Good things to come

It might be unscientific, but the door test nonetheless remains an important first line introduction to a motor car – the fact the doors on the MG6 1.8 Turbo sedan went ‘thunk’ as opposed to ‘clunk’ was a portent of good things to come.

Indeed, it came as a surprise, considering the tinny sounds emanating from many Chinese cars finding their way to our shores.

The Shanghai Automotive Industrial Corporation (SAIC) that bought the MG business did the right thing – it is being built in Shanghai but the iconic MG factory in Longbridge, England remains a manufacturing plant and SAIC has not sought to cheapen the marque (except to be able to supply at much lower cost).

The MG6 is not a sports car in the true sense of the history of MG – it is a four-door saloon (or fastback) that moves in as a challenger in the same segment with Corolla, Jetta, Focus and similar brands and is distributed locally through Combined Motor Holdings as a standalone brand, MG South Africa trading as Morris Garages (which is what the MG stands for).

With 10 dealers up and running and several more due to start service during the year, MG South Africa is also set to launch additional models as they become available.

The svelte style, which somehow manages a fine balance of Euro sensibility with just a few suggestions of eastern promise (those piercing headlamp details, a hint of Mazda 6 from the side), suggests that future MGs will possess style and competitive engineering.

The MG6 is essentially a new car. The front sub-frame is related to that in the old Rover 75, since it means the same pick-up points can be used on the Longbridge line and in Shanghai; and the fuse box is an old Rover unit, too. The K-series engine has been hugely fettled by the Chinese, but this 1.8 is essentially an upgraded, turbocharged K. Everything else is new.

It is fitted with a 1796 cm3 four-cylinder turbo-charged engine producing 118 kW at 5 500 r/min with 215 Nm of torque between 1 750 r/min and 4 500 r/min driving the front wheels via a 5-speed manual gearbox. Fuel consumption is claimed at 7,9 l/100 km but our test showed a more likely scenario of 8,3 l/100 km. CO2 emissions are 184 g/km.

Having passed the ‘thunk’ or ‘clunk’ test and once finished ogling the rather svelte exterior shape, the interior comes as a mix – oodles of leg room, comfortable seats even though the ‘leather’ might never have seen a cow, but somewhat plasticky switchgear and a decided lack of oddment space – although it has a huge boot.

That aside, the interior is well laid out and most actions intuitive – except the trip computer that is a knurled dial on the steering wheel and takes a bit of practice to use properly. The cabin design is unusual, and in some ways all the more charming for that. A hefty padded dashboard hood looms over a pair of strangely small dials, but the information and sat-nav screens are up-to-date in their graphics.

Weighing in at 1485 kilograms the MG feels less sporty than its name would imply off the line and some stirring of the gearlever is required to make brisk progress – a pleasurable affair since the change is positive of action if a touch long of throw.

Featuring front MacPherson struts and multilink rear end the ride is well judged: there is a Ford-like firm damping, with just enough pliancy to take the jag out of bumps, and body control is first rate. Traction is good too, with nary a flicker from the electronic aids. The steering is hardly alive with feel or laser turn-in, but it is just as responsive and precise as buyers in this class would expect.

Some might find the brakes ‘heavy’ if they have grown used to the over-assisted, snatchy systems fitted to many new cars, but actually, the MG6’s brakes are refreshingly progressive and credible in their action, much like the rest of the car.

The MG 6 impressed us. Dynamically, it is a big success. The 6 feels well made, precise and of competitive quality in this class.

It is also competitively priced, although a niggle in this category is the lack of Bluetooth connectivity. There is no doubt the parent company is eager to make sure the MG name regains some – if not all – its former status as the supplier of well-priced sporty cars, and with the smaller MG3 on the way along with an SUV and, yes, the traditional 2-seater sports car, this is all good.

This also means the local operation has a foundation of which to build a reputation, the final test here obviously coming in terms of after sales service backup, parts pricing and fleet support – for this certainly a car fleet managers could well consider.

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