Car reviews - MG - MG6 - range
Well-sorted chassis, comfortable seats, rear passenger-seat and cargo space, engine has some poke
Room for improvement
Engine lacks refinement, no auto transmission, no Bluetooth on lower grades, some cheap cabin plastics
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21 Jun 2013
OK, let’s get this out of the way: this is very much not the MGB. The iconic company has not returned to market with a slinky, lightweight roadster.
But new MG owner SAIC hasn’t completely hit the reset button, because the brand has done a small sedan before.
Enthusiasts – and yes, there are plenty – will well know the Magnette of the 1950s and 1960s, and an optimist might even get a pang of nostalgia.
This MG6 is a different beast, naturally. Is it a rival for the Holden Cruze or Malibu? The company’s pricing would have you thinking the latter, although its dimensions fall somewhere in between.
It’s a modern looking car – especially as a sedan – with a bit of menace to the nose, a dose of curves and good proportions, and even Alfa-esque “Twist” 17-inch alloy wheels (with a space-saver spare).
Step inside the cabin and you’re greeted with a symmetrical fascia with a row of large audio controls and a screen mounted high in a dashtop pinnacle and controlled by an oversized dial.
It all looks rather modern and is simple to operate. Soft-touch plastic covers the top of the dash, although some of the cabin plastics, notably those that cover the handbrake lever and the lower areas of the dash, feel cheaper than some rivals.
It’s easy to find a comfortable driving position, the steering wheel (leather in the top two grades) is chunky and adjusts for rake and reach, while the dials are large and legible. The trip computer is hard to decipher, although it does have some in-built novelties such as a tyre-pressure monitor.
We drove the flagship $27,990 TSE variant, which has a novel dial-operated cruise control system, a sunroof, reversing camera, dual-zone air conditioning, satellite navigation (MG is still sorting out an Australian SD card supplier, though, so ours didn’t work yet) and comfortable electric seats made of surprisingly high quality leather.
Legroom in the front passenger seat is a little tight, but both head and leg room in the rear seats is commendable and comfortable, and there are two ISOFIX anchors.
The back seats in both the sedan and hatch also flip down – the hatch stores a substantial 429 litres with the seats in place and 1379L with them flat – enough for a big trip to IKEA or a few golf bags.
We only drove the flagship, although a quick scan of the spec sheet shows that the entry $22,990 S lacks cruise control and Bluetooth – both of which are unacceptable omissions.
It does include a “one-touch” starter, electric windows, regular air-conditioning, electrically adjustable heated door mirrors, and an eight-speaker MP3-compatible audio system with auxiliary input jack.
This car actually makes more sense higher up the model range. The S costs as much as $3500 more than rivals such as the Cruze and the new Nissan Pulsar, but features lower equipment levels. It will be a tough sell for that.
Upgrading to the $24,990 mid-spec SE grade adds cruise control, tyre pressure monitoring, rear parking sensors, USB audio input, a leather steering wheel and a tilt/slide glass sunroof. The Pulsar or Cruze, to name but a few, offer more for less.
Our time behind the wheel was limited, but adequate to determine that MG’s 300 British engineers can tune a chassis well – it’s a neutral performer with a good comfort/balance compromise.
Up front are MacPherson struts, and there’s an independent multi-link set-up at the rear.
This is arguably the car’s best point. And while it rides on the firm side, it has good body control and soaks up the bumps in a relatively unobtrusive manner, absorbing corrugations with composure.
Turn-in is sharp and it stays reassuringly composed mid-bend. The hydraulic power steering (not a fuel-saving electric system like most modern cars) provides good feedback from the wheels, although some might find it a little firm and heavy on-centre for their tastes.
The sole engine for now is a 1.8-litre turbo-petrol with 118kW at 5500rpm and 215Nm between 1750 and 4500rpm. There’s some lag, but it’s a punchy enough number. It’s a little rough and unrefined, though.
MG claims it can knock over the zero to 100km/h sprint in 8.4 seconds, and consume 7.5 litres of fuel per 100km on the combined cycle. We’ll need to have it for a full week to determine the accuracy of the fuel claims.
Output is higher than most entry small cars, although keep in mind the Holden Cruze SRi kicks out 132kW and 230Nm of torque from its new 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine, while the new Nissan Pulsar ST-S has 140kW and 240Nm for $25k.
Both of those cars also come with an extra-cost automatic transmission option, something MG won’t offer until later this year.
It is matched to a five-speed manual gearbox as standard. The shift is a little notchy and vague, but the clutch is pleasant and the tall fifth goes some way to countering the lack of a sixth ratio at freeway speeds (it revs at 2200rpm at 100km/h).
Around 80 per cent of segment sales are automatics in Australia, and MG will struggle until it has one to offer.
This lack of an auto, and the rather high starting price, will be the major challenges for MG in its early days here. The car tested here isn’t yet on a par with the class leaders, and in this segment, there’s such a breadth of choice.
The silver lining is that there’s enough to suggest that a combination of UK engineering nous an deep Chinese pockets could lead to something truly competitive in the near future. The company will launch the light-sized MG3 and a small SUV here soon, so watch this space...
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