China-built MG makes its mark

By Ross Kiddie

The MG6 GT, a five-door fastback, will be the first of several new models available in New Zealand. Picture / Ross Kiddie
The MG6 GT, a five-door fastback, will be the first of several new models available in New Zealand. Picture / Ross Kiddie

The MG marque has made a comeback on the New Zealand market, this time carrying the marks of its Chinese makers. The famous British brand of sports cars and convertibles has relaunched here under the direction of British Motor Distributors.

MG, an abbreviation for Morris Garages, will eventually be available here in various models starting with the MG6 Magnette, a four-door sedan, and the MG6 GT, a five-door fastback.

Both models share a design developed at MG's Longbridge technical centre and headquarters in Birmingham, England, but the cars are manufactured in Shanghai, China.

Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) is a conglomerate that has long been involved with General Motors, Volkswagen and a host of heavy vehicle manufacturers. The MGs are being manufactured for 35 left-hand-drive markets and five right-hand-drive markets.

For New Zealand, the two 1.8-litre petrol-powered variants will be available in a choice of specifications for each - the S, SE and TSE.

British Motor Distributors won't be stipulating exact prices until October 1, nor the dealers earmarked for Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, but indications are the GT and Magnette will sell from $30,000 to $35,000.

Initial supplies of the MG6 are in five- gearbox form only.

The distributors are expecting automatic gearbox variants to arrive in December and they will use a six-speed, direct-shift transmission similar to that incorporated in some Volkswagen models.

A four-cylinder diesel is also expected this year. It will have stop-start technology.

Standard equipment on all models includes six airbags, ABS, traction and stability control, three diagonal seat belts and ISOFIX child-seat tethers to achieve a four-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

Items for comfort and convenience on the entry-level model include climate control, electric sunroof, push-button start/stop, 17in alloy wheels, metallic interior trim, RDS radio with CD, MP3, and Aux/USB inputs.

Going up a grade will include rear parking aid, cruise control, tyre pressure monitoring, leather/multifunction steering wheel and mid-line audio with colour screen.

The range-topper adds parking aid camera, leather sports seats (also heated), digitally controlled dual zone air-conditioning, one-touch open and close function, automatic lights, rain sensing wipers, Bluetooth audio and chilled centre console.

An 18in wheel option is available across the range, as is satellite navigation.

Both MGs share a 1796cc turbocharged engine which is rated at 118kW and 215Nm.

The powertrain has been developed from the K-series engine which was familiar to New Zealand motorists from the last of the Rover models.

However, the engine has been constantly refined to meet Euro V emission standards.

It is capable of propelling the car to 100km/h from a standstill in 8.4s and a top speed of 192km/h. Although the turbocharger doesn't provide a strong boost it does promote a wide torque spread from 1750rpm to 4500rpm.

The media launch for the MG brand was held on roads through mid-Canterbury high country.

Initial driving impressions were favourable. The MG6 is sharp through the steering and has controlled chassis balance provided through traditional front struts and a complex multiple link rear suspension.

A strong nor'wester buffeted the convoy as it headed inland yet the car wasn't bothered by the gusts, nor did it complain when presented with quick corners.

Steering feel is well provided and accuracy into a corner is positive. The MG6 cruises quietly at highway speed, although the sound of gushing air through an A-pillar vent was noticeable on one of the fastbacks.

British Motor Distributors gives a combined cycle fuel usage figure of seven to eight litres for 100km.

On the launch the trip computer was constantly listing about 6.6-l/100km into the wind and 6.2l/100km with a tail-wind.

At 100km/h the engine turns over reasonably relaxed at just 2400rpm in fifth gear.

The MG6 platform can be traced to the Rover Group's former association with BMW.

It is a derivative of the MGZT chassis which has been constantly engineered to meet changing standards for safety and versatility.

The compact rear suspension allows boot space of 498 litres (1372 litres with the rear seats folded). Two sets of golf clubs can easily be slotted in.

Both variants are full five-seaters with adequate leg room for rear seat passengers.

Drivers and front-seat passengers will appreciate the all-round cabin space with a six-way adjustable seat for the driver and a four-way adjustable version on the passenger side.

Generous leg and shoulder room help create a comfortable driving environment.

Until the automatic gearbox version arrives, 30 to 40 units of the MG6 are earmarked nationwide. That figure is expected to rise markedly when the driveline range expands. In time, the range of MG models on sale here will grow into a complete line-up which is likely to include an SUV and later, as it is developed, a hybrid.

The MG6 is targeting the mid-size market and is pitched to take-on Suzuki's Kizashi, Mitsubishi's Lancer, Skoda's Octavia, Renault's Fluence and Holden's Cruze. A three-year warranty will be offered on all MG models. The MG brand has, through its 88-year history, always signified a sporty brand, whether in saloon form or sports car. MG is characterised as being desirable yet affordable. It's about fun and great driving dynamics.

These historic features remain as true of the MG6 as any of its predecessors.

Globally, MG is owned by SAIC Motor - the largest automotive company in China and the eighth largest in the world.

- NZ Herald

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