In giving the MG6 a rare positive review back in July 2013 we warned readers to ‘dismiss it at your peril’. Clearly, you’re not averse to a bit of peril, as all of you, plus nearly everybody else, duly dismissed it.
Undaunted, and buoyed by the much better-received MG3 model, MG6 bounces back with an aggressive price cut, a redesigned exterior, more equipment and a newly fettled diesel engine offering better efficiency and lower emissions. Will it be enough?
First, has the MG6 retained its impressive handling?
Yes it has. Through all the turmoil and shapeshifting that separated the death of MG from its rebirth under Chinese ownership, the British engineers never lost sight of the importance of a decent chassis. The MG6 was pliant and planted from day one, and the ‘if it works, don’t mend it’ philosophy has been applied here. You couldn’t call it sporty, but there’s a nice compromise struck between ride comfort and the ability to go round corners without forcing the kids to reprise breakfast.
What about this newly refined engine?
Who called it refined? This is MG’s own 1.9-litre diesel, which was last to join the 6 range but is now the only game in town. The work they’ve done is all about efficiency – they’ve shaved 10g/km off the CO2 figure, squeezed another 8mpg, saved a bit of weight and got the (irrelevant here) 0-62mph time down by half a second (to 8.4). All of which is impressive, and the engine is quite positive low-down, serving its 258lb ft of torque with some panache from 1800rpm. Get it up to around 3500rpm, however, and it vibrates like a pneumatic drill, setting the whole subframe buzzing like a giant mobile phone, and filling the cabin with the sound of the bloke next door cutting his lawn.
Don’t want to be too harsh – this isn’t a market segment noted for serene cabins and silent wafting. But there’s still work to do.
Luckily, the six-speed manual ’box (which I remember being quite snicky two years ago) seems suddenly less accurate than Michael Fish, so there’s no incentive to pump the revs up. Also in the debit column is the electro-hydraulic steering – it was useless before, but now seems hellbent on doing the exact opposite of what you want, veering from ‘has the column snapped?’ lightness to ‘has the steering lock self-engaged?’ heft within half a turn.
But the interior’s improved, with lots more equipment?
So they say, but I’m disappointed to report it feels less impressive than before. They’ve gone for copycat modernity, trying to channel the Koreans with bits of silvery plastic and swoopy swathes, but when you’re using sub-seed-tray plastics in grim-reaper black it feels, well, solemn. Special mention here for the bulbous steering wheel, with its half-baked buttons and a boss fat enough to house the first airbag. It adds to the claustrophia (which is odd, because this is actually a big, spacious cabin).
Credit though for the 7in touchscreen with its ‘MG Touch’ infotainment interface (standard on all but base models), and for the fact that even the entry level car gets heated seats, while higher models come adorned with a roster of baubles Audi wouldn’t be ashamed of. By that point, of course, you’ve drifted far from the vaunted £13,995 entry price and got yourself up above £18k, but that’s still substantially less than you’d pay for a similarly-speccedAstra, Golf or even Octavia.
The MG6 is more handsome, isn’t it?
We think so. It’s got new headlamps, a new grille, lowered air intakes, reprofiled rear bumpers and LED daytime running lights. It would be churlish to say anything other than personal taste separates it from the market.
You almost get the feeling that the engineers are trying to stick to first principles while the Chinese owners are banging on about value for money. A mixed message. But although the MG6 is certainly keenly priced, it’s only value for money if it’s reliable. Twice while I was driving it the MG6 futtered to an electronic halt – seemingly unable to stay afloat while so much juice was channelled to the steering on full lock. And although they’ve quite rightly ditched the extraordinary Airbus throttle-style handbrake for an electronic item, the message ‘EPB failure’ appearing from time to time on the dash did for my confidence what rain does to a parade.
I’d love to champion the MG6, I really would. But there’s too much excellence out there for adequacy to be good enough.