The MG6 benefits from UK engineering expertise, so is tuned to suit British roads
The MG6 was introduced three years ago, and marked the dawn of a new era for the British brand. The five-door hatch is assembled at MG’s historic factory at Longbridge, W Mids, from kits built in China, although the design and development was done in the UK.
In the greatest tradition the MG6 is based on a regular car (the Chinese market Roewe 550) but is turned into a racy MG version with tweaks to the design and chassis. It's available as a saloon (named Magnette) and GT-badged hatchback, and there are two engines available – a 1.8-litre turbo petrol and a 1.9-litre turbodiesel. The 1.9 DTi-Tech diesel was created in-house, and a recent update saw its emissions reduced and economy improved. It’s much bigger than its direct rivals, and the list of standard kit, even on the entry-level models, is impressive. However, build quality is still some way behind European rivals like the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra.
Our choice: MG6 GT SE 1.9 DTi
Whatever you think of MG’s return to the UK, at least the brand hasn’t tried to hark back to past glories and gone down the retro route with the MG6’s styling. The five-door GT hatch is based on the Chinese-market Roewe 550 saloon from parent company SAIC, so it shares its basic body shape with that car.
However, MG’s UK design team has given the car its own nose, with a big MG octagon badge up front, a narrow grille and angular headlights. There’s another grille under the front bumper, while subtle curves are formed along the sides. At the back, the high-set tail has a steeply raked rear windscreen and the bumper features a large, black, diffuser-style finish. Overall, we think the MG is more stylish than the awkward-looking rival Chevrolet Cruze.
One reason for this is that the MG6 is larger than your average compact hatch. It’s longer and wider than the Cruze, so it slots in neatly between compact hatches and larger family cars like the Ford Mondeo. Inside, there’s plenty of dark plastic, although the grey finish and silver trim pieces for the centre console give it a lift. The layout looks neat if a little cluttered, but the controls for the centre console screen are set between the air vents, which is an odd arrangement. Sadly, the plastics are hard and the rotary controls are flimsy.
As well as having design input from the UK, the MG6 benefits from our engineering expertise, and has been tuned to better suit British roads. UK cars differ from their Chinese counterparts, with revised spring and damper settings, new anti-roll bars and faster steering, and these tweaks mean the MG6 is entertaining on the road.
Turn-in is sharp, there’s good feedback through the steering wheel, and although the car has a tendency towards understeer, it’s not too severe. It’s more noticeable in this diesel than in the petrol car, thanks to the 1.9-litre turbodiesel’s extra weight over the front axle.
The MG’s decent handling doesn’t come at the expense of ride comfort, and the car does a good job of isolating passengers from thumps and bumps in the road. Plus, the six-speed box’s slightly longer gearing means the MG carries lower revs at motorway speeds, combining with the well-insulated cabin for a refined high-speed cruise.
One slight downside to the MG is its notchy gearbox, which will irritate when trying to get up to speed quickly.
It’s difficult to judge how reliable the MG6 has been as so few have been sold. However, as the MG brand has such a strong following, we’re certain that if any issues have arisen, then they are sure to be known about.
At the moment, there are 35 dealers and 13 service centres across the country, and that number will grow considerably soon. This will make it easier to stick to the 15,000-mile service intervals. A three-year/60,000-mile warranty is standard, but until later in 2014 MG is offering 5 years for free.
Unfortunately, the MG lags behind the Chevrolet Cruze when it comes to safety. It matches the Cruze with six airbags and edges ahead with standard-fit tyre pressure monitors, but Euro NCAP only gave the MG6 a four-star crash test rating. It has lower percentage scores than the Cruze, too.
Thanks to its large dimensions, the MG6 has a big boot with 498 litres on offer with the seats in place, and that increases to 924 litres when they’re folded. The Chevrolet Cruze, a close rival, trails by 85 litres and 41 litres respectively.
However, the MG is hampered by a high boot lip, and that stylish shape means the boot opening is narrow. The boot itself isn’t finished to a great standard, with Velcro holding the carpet in place, no 12V socket, a touch-sensitive boot release and flimsy bag hooks under the hinged parcel shelf.
Passengers in the back seats have a decent amount of space, and wide rear doors make access easy. There are air vents and an ashtray in the back – again no 12V socket – while the sloping roofline means the back windows are small, which also limits the driver's rear visibility.
Elsewhere inside there’s a decent glovebox and door bins. But niggles include the beeps from the dash every time you press a switch, while there’s no visual indication as to whether the doors are locked or unlocked. Plus, the reversing sensors rely on a strange sounding beep, with no visual aids – although there’s a reversing camera, it’s angled awkwardly.
The MG6’s price is reasonable considering you get plenty of equipment, including sat-nav, tyre pressure monitors and a USB connection in the cubby next to the driver’s right knee.
Unfortunately, running costs are the MG6’s downfall. Ongoing updates have improved the diesel’s economy and CO2 emissions, but 57.6mpg and 129g/km are poor, and a 20 per cent tax band rating makes it a more expensive company car choice. There’s steep depreciation to deal with, too.
Petrol-powered models will return 35.6mpg, and emit 184g/km of CO2, which is over 45g/km more than the Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.4 MultiAir orFord Focus 1.6 EcoBoost. This means your annual road tax bill will be £210, which is almost twice as much as both the Ford and Alfa.