lower, contributing to the impressive overall figure of 14E. The fuel consumption is a fraction below average while the emissions are a relatively high 184g/km, although both of these will be significantly improved with the diesel engine to follow.

More important however is the fact that the MG6 is spacious, fun to drive and well-specified. With prices starting at £15,495 for the impressive S model it stands fair comparison with other high-value brands that can’t offer such a good driving experience. For that reason alone, the MG6 is worthy of careful consideration.

FACTS AT A GLANCE
MG6 1.8 TCI-Tech TSE, £18,995
Engine: 1.8-litre petrol unit producing 158bhp and 159lb.ft of torque
Transmission: Five-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels
Performance: Top speed 120mph (limited), 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds
Economy: 35.6mpg
Emissions: 184g/km

By Matt Joy

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