I’ve just come back from taking the MG6 GT on an autumnal jaunt around rural Devon, going through four hundred miles of countryside, several hundred gear changes, the majority of a tank of diesel, plus plenty of tea and two and half packs of Trebor mints to keep the driver happy. To really get to know it, I wanted to see how this top level TSE model would respond to a variety of situations, from triple lane motorways to town centres, A-roads to winding rural lanes, all of which we found and explored at length.
The 6 is the first model from the ‘new MG’, and any car company launching their introductory model has a lot to get right. There are multiple eggshells to tread on when you are back to square one, starting from scratch to try and keep the car-buying public happy – What should it look like? What should it cost? How do we make it modern and appealing yet keep the MG traditionalists happy? – and many more besides.
MG has tried hard to give the 6 some distinctive styling features, both inside and out, to set it apart from its competitors. The body is shaped in a unique fastback style, with a saloon version known as the Magnette also available. Some of these styling cues work to give it a more mature and striking look whilst others are maybe a tad superfluous in some people’s eyes. To get going you insert the plastic key fob into a rectangular slot with a glowing bevel to the left of the steering column, then depress it inwards to start the engine, so it’s a bit like combining a start button and a key all in one. The cabin is comfortable and spacious with seating for five, and the black leather trim helps to give it a more executive feel. The front seats are electronically adjustable and heated, though the heater is either on or off, rather than having variable heat settings. The thin, leather trimmed steering wheel is pleasantly light to operate, but due to its size it does have a fairly large turning circle at 11.5 metres, so on tight manoeuvres you may well be doing a fair bit of wheel spinning. The front and rear parking sensors are standard on this trim level, and are very welcome in making sure the bumpers stay intact, as is the rear reversing camera.
Some of the narrow country lanes around Devon can feel incredibly claustrophobic in a large saloon like the MG6, at just over two metres wide and 4.65 metres long. You know the type of road I mean – solid looking vertical hedge on one side, houses abutting the pavement on the other and having to drive across people’s doorsteps whilst encountering milk tankers, police cars, tractors and a range of Land Rovers trying to come the other way at speed. Luckily, part of its ample size is the huge boot (498 litres with the seats up, 1379 litres with the seats down) so it easily swallowed up all our gear with plenty of room to spare. I’m sure I’ve actually lived in flats with less storage space.
When you get out onto a decent A-road, the diesel engine just keeps on pulling and doesn’t ever seem to run out of puff, but its slight growl does emanate into the cabin. When pulling away I found it could be quite easy to stall, as by listening to the engine only without eyeing the rev counter it sounds like you’re giving it plenty of gas but sometimes it’s not actually enough to get you going. The gearstick has a nice short throw to make changing cogs fluid and swift, with the petrol versions sporting a five speed and the diesel versions a six speed box, and once you’re away the drive is pleasant and untiring, especially on dual carriageways and motorways where the car eats up miles and overtakes without batting an eyelid.
I did find my driving pleasure start to decrease as the sun went down. I really could have done with the headlights being more powerful so they’d reach out further in front and to the sides. On the lit streets around the towns and villages it wasn’t so noticeable but as soon as you got out onto a dark rural lane or unlit motorway, which at this time of year happens quite early in the evening, it made it hard work to maintain a decent speed whilst confidently being able to judge the layout of the road ahead.
Built into the centre of the dashboard is the infotainment screen, displaying music information, sat nav maps and the image from the reversing camera. As well as a radio and CD player, the MG6 also has USB and 3.5mm aux inputs that are found in a flap to the bottom right of the steering column, which is just the right size to neatly conceal a portable music player. I began to get bored of the radio about ten minutes into the journey. This is was unfortunate, as for the first nine minutes my USB stick played a few three-minute tracks and then went back to the start to play them again, so I had to pull it out. Thinking in advance, I’d copied several hundred of my iTunes library favourites across to the USB memory stick and looked forward to an almost endless stream of favourite driving anthems to ease my passage from town to town, and not bothering to take my wallet of CDs. Except that the MG6 will apparently only strictly play MP3 files and not MP4 files used by iPods and iTunes, so it only picked up the three files that were in MP3 format. I even tried plugging in the iPod directly using the USB cable but it wasn’t having any of it and I resigned myself to putting up with the radio, humming, or just listening to the engine.
