What is it?
This is the MG6 diesel we were promised. When this first of Chinese-owned MG’s all-new range hit the UK market 18 months ago, only optimists reckoned it would make any impact. Why? Because there wasn’t a diesel option, and in the Focus-Mondeo market segments the car aimed to straddle, petrol sales account for not much more than ten per cent. It drove nicely, and we were told a diesel was in development, but for now it was barely relevant to the UK market.
What is it like?
Now it’s here, and it’s good. Generous power is provided by an all-new UK-designed 1.85-litre, four-pot diesel that is powerful, refined and has a wide torque spread. Peak power of 148bhp chimes in at 4000rpm, while peak torque begins at a relaxed 1800rpm, and is maintained into the 3000s. Combined fuel consumption of 53.5 mpg and CO2 output of 139g/km are competitive without being best in class: MG reckons further improvements are coming.
Meanwhile, the whole car has received impressive updates. The all-independent suspension, already one of the MG6’s better features, has been carefully refined (with new spring, damper and anti-roll bar settings) to handle the diesel’s extra 60kg of mass, and to improve low-speed ride and refinement while preserving agility, grip and balance. There’s a new electro-hydraulic power steering system. The front brakes are beefier, and there’s an excellent new six-speed gearbox whose top gearing, close to 40mph/1000 rpm, gives the car long motorway legs.
MG is just beginning to build diesels at Longbridge and expects to deliver the first customer cars next March. It aims to sell the 6 across two classes, comparing it with the Skoda Octavia for exterior size and performance, and — surprisingly — with the Vauxhall Insignia for interior space. It easily beats both for equipment: our DTi SE test car (whose £18,200 on-road price compares spectacularly with the £17,500 quoted for a petrol SE 18 months ago) had the two-zone climate control, heated and folding exterior mirrors and hill-hold that go into every single MG6 — even the base S-model — plus sat-nav, parking sensors and cruise control. The top-spec TSE shares even more gadgets with the single-spec Magnette four-door.
On the road, the MG6 is a major surprise. It rides with classy body control on typically horrible British B-roads, yet offers supple and quiet bump absorption. The steering is light and impressively accurate. There’s lots of stopping power from the bigger brakes (nicely tuned for a subtle first touch) and the powertrain refinement — the way the engine, gearbox and clutch cooperate at high or low speeds — is exemplary.
Should I buy one?
It’s fighting some great cars, but it definitely deserves consideration. Dynamically speaking, it’s a great car for British roads. It’s a hoot to drive, and roomy and well-priced with it. Downsides? Depreciation and lasting quality still need to be proven, and to our eye the car rather lacks visual character. The base shape is fine, but there isn’t enough “MG-ness” about it. We reckon it’s time for the designers to live up to what the engineers have already achieved. Then you’d have a great car.
MG6 SE DTi
Price £18,195; 0-60mph 8.9 sec; Top speed 125 mph (est); Economy 53.5mpg (combined); CO2 139g/km; Kerb weight 1605 kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1849cc, diesel; Power 148bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 258lb ft at 1800rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual