I have no doubt that when the beloved British marque of Morris Garages was bought by the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation, the hearts of many MG owners’ club members were literally shattered. I mean really, what is the world coming to?
You see despite the fact that China dominates world trade, and more recently own half of the European Union, when it comes to vehicle manufacture they’re widely regarded as producer’s of cheap tat.
Well, after a week behind the wheel of the new MG ‘6’ I’m happy to report that the world isn’t coming to an end now that the Chinese own everything. This 1.8 litre turbo charged C segment fastback is affordable, well built, spacious, adequately equipped, fun to drive, not terrible to look at and in fact shoves its finger in the eye of more established brands.
From the outside the ‘6’ appears to take design cues from the old Renault Laguna and Mazda 6 – culminating in a sort of Euro-Asian fusion that works rather well. While I’m not a fan of the squint looking headlights and high waist line, the swooping roof reveals a sporting nature that becomes the MG badge.
The ‘6’ has managed a neat trick of being priced to compete with the likes of Ford’s Focus, however is a fair bit bigger than cars in that segment. You really can fit four big grown-ups in there and the rear seats are quite comfy. The boot is also big, being close to a quarter bigger than some of its price rivals.
Climb inside the cabin and in place of the usual hard scratchy plastics one would normally expect from China, you’ll notice a majority of the surfaces are soft to touch. There’s a ton of equipment too – cruise control, sat-nav, park distance control and electric everything in Luxury spec; while all models have dual zone climate control, electric windows, alloy wheels and four airbags.
While the 1.8 litre turbo charged motor under the bonnet isn’t necessarily the most advanced lump of iron around, resulting in below average fuel economy, it feels strong and is a joy to use no matter the situation. Despite being a relatively heavy car, the 118kW and 215Nm on tap propel the ‘6’ from 0-100km/h 8.4 seconds and on to a top speed of 196km/h. A slick five speed manual gearbox transfers power to the wheels and has a satisfying action.
Given MG’s sporty image, it would be amiss for the ‘6’ to be dynamically poor – fortunately it is quite the opposite. Damping is firm, with just enough pliancy to take the jolt out of bumps, yet allows for excellent body control and endless grip. Steering that initially seems somewhat heavy translates into a meaty, responsive feel at speed, providing precise turn in and great feedback through corners.
While not everything about the ‘6’ is blue sky and rainbows, complaints are few and far between. For example there’s an awful bit of reflective plastic in front of the main display, while the various radio buttons do look and feel a tad low-cost. Furthermore the multi function steering wheel controls are finicky and the key could do with a lump of lead in the casing.
Fortunately these few lingering disappointments are nothing but a blip on the overall package. I’ve yet to drive a car in the MG’s price bracket that provides such an involving drive and for that alone I would buy one. Add the spacious cabin, high level of specification and fastback styling and you have a true competitor that overcomes the stigma of its Chinese owners.
Engine: 1 796cc turbo charged petrol
Power: 118 kW
Torque: 215 Nm
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 8.4
Top speed (km/h): 193
Fuel consumption (l/100km): 7.9 (claimed)