MG has decided its budget-priced family hatch, the MG6, needed more than a mere facelift but a complete far-reaching revision. Can this much improved model make more headway in the Focus and Astra segment than its predecessor managed? Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Review
This much-improved MG6 will appeal to those who like a British-built product that's good to drive, inexpensive, economical and spacious. The styling's been refreshed, it's more economical, it's quicker, it's sharper through corners and there's a stack more kit included. In other words, it's upped its game right across the board.
Let's get one thing clear. The MG6 is a good car. Unfortunately, in the original form we first saw back in 2010, it was launched into a Focus and Astra family hatchback market segment populated by some really great models. Hence initial sales that fell way below the 2,000 to 3,000 annual UK total that this brand's Chinese paymasters had originally targeted. Early on, that shortfall was to some extent down to the fact that the MG6 range lacked a diesel, an oversight corrected in 2011 when a torquey 1.8-litre DTi unit was provided. That's been uprated in this latest car. This is part of a process that is seeing MG little by little knocking over the objections people might have prior to trying, then hopefully buying this car. It might take some time, but we have a suspicion the brand is getting there too. This much improved MG6 is certainly going to appeal to buyers who want a fine-handling, keen value vehicle that incorporates a few modern touches but doesn't overwhelm you with technology in the way that many modern family hatches do.
There are no petrol engines this time round, just a much improved version of the brand's 1.9-litre DTi diesel. This engine has been developed (and is assembled) at Longbridge from a kit of parts built in China and it's a gutsy unit. It's badged 'DTi-Tech', displaces 1849cc and features common rail fuelling and a variable-rate turbocharger while packing 150PS. Torque? You get a decent 350Nm at just 1,800rpm and the six-speed manual gearbox makes keeping on top of it, fairly un-troublesome. A hefty 75kg has been taken out of the vehicle in creation of this version and the result is that 0.5 seconds has been shaved off the sprint to 62mph, the MG6 now recording a brisk 8.4 second time. The spring, damper and anti-roll bar settings are specifically tuned for the diesel engine and as a result, the development team have succeeded in improving low speed ride quality without putting too much of a dent in this car's agility, grip and balance. Also standard is an electronic differential, called E-Diff, which works in conjunction with a sophisticated stability control system. This ensures that wheel spin in cornering is kept under control, giving the driver both increased safety and a more involved feel. The electro-hydraulic power steering system combines with heftier front brakes and it's clear that some real expertise has gone into ensuring all of these elements work in harmony with each other. There's a reassuringly expensive consistency of control weighting with this car that belies its price tag. Those who like things old-school might bemoan the loss of a traditional hand-brake lever in favour of an electronic item though.
Design and Build
This time round, there's a five-door-only model range and one that features a few updates that owners of the original version might spot from fifty paces. The front end gets revisions to the front lights, the grille and the lower vent, plus LED daytime running lights framed by a reshaped feature line. This gives the whole under-bumper assembly a far more focused look. On higher level trims, the MG grille is highlighted in chrome. At the back end, there's a black bumper and shaped tailpipe. In profile, this updated MG6 retains the basic look of its predecessor, though benefits from the addition of standard 16" alloys across the range. The cabin has also come in for some overtime from the design team. Almost every area of the interior has been enhanced to give higher levels of comfort and convenience. The smarter instrument cluster is now clearer, redesigned with a modern 'tunnel-style' presentation. The electronic handbrake frees up a bit of space between the seats and automatically releases when the vehicles moves away.
Market and Model
MG is certainly serious about marketing this car, here delivering a double-whammy of lower prices and more equipment. In fact, prices now open at £3,000 less than when the diesel engine first appeared in 2011. The entry-level S models start at around £14,000 and are fitted with heated front seats, LED daylight running lights, 16-inch alloy wheels and silver interior highlights. The mid-level TS opens at just over £16,000 and gets seats partly trimmed in man-made leather, rear parking sensors, automatic lights, windscreen wipers, cruise control, auto dimming mirrors and an 'MG touch' infotainment system. 'MG touch' incorporates a 7" touchscreen, app based operation, an FM/AM tuner with RDS, a CD player, DAB radio, a 'video in' point and Bluetooth 'phone connectivity with a 'Mirrorlink' function to duplicate the workings of your smartphone on the dash screen. There's also an 'iGo by NNG navigation' sat nav set-up. The range-topping TL variant is priced at around £18,000, and gets genuine leather seats and 35W Bi-Xenon HID main lights. 'Bending lights', which are integrated into the HID units, have a speed sensitive cornering function which follow the turn of the front wheels. A rear camera, a chromed grille, dual zone climate control and electric seats are also standard.
Cost of Ownership
MG are rather proud of having improved the performance of the MG6 while concurrently reducing its carbon dioxide footprint from 129g/km down to 119g/km. Hand-in-hand with that cut in emissions is a consequent rise in fuel economy, the old 53.3mpg figure now reading a brighter 61.4mpg. Residual values are tougher to gauge. On the one hand, this is a comparatively inexpensive, well equipped and economical car. On the other, there are more economical rivals that will prove cheaper to run on a daily basis. You'll certainly need to factor options costs into these rivals though, in order to bring them up to the level of standard equipment featured by the MG. Even an entry-level Ford Fiesta Style - a car from the next class down, remember - weighs in at £500 more than the MG6 and features an engine with half the power. If you want a Ford Focus with 150PS, you're looking at £22,000. In other words, it's hard to lose with the MG6 by forking out just £14,000.
You might not be expecting much from the MG6 but it's a car that might well offer up a few surprises, now more than ever. The original version needed a bit of work before it could be seriously recommended for inclusion on a potential Focus family hatch buyer's shortlist. Well, that work has been completed. The resulting car might still not be everybody's cup of tea, but at least it's now something that can be recommended to those who like a decent drive and want a lot of metal for their money. It's not just those with dewy-eyed nostalgia for the MG badge who'll like the MG6. Quite a few people just don't get on with the complexity of modern cars and prefer something a little less technologically dense. Others will like the idea of saving £8,000 over an equivalently powerful diesel Focus. In other words, this model now has a lot going for it. As a result, something tells us that the MG badge might be sticking around for the longer term.