What’s it like?
There are two burning questions to answer here: does it look and feel like a low-rent, Chinese-built car on the inside, and secondly, does it drive like one?
Settle in behind the big, leather-trimmed steering wheel of the MG 6 and, at first, you certainly don’t feel short-changed. The overall appearance of the fascia is modern and reasonably appealing. The leather’s soft and well-stitched, the instruments a bit over-stylised, but readable. And you get loads of equipment as standard: electric windows, air con, alloy wheels and USB connectivity on entry-level cars, and sat nav, heated electric leather seats, cruise control, reversing camera, Bluetooth and 18in wheels on range-topping TSEs.
You sit high in the MG 6 by the latest standards, and the particularly tall may find their forehead in close proximity to the header rail. With only a limited amount of reach adjustment on the steering column, you may also find your knees a little close to the dashboard if you’re long-legged. This 6ft 3in tester had no lasting difficulty getting comfortable though.
Take a closer inspection of the cabin and you’ll begin to see areas where it doesn’t quite hit European standards of material quality. Although the dash roll-top is tactle and slush-moulded, the plastics of the lower fascia and door cards are hard, a little shiny and easily scratched. Although the car’s major switchgear – indicator arms, air conditioning and headlight controls – are substantial enough, buttons for the stereo and cruise control are more flimsy, their fit-and-finish more variable.
Nitty-gritty considered, this isn’t a cabin that’d ever get signed off on a Skoda. It’s not awful; just a bit thin and disposable-looking in places. That said, the car’s certainly spacious in most respects: there’s more headroom in the back than in the front, weirdly, and decent knee- and foot-room too, as well as bootspace to burn.
And what about the driving experience? All MG 6s will, at first, come with the same 1.8-litre, 158bhp turbocharged petrol engine, five-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel drive. Suspension is via MacPherson struts up front and ‘Z-axle’ multi-links at the rear.
Those ingredients make the MG 6 a spirited and willing performer – albeit one with a few rough edges. A close-ratio six-speed ‘box would make it feel quicker, but even with just five forward ratios, engine power is enough to make the MG forge forward with plenty of authority and zip, and its delivery is flexible too.
Better still is the MG 6’s chassis, which is quiet and supple, yet still controls body movements tightly. It’s clear that a great of MG Motor UK Ltd’s effort has gone into creating a convincing compromise between composure and sporting feel here, and it hasn’t wasted that effort. Hydraulic steering assistance allows for plenty of steering feel too.
Should I buy one?
If you want a handsome-looking, zesty family hatchback for a great price – and you don’t mind running a relatively thirsty, high-CO2 petrol option instead of the default-for-fleet diesel – you should certainly try one. It’s not often that cars from the budget sector deliver so much athleticism and driver involvement.
You’ll have to accept a few compromises, mind. The MG 6’s engine is relatively raucous at high rpm, its cabin quality is below par in places; it does feel like a cheap car here and there.
But not so cheap, we suspect, as to discourage you if you’re a bargain-hunter and you like the idea of owning what’s a perfectly competent and surprisingly stirring car for less.
If MG can keep making cars like this in China, and can improve its act in a few key areas, we say bring ‘em on.
MG 6 1.8T TSE
Price: £18,995; Top speed: 120mph (limited); 0-60mph: 8.4sec; Economy: 35.6mpg; Co2: 184g/km; Kerb weight: 1495kg; Engine type, cc: 4 cyls in line, 1796cc, turbocharged petrol; Power: 158bhp at 5500rpm; Torque: 159lb ft at 1750-4500rpm; Gearbox: 5-spd manual