MG6 1.8 TSE

14 Mar, 2011 6:59pm Nick Gibbs

The Chinese are coming! We are first behind the wheel of new '6' from reborn MG.


Sweet road manners and good looks will attract fans of the old MG Z-models, while space, price and equipment widens the appeal to buyers less interested in the colourful history of this car's badge. But while this is certainly a good effort, it’s far from perfect: some of the plastics look cheap and unappealing and much of the switchgear is below par for a car sold outside China. The solitary 1.8 turbo engine offers decent performance - but it’ll be next year’s diesel that will really wake the market for the MG6.

MG the sequel starts here! We’ve driven Chinese-spec versions of the new MG6, but now, as the hatchback goes on sale for the first time in the UK, we get behind the wheel of the car that’s about to hit the firm’s 38 dealers.

Priced from £15,495, the five-door looks terrific value. In size it sits between the Vauxhall Astra and Insignia, with the entry S costing less than the second-cheapest Astra. However the boot at 498 litres measures closer to that of the Insignia hatch.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the MG6

Powering the car is a 1.8-litre turbo making 158bhp, which serves as the only engine choice among the three trim levels. A 1.9-litre diesel is due next year and there’s a 2.0-litre turbo in the pipeline, but for now the 1.8 does a okay job.

The 0-60mph sprint is a fairly brisk 8.4 seconds and the turbo is  unobtrusive. However the engine can get raucous when its working hard, which you need to do to make the 6 feel fast. There’s also no sixth in the otherwise satisfying gearbox to bring the revs down for economy motorway driving.

Our trip computer read 34.8mpg after 30 miles on the m'way, which is almost bang on the official combined consumption of 35.6mpg. That’s high for today’s family hatchbacks, even petrol turbo versions, and the resulting 184g/km won’t appeal to company car drivers.

Better on cost is the low 13/14 insurance rating (out of 50) and the high levels of standard equipment. All trim levels come with air con, electric windows and stereo with USB connectivity, while the SE at £16,995 ads sat nat, cruise control and Bluetooth connectivity. For another £2,000, the TSE adds rear parking camera and leather seats, as well as 18in alloys in place of 17s.

The interior quality is a lot better than the early versions we drove. The top half of the dash is cloaked in soft-touch rubbersised plastic that matches the best of the French (if not the Germans). But lower down it’s too still shiny, while the fit and feel of the buttons is only 80 percent of the European average. Nothing's flimsy exactly, but it's not chunky to operate.

Much better is the handling and steering. The British chassis engineers said they benchmarked sportier versions of the Ford Focus (ie Zetec S) and they pretty much hit the target. The car turns in sharply, with a good weight to the steering. And although firm, the ride isn’t harsh.

Now MG has addressed the worst of the interior problems, the 6 is a contender thanks to price, equipment, space and handling. It also looks attractive from all angles. The build quality still lags behind its rivals, but in the main, MG fans can breathe a sigh of relief.

Key specs

* Price: £18,995
* Engine: 1.8-litre 4cyl turbo
* Power: 158bhp
* Torque: 215Nm
* 0-62mph: 8.4. seconds
* Top speed: 120mph (limited)
* Economy: 35.6mpg
* CO2: 184g/km
* Equipment: Foglights, 18-inch alloy wheels, USB connection, air-conditioning, four airbags, electric windows, rear parking camera, sat nav
* On sale: Now