The protruding main control dial for the on-screen functions sits boldly just beneath the screen. Selecting your destination on the sat nav involves entering the town and road name using this dial, as the system doesn’t accept full postcodes, but the maps and directions are generally clear and easy to understand once you’re underway. You can also pair your mobile phone for Bluetooth functions, which is reasonably straightforward to do and can be heard clearly through the speaker system.
Rather than just having a normal handbrake, there is an aluminium patterned lever that blends into the rest of the interior trim – great to look at but in practice not quite as good as a normal, boring handbrake. The one on test car would only pull up so far on the button meaning that if you’re parking on an incline you’d need to give it a sharp yank to click it up a couple more notches to get it feeling secure. Behind the base of the handbrake is an elevated armrest that opens up to reveal a handy storage compartment. From the driver’s seat position, there aren’t really many compartments to chuck your keys, mobile phone, half a pack of Trebor mints etc. other than in this compartment or the door pocket, which is rather on the slim side. At the bottom of the centre compartment is a small flap you can slide backwards to open a cold air vent that will turn the compartment into a mini chiller cabinet. I thought it might just be a bit of a gimmick and would just blow some tepid air on my can of cola, but it did actually do quite a good job of keeping things cool. So if you’re going to keep your phone in there, remember to close the vent flap before doing so, otherwise you could end up with a particularly cold ear next time you make a call.
The engine is a 1.9 litre turbo diesel that deals with 0-60mph in 8.9 seconds and will go on to a top speed of 120mph. Kerb weight is 1615kg but it chucks out a decent amount of oomph, with power at 150ps and 350Nm of torque. This level of power is great in a straight line, but as it is front wheel drive it can sometimes feel a bit twitchy in low gears when cornering at speed. I often felt an automatic gearbox would work well on the MG6 and make long distance driving even more relaxed.
Using the rotary dial on the left of the steering wheel you can view stats from the trip computer on a small screen between the rev counter and speedo, with the usual information such as trip distance, fuel economy and remaining range, plus for some reason it has a lap timer as well, that’ll clock your performance to the nearest tenth of a second!
We easily completed the trip on one tank of diesel and according to the trip computer still had enough for 100 miles more. My enthusiastic driving style on varied roads averaged a fairly respectable overall mpg of 44 compared to the official combined cycle figure of 57 with CO2 emissions of 129g/km. Although the petrol engine versions are cheaper to buy, combined mpg drops dramatically to 37 and CO2 emissions shoot up to 174g/km. As well as reasonable fuel costs with the diesel engines, your other running costs should also be modest with insurance for the top of the range turbo model in group 15 out of 50, much lower than some of its rivals, and car tax at £105 per year.
The model on test has an on the road price of £20,195 which puts it not that far under the price point of other executive saloons we’ve recently enjoyed testing such as the Peugeot 508 and Mazda 6, plus a number of others. It’s a fiercely fought sector of the market that most manufacturers have been tweaking their formulas for many years to get just right.
That MG have since gone on to produce the fully-loaded top level MG3 for less than half the cost of the top level MG6 shows that they’ve taken a huge step forward in a very short space of time and learnt a lot about what buyers are looking for. Whereas the 6 has shown it has a lot to offer but can sometimes be the slightly awkward teenager, the MG3 feels more like a well-rounded and self-assured twenty-something that feels a bit more comfortable in its own skin. However, during our time together over many hundreds of miles, the 6 certainly grew on me as I got to know its foibles. First attempts rarely come out absolutely perfect, and with a few tweaks here and there the MG6 could easily become a challenger to some of its many family and executive saloon rivals.