Does the new MG deliver enough to compete in the British market?

What is it?

The car with which the MG brand is to be reintroduced to the British market: this is the new MG6.

Designed and developed in the UK at SAIC’s technical centre at Longbridge, the MG6 is a medium-sized family hatchback that’s roughly the same size as a Skoda Octavia. Based on the Chinese-built Roewe 550, this car can actually trace its roots all the way back to the Rover 75. However, for the MG version, the car’s engine, chassis, body and interior have all been overhauled.

Current MG brand owners SAIC has plans to build these cars at MG Rover’s old Longbridge plant for sale across the UK. Our test car, however, was one of several built at SAIC’s Nanjing factory, for the official Chinese press launch of the car.

What’s it like?

The MG6 is remarkably daring- and original-looking, considering that it’s intended primarily for the notoriously conservative Chinese market. Wide tracks, flared arches, large external styling features and some surprisingly sophisticated surfaces give it a bold, sporty and contemporary appearance, even relative to European rivals.

The car’s cabin is all new and bears no resemblance to that of the Rover 75 or MG ZT. The materials used aren’t as rich or tactile as you’ll find in some European family saloons, but the built quality is good: switches and levers move with firmness and solidity.

Shanghai Automotive will offer two versions of the MG6, both front-driven via a 5-speed automatic gearbox, and both powered by its ‘N-series’ update of Rover’s old 1.8-litre ‘K-series’ engine.

The entry-level car develops 133bhp and 135lb ft or torque. The range-topping turbo, which we drove, gets 158bhp and 158lb ft, and SAIC claims that it’ll hit 60mph in 8.5sec before going on to a top speed of 130mph.

Out on the road, the MG6 feels firmly suspended, but performs well. That engine suffers a little from turbo lag below 2500rpm, but spins freely way up to its 6750rpm redline. The car has good stability and composure, resisting body roll well through corners, and riding mid-bend bumps at speed without being diverted by them.

Ride comfort and refinement could both be improved. On our test drive, rattles were evident from within our test car’s dashboard, a problem exacerbated by the MG6’s firm ride.

Also disappointing was the car’s five-speed torque converter gearbox. At times it was frustratingly unresponsive and slow to kick down. A good six-speed manual ‘box will be a necessity if SAIC want to market this car as a sporting saloon here in the UK.

Should I buy one?

Given that we’ve only tried a Chinese-built model on Chinese roads, it’s too early to say with any certainty. Longbridge-built cars are likely to be better finished, better equipped and could have their own chassis set-up tailored to suit UK tastes. The MG6 will certainly need to be improved in all three areas in order to make much of an impression over here.

However, provided SAIC can make those gains, and offer this car to UK buyers with a price tag that’s attractive, it won’t struggle to sell the MG6 in Britain. The MG6 is a car that’s already good enough to compete with those built in joint ventures between Chinese and European makers, and could quite easily be made competitive by European class standards.

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With the MG badge on its nose, it has the potential to make big improvements to the reputation of the Chinese car industry in Europe.

Zhangwen Wu

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merson 26 March 2011

Re: MG6 1.8T

So how is this new MG6 Peter, was the road test in China representative of an unbias view?

"The MG6 is a car that’s already good enough to compete with those built in joint ventures between Chinese and European makers, and could quite easily be made competitive by European class standards."

Looking forward to the Autocar teams road test.

turbinecol 14 January 2011

Re: MG6 1.8T

Since this is perhaps one of the last of this class of car to still have HPAS, it seems it could well be up there, especially for steering feel. Trouble is HPAS is bad for economy, expensive to run and warranty costs can be a problem with all the lines, so most mainstream companies are gradually moving to full electric. Not good news for handling sadly - making the jump to EPAS is the point where everyone has struggled, even BMW of course with their new F10. There is light at the end of the tunnel - according to today's review Merc seem to have made a leap forward with the new E63 AMG, but it takes a lot of tech to do it right.

First time I have really looked at the interior of the MG6, but they have copied a lot of BMW's 5 serious layout, with the large binacle over to the centre display, even the door cards are a bit E60ish. Not too bad to be honest...