Just about every manufacturer these days is trying their hand at making a worthy C-segment competitor, but as Ray Leathern explores, against today’s big players in a contracted market, you’ve got to get your formula just right.
Any upstart like MG will always have a tough battle going up against established names like Toyota, Ford, Hyundai, Volkswagen and Honda. Each is a past winner of South Africa’s car of the year competition and each has a consumer strong hold and historically unshakable presence in the C-segment market. For the MG6 to make an impact, just being the underdog isn’t going to be good enough. To really take it to these stalwarts, the MG6 is going to need some seriously credible references.
First impressions of the MG6 are that it’s actually a worthy contender. Sporting a sharply styled (if slightly generic) suit, it certainly looks every bit as good as any other C-segment sedan. A snappy, V-like bonnet, feeds seamlessly into a concave front grille and poised rear running lines carry attention all the way to the tall, rear end of the car. The MG6 is bigger than I was expecting and it has an accomplished air about itself. Nothing on the overall package comes across as quirky or gimmicky in an attempt to grab attention. Looking a little generic is not such a bad thing here, because C-segment cars tend to thrive on a sense of familiarity.
Being the newest C-segment competitor, you’d hope the MG6’s interior carries some nice features and this it does. The top of the range 1.8-litre turbo model carries a vast array of specification. The wrap around front fascia is good it must be said and the dials are bright and easily legible. The central entertainment system also works well. It has proper pop out cup holders, which are becoming more and more of a rarity these days.
It has a multi-function trip computer, which includes a lap timer of all things; air conditioning; 17-inch alloy wheels; central locking; a full complement of airbags; cloth seats; electric windows; radio/CD/MP3-player with USB connectivity; height and reach adjustable steering with audio controls; ABS; EBD and electronic stability control. The quality of materials might be a generation or two behind the new stuff you’ll find from the Korean, Japanese and Germans these days, but it’s acceptably packaged.
Performance may not be everything in the C-segment sedan battle, but for you to win over the masses, being able to deliver at least something rewarding from behind the wheel is never a bad thing. The MG6’s 1.8-litre turbo supplies 118 kW and 215 Nm, offering enough power to be enjoyable.
While it may not be all that efficient with power being transmitted to the road through the five, short, sharp ratios of the manual gearbox, it does at least feel like a good, rev happy turbo engine and its turbo makes it torquey enough when you need it to be. Talking about the gearbox, that really is the Achilles heel of this car. The action between the gates is crunchier than your morning cereal and the clutch pedal squeaks and squelches under your left foot. In the state the test car was in, when I had it, it was poor I have to say.
Aside from the gearbox, it’s so far so good for the MG6 then and we haven’t even got to one of its biggest surprises yet. The handling and ride quality are where it really comes into its own. The set up of a vehicles suspension, like its performance, is unlikely to be at the top of the list of prospective buyers in this market, but that’s not to say it shouldn’t be. The Toyota Corolla has a torsion beam rear suspension, while the Honda Civic sedan has multi-link and the Ford Focus has its independent “control blade” suspension at the rear. Any guesses as to why the Focus and Civic are great to drive and why everyone is in agreement that driving a Corolla is like the equivalent of watching paint dry? Suspension is the answer, especially at the rear, and fortunately for the MG6, it employs a sophisticated multi-link set up that I’m told comes originally from the Rover 75. That shouldn’t sound dodgy, if it does it isn’t meant to. The old Rover 4.6-litre V8 was rear-wheel drive and had such a clever suspension deployed to put its 190 kW and 410 Nm onto the ground. Imagine what an easy life it now has just having to prop the rear of the MG6 up while the front wheels are the driven ones.
The chassis delivers a real smile inducing drive. It’s a good suspension that makes the car feel planted on the road. You’re fully aware of the suspension components working away below you all the time, containing weight movement from front to back and side to side, helping the MG6 grip. Couple this with good power steering system and you have a very rewarding C-segment sedan to drive. (Watch a short video review of Ray behind the wheel – Ed.)
As an overall package, the MG6 has a lot to offer and, with its sharp looks, fair interior, zesty engine and sophisticated chassis, it promises a lot as well. It is such a disappointment then that the gearbox has to let it down oh so badly… We could have been talking about a real contender here.
What we like…
- Real sporty handling. Seriously.
- It’s fairly generic looking and that makes it inoffensive overall.
- Good steering.
What we would like…
- MG to find a gearbox out of and old tractor or something. Anything will be better.
- Use a normal key. The key you have to constantly jam into the dash is quite awful.
- Some improved economy. No doubt when a better gearbox is found.
|Base Price||R239 900|
|Engine Capacity||1 796 cc|
|No. Of Cylinders||4-cylinders, In-line|
|Power||118 kW @ 5 500 r/min|
|Torque||215 Nm @ 4 500 r/min|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Acceleration||0-100 km/h in 8.4 seconds (claimed)|
|Top Speed||193 km/h (claimed)|
|Fuel Consumption||7.9 L/100km (claimed combined)|
|CO2 Emissions||184 g/km|
Images supplied courtesy of Matteo Conti Photography.