Remember MG’s medium sized model? Well, they’ve given it some new lights and bumpers and things.
Day one: The MG has been dropped off at my house while I was out. My wife retrieves the key from the dog proof thing beneath the letter box. ‘What a shitty key,’ she says flatly. She’s right. The MG6 has always had the most horrible, flimsy dongle to start it and they’ve done nothing in the facelift to fix the nasty, lightweight plastic that makes it feel like one of those cheap dummy mobiles they keep tethered to the wall in phone shops. ‘So where’s this MG?’ she continues, peering out of the window. Well, I reply, you see that grey hatchback right outside? That’s it. ‘Oh,’ she sighs. My wife heard ‘MG’ and thought ‘sports car’. But they don’t make sports cars anymore. They make grey hatchbacks.
Day two: Calling the MG a grey hatchback makes it sound dismal but actually this morning, flecked with raindrops under a slightly sunny sky, the 6 looks alright. It’s a moderately handsome car and the grey paint actually seems quite deep and glossy. In the ‘90s the Rovers coming out of the Longbridge paintshop were uncommonly shiny and you might assume this car uses the same Brummie know how. But it doesn’t, because the 6 arrives from China already trimmed and coloured in. The British end just bolts in the underparts. Superficially, it feels well put together. The interior smells a bit odd, like a robot’s fart, and some of the plastics are from an Audi engineer’s nightmares but it’s okay. And it’s okay to drive too. The ride is firm but comfortable, the gearchange is alright, only the weirdly inconsistent and springy feeling to the steering lets it down. This isn’t helped by the wheel itself, which has an unattractively swollen centre section like half a cheap boob job.
Day three: Tooling around the city today it’s hard to ignore several things that aren’t quite right about the interior, digital guff smell aside. The cover over the digital climate control display appears to be misty. The screen between the instruments is very pixelly. And the image from the reversing camera is comically low res. Also, the camera itself is angled too low, so that anything behind you appears completely by surprise just a nanosecond before you hit it. All of these things conspire to make the MG feel like a car from two generations ago or the well-meaning efforts of a Korean company you’ve never heard of and which can’t afford to buy any rival products to see what they’re like.
Day four: Every so often the MG decides to skip to another radio station or bounce to the next track in whatever album you’re listening to. I wondered if I was accidentally knocking one of the remote stereo controls either side of the Jordan’s knocker steering wheel boss because they’re quite crappy and don’t have enough built-in resistance. But today the system did it while I was sat at some traffic lights and I know it wasn’t me because I had both hands off the wheel at the time. Later, I come back to the car and start the engine to find that the stereo is dead. Naturally I turn the whole car off and then on again and that seems to fix it. None of this inspires confidence in the electrics.
Day five: I once drove a pre-facelift MG6 diesel and it was absurdly easy to stall. This one is better, but not perfect. I know this because this morning I stalled it. To get it to re-start you have to depress the clutch, which is normal for these electronical start systems, and you must have the gearbox in neutral, which is not. In fact, it’s sodding annoying and contributes to a sense that the entire development process for this car was stopped about five months too early, before they had a chance to go through the ‘to-do’ list one more time.
Day six: I’m going to a wedding up north. The MG6 is a fine motorway cruiser. Mind you, what car isn’t? Any car that makes a cock of driving briskly in a straight line is probably dangerous. Later, during the reception, a mate asks me if I’m driving anything interesting at the moment. I tell him I’ve got an MG. ‘Oh nice,’ he says. ‘Is it a convertible?’ No, I say, it’s a grey hatchback that occasionally thinks I’m bored of a song and should move onto the next one. He’s expecting a sports car but, as we know, MG don’t make sports cars any more. They make grey hatchbacks. And I’m not sure their heart is really in it. With this facelift they’ve simplified the 6 range so across the three trim levels there’s just one alloy wheel design, which looks a bit small, and only four paint options, just one of which is metallic. Even this choice is removed if you buy the base model, which only comes in white. Not long ago MG’s own product manager was quoted as saying, “When you sit in the MG6, it won’t be as good as a Skoda Octavia. But it’s £7000 cheaper than the equivalent Skoda Octavia.” On the one hand, admirable honesty. On the other hand, it’s almost like they don’t want to sell any cars.
Day seven: It’s a beautiful morning in Cheshire and I’ve got a bit of time so I go for a proper drive on some roads I know well. This turns out to be a good exercise because the MG suddenly reveals hidden and rather excellent depths. The engine is never going to be anything more than a bog standard diesel with a pretty narrow power band but everything else that contributes to a hearty and helmsmanly strop across the countryside is of a much, much higher standard. The gearchange is slick, the steering still has that odd power assistance but it’s very accurate which makes the car easy to drive neatly, and the chassis is a masterclass in tight but well sorted damping. It’s one of those cars that flows along a road in the way Peugeots used to when they were good and, by golly, it’s actually quite fun. The dashboard detailing and the engine management programming might have been done by people who appear not to have driven a brand new car in 12 years but the suspension of the MG6 has plainly been tuned by a team which understands that making a car feel dynamic is about subtlety and the skilful blending of ride, roll rates and reactions into one marvellous whole, rather than just giving it idiotically rock hard springs and then claiming it’s ‘sporty’. On a good road, the MG6 unexpectedly comes alive.
Goodbye: The MG is going away. It’s not a great car. In far too many ways, it’s not even a good car. This might explain why they seem to have sold about seven, all to hardcore MG enthusiasts who have a broken B in the garage and spend most of their time on the internet moaning about bits of their 6 that have gone wrong. On the plus side, it’s relatively cheap and on an open country road it has a hidden well of considerable talent that makes it more fun than any diesel hatchback of its size, enough to make you forget about the crappy key and the stereo that waits until halfway through a really good song on the radio and then decides you should be listening to Talk Sport. If you care about nothing but open B-road ability and yet you must have a brand new diesel hatchback you might like it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t bother. It’s a genuinely good chassis looking for a better car to go on top.
The car talked about here is an MG6 1.9 DTi-TECH TL. It has a 1.9-litre turbocharged diesel engine producing 148 horsepower. MG says it can go from 0-60 in 8.4 seconds and, for insurance purposes, has a limited top speed of 120mph. It costs £17,995.