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Statistics

How much? £18,995
Engine: 1796cc four-cyilnder turbo, 158bhp @ 5500rpm, 159lb ft @ 1750-4500rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 8.4sec 0-60mph, 120mph, 35.6mpg, 184g/km
How heavy / made of? 1495kg/steel
How big (length/width/height in mm)? 4651/2008/1472
Need to know

CAR's rating

Rated 4 out of 54

Handling

Rated 5 out of 55

Performance

Rated 3 out of 53

Usability

Rated 4 out of 54

Feelgood factor

Rated 3 out of 53

Readers' rating

Rated 3 out of 53

MG 6 1.8 Turbo (2011) CAR review

By Tim Pollard (photography by Mark Fagelson)

First Drives

16 March 2011 09:30

MG is back with the new 6 hatchback and saloon, a sort of Focus/Golf/Octavia rival with a sporting bent and prices to make you look twice. The MG 6 1.8 Turbo TSE reviewed by CAR costs £18,995, but you can have the same blown 1.8 in humbler S spec for £15,495.

Those are pre VAT increase prices and will be held for the launch period, claims MG. Expect prices to nudge up in the next few months, as they were set before showroom tax crept up from 17.5% to 20%.

So we'll buy the MG 6 because it's cheap and built in China?

Touché. The new MG is well priced with a strong spec (our TSE packs leather, 18in alloys, sat-nav and electric everything; all models have twin climate control, electric windows, alloys, tyre pressure sensors, four airbags), but we're here to find out if the MG 6 is good enough to warrant the Morris Garages badge.

This is an important moment: until now, nothing's changed since the Chinese picked up the bones of MG Rover after the tumultuous collapse in 2005. Sure, we've had the rebooted MG TF, but they've only sold a couple of hundred roadsters a year while the masterplan was cooked up. There's been much talk of the Chinese manufacturers assaulting the European market - and here's the first visible proof.

They're downplaying the launch, and initial launch aspirations are modest, but make no mistake: the launch of the MG 6 marks a watershed in China's automotive industry. MG is owned by SAIC, which builds 80% of the 6 at home before shipping over for final assembly in Longbridge, Birmingham, and China's biggest car maker has serious long-term ambitions for Europe.

The MG 6 is a harbinger of things to come?

Yep. That svelte style, which somehow manages a fine balance of Euro sensibility with just a few suggestions of eastern promise (those piercing headlamp details, a hint of Mazda 6 from the side), suggests that future MGs will possess style and competitive engineering.

The MG 6 is essentially a new car. The front sub-frame is related to that in the old Rover 75, since it means the same pick-up points can be used on the Longbridge line and in Shanghai; and the fusebox is an old Rover unit, too. The K-series engine has been hugely fettled by the Chinese, but this 1.8 is essentially an upgraded, turbocharged K. Everything else is new.

MG 6: the road test review bit

Once you've stopped ogling the outside (and you will, particularly in the burnt orange of our test car - see our full photoshoot in the May 2011 issue of CAR Magazine), you reach for a key and you're immediately disappointed. It's a cheap, shiny block that doesn't have the heft of rivals from the Ford or Volkswagen empires. Almost immediately, you spot other fit and finish problems: the leather you sit on looks more related to chemicals than cows; some of the cabin trim feels like it hasn't a full grain; and some of the switchgear, especially the steering wheel buttons, has a hopeless action. The trip computer was barely usable. MG claims this is a late pre-production model (don't they all? But we should allow this fledgling start-up some slack).

The MG 6 is an interesting half size, mimicking the Octavia's neither-Focus-nor-Mondeo segmentation. Like the Skoda, there is consequently oodles of space inside. You really can fit four big grown-ups in here and those rear seats are comfy. The boot is big at 498 litres, trumping the 350 litres in a Golf or Focus (385), though trailing the massive Czech's 585 litres.

MG 6 Turbo: that brings back some memories...

That badge does remind us of some well-known Maestros and Montegos, but we should manage your performance expectations here. The 6 isn't that fast. The raw figures say 120mph (limited to lower the insurance rating!) and 0-60mph in 8.4sec, but the truth is the 6 Turbo feels slower than that. This is quite a heavy car. You'll need to stir the gearlever to make good progress - a pleasurable affair since the change is positive of action if a touch long of throw.

We suspect faster versions will be in the pipeline (we know a V6 will fit under that bonnet), as well as cheaper ones to take the shine off the Octavia's £13k starting price. But this is a good launch product: the dynamics feel really well resolved. I had an MG ZT 190 and there is a similar feel to the MG 6 - hardly surprising since many of the same chassis engineers developed the front MacPherson struts and multilink rear end.

