9 Apr, 2010 2:09pm Ken Gibson

It’s the first all-new MG to come through the Longbridge factory gates in 15 years - and we've driven it first.


While the arrival of the MG6 is significant, there have been too many false dawns at MG to get carried away. There are still question marks over the firm’s long-term plans, but finally we have evidence that the Chinese-owned company has a real plan. The new car is light years away from recent MGs, and apart from a modern twist on the octagon badge that dominates the face of the MG6, there’s not much here to show us that this is the rebirth that enthusiasts are waiting for. However, that’s a good thing, as MG needs to reinvent itself as a modern brand, not a recreation of dated cars of the past.

It’s the first all-new MG to come through the Longbridge factory gates in 15 years. Not since the MG F was launched in 1995 has a genuinely new octagon-badged car hit the road. So, as we left the firm’s famous 

factory, with the latest MG6, it felt like the start of an era for one of the most famous names in British motoring.

The MG6 is part of a whole family of models due over the next five years. In addition to the Focus-sized hatch driven here, MG’s promising to build a large saloon and a Fiesta rival.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the MG6

And we can also reveal a new sports car is in the pipeline.Although MG designer Tony Williams-Kenny is sworn to secrecy, he confirmed to us that both him and his team have got plenty of ideas and sketches for the next-generation TF. The latest MG family will replace the  ZR, ZS and ZT models that were cleverly rebadged and facelifted Rovers that ended production in 2005.

Which is why this motor is so special – it’s a modern MG, designed and engineered in the UK by Brits. Described as a fastback, it looks edgy and sporty – particularly from the front, with dramatic headlights that wrap around a thin grille. This new design is dominated by a big MG badge that leads to a much deeper and menacing lower grille, which gives it a distinctive face.

There’s a steeply raking coupé-like roofline, while at the rear you’ll find plenty of glass and well-rounded curves; these help blend European and Asian design tastes. In fairness, the latest hatchback is unlikely
to be instantly recognised as an MG. But the model’s sporty lines stand out, even more in the bright, burnt-orange paintwork, which like the model itself, seems a fresh colour for a new beginning.

On the inside, it’s just as hard to recognise the first car in years to leave the Midlands factory as an MG. Again, the octagon badge on the steering wheel is the only real pointer.

Much like the exterior, it has a mix of Continental and Far East styling about it. The centrepiece is the curving main instrument panel that stretches a long way across the top of the dashboard.

The cabin is comfortable, and feels well screwed together, but there is somehow a lack of sparkle and MG individuality. There are no such problems on the road, though, where the MG6 has all the driving characteristics you’d expect of an MG, it handles and steers superbly and the British engineering expertise shines through. The 1.8-litre engine is a heavily reworked version of the K Series engine that seems to go a lot faster than the claimed 0-60mph in 9 seconds figure. However, the engineers need to dial in a better-sounding engine note, there’s not enough drama.

Fuel consumption is around 38mpg, but there’s a new 1.9-litre turbodiesel due, which will follow late in 2011, and should have better fuel economy.

When it comes down to it, though, the Chinese-owned firm knows pricing the car will be critical to a successful relaunch. MG says it will be ‘affordable’. Certainly the MG6 needs to start  at around £15,000, and go up to £20,000, when it hits the firm’s showrooms in November.

If  the ‘new’ MG can manage that, expect a small but orderly queue forming at dealers soon.

Rival: Kia Cee'd
Sporty, good to look at and great to drive, it shows you how much has changed since MG closed its factory that Kia is a more established and credible alternative to the MG6. It’s sure to offer better residual values, too.

Key specs

* Price: £15,000-£20,000 (est.)
* Engine: 1.8-litre 4cyl, 158bhp
* Transmission: Five-speed manual
* 0-60mph: 9 seconds
* Top speed: 132mph (est.)
* Fuel economy: 38mpg (est.)
* Standard equipment: Leather seats, electric windows, anti-lock brakes, reach-adjustable steering, satellite-navigation, trip computer
* On sale: Now