Published on Friday 6 December 2013 15:26
Ten Second Review
The MG6 DTi diesel will appeal to those who like a British-built product that's good to drive, inexpensive, economical and spacious. It's not the last word in cutting-edge styling but it's surprisingly self assured and very likeable.
In the final analysis, the MG badge just had too much going for it to be killed off. Even in the dark days of the end of the reborn Rover group, the public still loved the thought of MG, if not the cars that were being produced. If somebody could step into the breach and bring class-competitive MG cars back to market, surely that would be a sales winner?
That was the Chinese company SAIC's take on things in any case. In 2011 it launched the MG6, a car that most expected to be terrible and which surprised virtually everybody by being a good, honest Focus-sized five-door family hatch that worked well on British roads. Unfortunately when it was launched, it was only available with a petrol engine in a sector of the market where over 65 per cent of cars are powered by diesel. That rather glaring oversight has now been rectified with the addition of the DTi diesel engine, a powerplant designed and built in the UK.
The diesel unit powering the MG6 is no carry over from the old days. It's been developed and is assembled at Longbridge from a kit of parts built in China and it's a very sound addition to the MG marque. The 1.9-litre DTi-Tech powerplant displaces 1849cc, and features common rail fuelling and a variable-rate turbocharger and packs 148bhp. Torque? You get a decent 350Nm at just 1,800rpm and the six-speed manual gearbox makes keeping on top of it fairly untroublesome. It takes 8.9 seconds to get to 60mph and will hit 125mph, so it's far from slow.
The all-independent suspension has been tuned to handle the additional 60kg of weight in the nose compared to its petrol sibling. Revised spring, damper and anti-roll bar settings have succeeded in improving low speed ride quality without putting too much of a hurt on agility, grip and balance. An uprated electro-hydraulic power steering system combines with heftier front brakes and it's clear that some real expertise has gone into ensuring all of these elements work in harmony with each other. There's a reassuringly expensive consistency of control weighting with this car that belies its price tag.
Design and Build
While it's very difficult to design a family car that's at the same time handsome and original, you'll constantly spot different angles and features on the MG6 that lead to deja vu. For what looks to be a rather 'quiet' design, it has a lot to hold the eye. The interior is cleanly styled but rather unadventurous. The main instruments sits beneath an enormous soft-touch dash roll top, though the fit and finish evident here has long since been eclipsed by the likes of Kia. Proton would be the closest comparison.
Apart from the infuriating steering-wheel controls, ergonomics are decent and there's acres of space, both in the rear and the boot, which measures a whopping 498-litres. The MG6 sits somewhere between a typical Focus/Astra-sized car and a Mondeo/Insignia, so it's hardly surprising that it feels so spacious. Alternatively there's the range-topping four-door saloon, badged as the Magnette, which features a 472-litre boot.
Market and Model
MG6 DTi diesel prices start at around £17,000 for the S and top out at just over £20,000 for the TSE. Then there's the four-door Magnette version which retails at just over £21,000. This means that prices are just over £1,000 more than the 2.0-litre petrol variant, which seems about right. Compare this to something like a Skoda Octavia and the MG looks good value for money, especially so if you prefer a sportier drive.
The S version doesn't do at all badly in terms of equipment and this might be its ace in the hole compared to rivals. It gets six airbags, 17-inch alloy wheels, a six-way adjustable sports seat for the driver with four-way adjustability for the front passenger, electronic air con and a stereo that has a US and AUX-IN connection. Fork out for the SE and that adds sat nav, rear parking sensors, cruise control, tyre pressure monitoring and a Bluetooth connection for your mobile. The TSE sees 18-inch alloys, a rear view camera, leather sports seats, dual-zone climate control and an uprated colour sat nav system.
Cost of Ownership
MG's market share has been capped to date because the MG6 was only offered with a rather thirsty petrol engine. The addition of this diesel makes the car more attractive to private and corporate buyers alike. Its figures are far from class-leading, with a 53.5mpg combined fuel economy figure and a 139g/km emissions rating, but both of these are a big step forward from the 35.6mpg and 184g/km of the petrol car.
Residual values are tougher to gauge. On the one hand, this is a comparatively inexpensive, well equipped and economical car. On the other, there are more economical rivals that will prove cheaper to run on a daily basis. You'll certainly need to factor options costs into these rivals in order to bring them up to the level of standard equipment featured by the MG.
Admission time. I didn't expect the MG6 to be anything near as class-competitive as it is, especially in diesel form. Okay, so it's a fair way off the European mark in terms of styling and interior materials quality but in the way that it drives, it's bang on the money. In fact, it aces many more illustrious rivals by quite an embarrassing margin. Drive one of these after getting out of a Skoda Octavia and the MG6 will seem massively more assured. The diesel instantly becomes the pick of the range, and I can see quite a few buyers who want something built in the UK with a pleasantly evocative badge warming to this honest and uncomplicated car.
It's big, easy to drive and seems well-attuned to typically horrible British roads. With plenty of equipment and reasonable asking prices, the MG6 DTi diesel certainly deserves to scalp a few sales. What's more, SAIC reckons that emissions and economy figures will only get better as the model line matures. If you don't want to wait though, I wouldn't blame you.