Spend £16,195 on a mid-spec TS car such as the one you’re looking at on these pages and you’ll get part-leather seats, rear parking sensors, automatic headlights and wipers, cruise control and a 7.0in touchscreen multimedia system with sat-nav.
You don’t quite need to go to the Elegance trim level of the Octavia we lined up in opposition to match the MG’s kit level; an SE Business with a couple of options will do. But even the lesser version of the Skoda will set you back just over £21,000.
So with a 25% price advantage, the 6 starts this comparison with a healthy head start. It has refreshed front and rear-end styling – nothing too bold or shiny, just a welcome dose of added smartness sensitively applied. And the car’s position has been further rationalised by changes made under the bonnet, under all four corners of the body and inside the cabin.
MG has discarded the turbocharged 1.8-litre petrol engine with which the 6 made its UK debut and now offers only the UK-developed 1.8-litre DTI-Tech turbodiesel introduced in 2013, albeit in updated form.
Read the full Skoda Octavia review
Although it makes the same 148bhp and 258lb ft as before, that engine contributes to modest improvements on claimed fuel economy, CO2 emissions and 0-62mph acceleration.
On all three fronts, it’s helped by a 75kg overall weight saving, old model to new, and by the decision to offer only 16in alloy wheels even on full-house TL models. The outgoing version ran with broader-profile rims up to 18in in diameter.
All of which allows the 6 to brush aside the first challenge that every budget car is set in 2015: thou shalt not compromise. The MG is within a couple of tenths of the Skoda on the 0-62mph sprint and competitive on claimed efficiency. On paper, it’s a contender. And it’s cheap – at face value, at least. Half the battle? Perhaps not, but it’s enough to tempt plenty into a showroom, or even a test drive.
So it’s with a certain cautious optimism that you swing the MG’s door open, lever yourself into the driver’s seat and thunk the door closed behind you. Comfy seat, well-located controls, decent visibility, lots of space: check, check, check and check again.
Where the facelifted car improves on the original is with greater attention to material and ergonomic detail. Firstly, the ugly mechanical handbrake has been replaced by a much neater electronic one. You needn’t reach over to the far side of the transmission tunnel to operate it, and it’ll never trap your thumb. Hurrah.
That, in turn, has made space for some of the switchgear formerly located on the MG’s crowded centre stack to migrate to a much clearer-looking console just aft of the redesigned gearlever. The difference made to your overall impression of the car’s centre console is marked.
But it’s not just that the cabin layout has improved. It’s as if 50% more money has been spent on most of the buttons, dials and knobs you frequently use. There’s much more sophisticated and effective use of chrome, too, and less shiny, binbag-black plastic. And higher on the dashboard, the darker grey trim around the air vents, the new multimedia set-up and the clearer, classier-looking instruments look far better than what went before.
Upshot: the MG’s cabin now seems entirely acceptable for a budget option. It still isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough to earn your forgiveness. The digital water temperature and fuel gauges are a bit crude and dated, and the scroll wheels mounted on the steering wheel look and feel like they’d last about five minutes at the hands of a curious toddler.