The ride is well judged: there's a Ford-like firm damping, with just enough pliancy to take the jag out of bumps, and body control is first rate. Traction is good too, with nary a flicker from the electronic aids. The steering is hardly alive with feel or laser turn-in, but it's just as responsive and precise as buyers in this class would expect.

One black mark on the MG 6 is a lack of diesel at launch; a new SAIC-built derv comes in 2012, when left-hand drive production is scheduled. Until then you'll have to put up with the 184g/km of CO2 produced by the 1.8 turbo.

Verdict

The MG 6 impressed us. Dynamically, it's a big success. This is good news. If it had missed the spot, and trampled over the MG heritage of making accessibly priced sporting cars, that would be hard to fix.

As it is, the only question marks remain over the poor fit and finish in certain isolated areas, in particular the operation of cabin switchgear. If you excuse these details and believe MG when it promises to fix most glitches before launch, the 6 feels well made, precise and of competitive quality in this class. We're inclined to believe them: the HVAC heating controls swivel and click with the best of them, so there's no reason to believe they can't fix the wonky controls.

On that basis, it's hard not to judge the new MG 6 a success. In many regards, it combines nearly the space of an Octavia, with a drive comparable to a Focus or Golf, at prices to make you think twice. With that badge behind it, the MG is surely in a stronger position than a new Chinese start-up. This initial effort suggests the reborn MG could be a dark horse.

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MG 6 1.8 Turbo (2011) CAR review

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MG5Sport

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MG5Sport says

RE: MG 6 1.8 Turbo (2011) CAR review

Here is a revised MG 6 plan

 

2011 Hatchback and sedan models launched

2012 1.9D, 6A

2013 1.9T, 2.5D, 2.5T

2014 Facelift, Wagon? 1.5D

2015 1.5T, 2.5

 

25 March 2011 15:56

 

MG5Sport

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MG5Sport says

RE: MG 6 1.8 Turbo (2011) CAR review

@jacomoseven

I know what I said sounds ambitious, but it makes sense if the MG5 is to be sold in the UK. I can see what you mean though about how the plan is too close to the old MGRover plan. What they should do instead is take the plan in steps. The MG 6 can compete with the Insignia, Mondeo, Passat, and Superb though.

From what it sounds like, the MG 6 has the value (Superb), is very fun to drive and well resolved on the road (Mondeo), has decent refinement (Insignia), but needs to get the overall quality of the interior and the car down (Passat). Fix that and the engines, and you have your new midsize dark horse competitor(MG6).

25 March 2011 15:52

 

jacomoseven

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jacomoseven says

RE: MG 6 1.8 Turbo (2011) CAR review

@MG5Sport,

 

Loving your enthusiasm! So, that's a brief to do list of:

Launch a new diesel model.

Engineer a new range of petrol engines.

Modify the platform to accept four-wheel-drive.

Pitch car heroically (suicidally) above its natural place in the food chain, into competition with cars that are more polished, higher quality, and supported by a sales and service network MG can only dream of.

 

Good luck with that, although aspects of your plan are worringly close to the old Rover Group / MG Rover in misplaced optimism (pity the poor Rover 600, a good car but not worth the premium demanded over its sister Honda Accord).

 

As for the model reviewed above, I wish neither it nor the Longbridge assembly operation any ill, but it comes unstuck at the "Would I put my own hard-earned into one?" test. The answer is no.

21 March 2011 19:25

 

MG5Sport

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MG5Sport says

RE: MG 6 1.8 Turbo (2011) CAR review

This is what MG needs, only thing is that MG/SAIC needs to get that diesel cranked out fast, because unlike America, Europe loves diesels. Only thing that MG needs to do is bring out new, larger displacement I-4s to replace the 1.8T and 1.8VVT because they are older and need to be retired. Here's my suggestion for the new MG 6,

MG 6/EDi/MRi/Xpower FWD/AWD SH

1.9,1.9D, 1.9T,

2.5, 2.5D, 2.5T

1.5D, 1.5T

Adding a 2.5 helps differ the MG5 from the MG6 because actually the MG6 is a Mondeo and Insignia competitor, while the MG5, which is due to be shown at Shanghai Auto Show 2011 is a compact.

Here's a link to find out info about the MG5 debut at Shanghai in April when the auto show starts..

www.insideline.com

 

21 March 2011 16:13

 

anthonyjenkins

anthonyjenkins says

RE: MG 6 1.8 Turbo (2011) CAR review

Perhaps I'm missing an incredible slab of sarcasm in this article, but I don't think there'll be any ogling of svelte designs going on with this instantly forgettable triumph of mediocre blandness. Who on earth wrote this review? And how many brown paper envelopes were shoved in their direction? If we're reduced to looking to the heft of a key as the first point of criticism of such an uninspiring lump then something is seriously amiss.

21 March 2011 15:07

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