Can the MG Motor MG6, the company's first all-new car under Chinese ownership, hit its mark?

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This MG 6 is the first real attempt that Shanghai Automotive-owned MG has made to become a known quantity. It is a far more significant car than the (very lightly) modernised TF roadster because this is the first all-new model to wear the badge since the collapsed company was bought.

But its Chinese ownership and many years away from the market mean that, despite previous familiarity, MG is now an unknown quantity in every significant way. How will the new MG fare i Britain?

The MG 6’s on-paper figures do not inspire confidence

Its sister models sell very well in China, but in the UK the MG 6’s on-paper figures do not inspire confidence. The marketing blurb calls the 5dr a “sports-fastback” while the saloon is badged Magnette. Both are, in effect, a rival for the Ford Focus and its ilk and yet it is only available currently with a turbocharged 1.8-litre petrol engine and a five-speed manual gearbox.

Even the £19k required for a top-spec TSE doesn’t go far towards justifying the figures elsewhere. But many cars deliver rewards that aren’t written in numbers, and we’re here to find out if this package adds up.



MG6 badging

The MG's lines are not the sort of design to inspire real desirability, but few cars in this class can lay claim to that sort of appeal, and the MG 6 is certainly fresh and current in its appearance.

The swooping fastback rear end works well from most angles, even if the high-set rear lights can look a bit awkward, and the tapering front lights and angular black grille also work well. The Magnette saloon is marginally less convincing.

The MG 6 is fresh and current in its appearance

All these elements go some way to masking the size of the 6, which, MG claims, allows the car to straddle the C and D segments. At 4.65 metres long, it does sit conveniently between the 4.4-metre Focus and the 4.8-metre Ford Mondeo, but price will define its market position in the minds of the vast majority of buyers.

With a range that starts at around £15,500 and stretches to £19,000 for the top-spec model, the MG 6 sits in prime C-segment territory.


MG6 dashboard

Sit in the driver’s seat of the MG 6 and you are faced with large, clear dials and a steering wheel that benefits from a good rim width. The rest of the cabin stretches out from that point, with the most significant switchgear sitting high up and central on the dashboard.

The abundance of buttons takes some getting used to, particularly in conjunction with the colour screen that functions as a sat-nav and multimedia interface. It’s an excellent standard feature, but the graphics on this screen are evidence that the MG is not quite up to class standards inside. So is the oddly designed handbrake, whose shiny plastic and awkward shape make it less than pleasant to hold.
Still, the electrically adjustable leather sports seats, standard on TSE versions, are very decent. There’s also a good amount of rear legroom – noticeably more than in the Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus – and a comfortable 60/40 split bench that will seat three with some elbow squeezing or two with plenty of space.

The cabin has substantial merit, but it’s marred by too many niggling issues

The boot of the hatch is another selling point. At 472 litres with the rear seats in place, it can carry a lot more than the 316-litre hold of the Focus or the 350 litres available in a Golf.

Visibility is about average for the class, although the raked rear window provides a narrower view than that offered in most rivals.

Even though the cabin of the MG 6 has substantial merit, it’s still marred by too many niggling issues in its quality and ergonomics. Odd touches such as a driver’s cupholder that requires a two-handed effort to fit a cup in it, average graphics and some poor materials let it down.


MG6 front quarter

Initially the MG6 is available with only a 158bhp/159 ft turbocharged 1.8-litre petrol engine, mated to a five-speed gearbox that sends power to the front wheels.

So the MG 6 hits the market already handicapped by the lack of an auto gearbox and, more important, a diesel motor or a small-capacity petrol. A diesel is due later in 2012.

The MG 6 is handicapped by the lack of an auto gearbox, a diesel motor or a small-capacity petrol

Frankly, it can't come soon enough. We managed to coax the 1.8T to 60mph in 8.8sec during our tests, which is off the pace of the 1.8 TSI Octavia’s claimed 7.8sec time to 62mph but not far behind the 148bhp Focus 1.6 Ecoboost. But the engine's gruffness is never appealing. Noticeable turbo lag causes a slightly uneven power delivery, but once into its stride the delivery is linear enough.

The noise, though, never abates as it should. This engine is a heavily re-worked variant of the old (and revvy and appealing) K-series unit, but it can't tread water in the heavy swell of modern engines.

The brakes, meanwhile, faded quickly under hard use but were effective in everyday driving.


MG6 cornering

This is where the MG 6 is at its strongest. Although the powertrain left us unimpressed, the chassis set-up strikes a good balance between control and comfort. Some might consider the damping a little firm, and on 18in wheels the MG 6 does feel sharper intrusions in the road, particularly if the suspension is already loaded. But over the majority of road surfaces it provides enough absorption without compromising body control.

The 6 is soft enough to soak up the creases and cracks in most urban roads and it settles easily on motorways, yet body roll is progressive and the car always feels stable. Which doesn’t mean that this is the invigorating drive that some might want of a sports fastback. The biggest fly in the ointment is the steering, which is a little heavy and has an overly aggressive self-centring action. The result is that, although linear in its weighting and responses, the steering feels artificial and lacks sensation.

The chassis set-up strikes a good balance between control and comfort

Nonetheless, the MG 6 can be an entertaining car. Turn-in is sharp and there is enough grip and composure for you to feel that you can lean on the chassis through corners to a point where it becomes apparent that this car can encourage more vigorous progress should you want it. In this respect, the MG 6 is certainly comparable with the best in the class, but it should never be compared with the most focused derivatives. Even though the MG 6’s handling is well resolved, it’s a well sorted family hatchback, not a hot hatch.


MG 6 2011-2014

Running costs are a priority in this sector and, with claimed economy/CO2 figures as unappealing as 35.6mpg and 184g/km, the MG 6 falls short against its rivals.

To figure out how it can be perceived as cheap you must take into account the extensive standard spec, which, on the range-topper includes sat-nav, leather seats and reversing camera, as well as the fact that you get more space in the MG than in most C-segment rivals. Given all this, it’s clear that the 6 has a very competitive list price.

Running costs are a priority in this sector and the MG fall short against its rivals

But with such comparably poor emissions and economy (a similar-engined Octavia manages 40.9mpg and 158g/km) and a painfully steep gradient to its depreciation forecast, the MG loses all of the financial incentive it might have held beyond the price on its showroom sticker.


2 star MG6 hatchback

The MG 6 had a lot to prove and, although in most respects, it falls way short of what you'd expect from a car in this sector, it does at least show that MG has ample promise.

For a model born out of significant corporate strife, it’s admirable that the MG 6 comes so close to offering a competitive package, and even more impressive that, in terms of ride and handling, it is comparable with the best in its class.

It offers a package that proves MG has ample promise

But although the 6’s strengths point towards a bright future for MG, it’s hard to recommend this car. It is unforgivable to offer such a below-par drivetrain, which is short on refinement and usability and at least a generation behind the best in efficiency.

The MG 6 illustrates well that its maker is just one step behind the established players. But until it has caught up, the deficit in the finished product is too great to overlook.

MG Motor MG6 2011-2014 First drives