First Drive: MG6 GT Diesel

When MG launched the MG6 last year, its first all new car in more than ten years, it was missing one vital ingredient – a diesel engine. In the Focus/Mondeo market segment that the car straddles, where only 12% of cars purchased were fitted with a petrol engine, that was a major oversight.

MG has now put that right. The new ‘DTi-Tech’ diesel engine is the first to be developed by MG under its new owner, the Chinese giant SAIC, and whilst the money may be coming in from the far east, the design and engineering has all been done right here in the UK.

The car is also assembled in the UK at the old Longbridge factory in Birmingham, where I went to try out the much needed and surprisingly British addition to the MG6 range.

The engine itself is smooth with plenty of torque. Outright power of 148 bhp is par for the course, but it’s the torque figure of 248 lb-ft that grabs attention as that translates to surprisingly swift progress. A 0-60 mph time of 8.9 seconds is impressive enough, but disguises just how readily the MG6 will build up speed in any gear. It’s smooth and gutsy, cruising at motorway speed limits with the engine barely ticking over thanks to a slick new six speed gearbox. A headline economy figure of 55 mpg is competitive, but also seems achievable – despite pushing the car hard, I managed 46 mpg with considerable room for improvement under normal conditions.

It drives as well as it goes, too. Always well regarded for its handling and ride, the MG6 has been revised slightly to match the new engine.

Around 90 kg heavier than the petrol powered car, the chassis needed some work to retain that renowned driving style, which sees revised roll bars and springs, bigger brakes and new speed sensitive power steering all combine to keep the car feeling agile and nimble.

Suspension is stiff, but not harsh. There is just enough cushioning to ride comfortably over most surfaces, smoothly absorbing undulations, but it is also stiff enough to resist body roll in corners. There are few cars in the class that will ride or handle quite as well as the MG6. It’s a genuinely accomplished all-rounder.

Inside it is remarkably spacious. Barely bigger on the outside than a Vauxhall Astra, the tape measure reveals that there is more space available inside than in the much larger Vauxhall Insignia. It’s not quite Tardis-like, but the team at Longbridge have certainly made as much use of the space as they possibly can.

Equipment is also generous. Every model comes fitted with dual-zone climate control, heated and folding external mirrors, USB socket, alloy wheels and hill start assist, while the top TSE specification car I was using included electrically adjustable heated seats, cruise control, sat-nav, parking camera, and automatic wipers and lights, amongst many other toys.

MG has taken quality very seriously on the revised MG6, with fit and finish improving significantly over the last 18 months. Time has been spent re-engineering the switchgear, making sure rotary knobs spin round smoothly, that buttons click in and out with a reassuring feel. Despite that, I found an irritating rattle in my own test car; the vehicle was soon whisked away for the engineers to check over, with the report coming back that the glovebox lid hadn’t been closed fully. The fact that MG team were so surprised to find a rattle that the car was investigated is a sign of how certain they are of the quality. The fact that it’s possible to close a glovebox incorrectly is, however, a little embarrassing.

Given the quality of the engine, ride, handling and interior, it’s a shame the cabin is a little bit dark and gloomy. There’s little flair in the design, with straight lines and sharp edges dominating the dashboard, a slim strip of silver plastic running across the width of the interior being the only thing to lighten the mood. It’s all a bit 1980s, and is an area MG need to focus more time and money.

Despite that, the MG6 Diesel is a significant step for the reborn British brand. It goes up against some stiff competition from the likes of the Honda Accord, Vauxhall Insignia and Skoda Octavia, but has the advantage of value on its side. The ‘S’ entry model will cost just £16,995 when it goes on sale in January, £1,755 less than Skoda’s Octavia TDI 140 SE. Servicing costs are also expected to be the lowest in the segment at around £500 for three years.

At those prices it has to be a sensible addition to your car shopping list, especially if you want something that is markedly different from the norm or, despite the Chinese backing, want to buy British. It’s a left field choice, but one that is definitely worthy of consideration.

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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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