The re-rebirth of MG

By: Andy Enright

Presented by

Comeback kid MG takes another shot at the world stage

 

The re-rebirth of MG

MG is back. Again. Yes, there was a half-baked failure to launch back in 2013, when distributor Australia Longwell Motor attempted to find a market for the MG 3 supermini and MG 6 compact but ran into ADR issues, eventually shifting just six cars. With the ADR glitches resolved, the cars are now being imported with the full factory backing of SAIC Motor, the Chinese global partner of Volkswagen and GM and the biggest of the Big Four Chinese car manufacturers. So there’s some financial clout behind MG now.

What there isn’t is a great deal of new news. The MG3 was first unveiled at the 2010 Shanghai Motor Show and while the design still looks agreeably pert, the market has changed significantly since then. MG has reshuffled the deck a little in terms of trim levels, and there’s now a three model line up, with all variants powered by the same 1.5-litre atmo four good for 78kW at 6000rpm and 137Nm at 4500rpm. Three pedals are a given too, with all MG 3 variants driving through a five-speed manual. Stop me if you’re feeling a warm wash of nostalgia there.

The MG 3 range opens with the aggressively-priced $13,990 Core, steps up to the $14,990 Soul, which adds Bluetooth and a better stereo amongst other items, and tops out with the $15,990 Essence that gets some bells and whistles including 16-inch alloys, a body kit, cruise and automatic headlights and wipers.

It’s a similar trim walk up with the MG 6, the i30/Mazda 3/Golf rival fitted with a 1.8-litre turbo four-pot donk, driving a six-speed dual-clutch transmission. You get 118kW at 5500rpm and 215Nm between 2000-4500rpm, which is a fair slug when prices start at just $21,990. Each model will be available with a 6‐year unlimited kilometre warranty and 6‐year roadside assistance included.

The -re -rebirth -of -MG-5Even the fuel economy figure of7.8L/100km isn’t bad for a car of this size. The boot is bigger than that of a Golf and passenger accommodation front and rear betters most class rivals. Having driven the cars in the UK, I can report that they drive surprisingly well, with a ride that’s sports biased and very good steering. The simplicity and fun feel of these cars is a bit of a throwback, but in the UK at least has appealed to those who dislike the technological complexity of many modern cars.

So what’s the catch? The one thing that MG will struggle to overcome are the cars’ safety scores, the MG6 scoring a four-star ANCAP rating and the MG3 a EuroNCAP three star score.

Brand authenticity is another obstacle. Many will feel that this is just a badge that the Chinese have acquired on the cheap and are trying to cynically exploit with cars that look nothing like most people’s idea of an MG. Why was there no roadster in the initial product mix? Andrew Huenerbein – MG Motors Australia’s Business Development Senior Manager is the man responsible with re-establishing the brand in Australia and was frank about the lineage. "We can’t solely look at what MG were. We have to look at what MG would have become," he said. 

Huenerbein has developed out a plan that will see the cars launched in ten east coast dealerships by the end of the year, with more coming on stream next year, coinciding with the launch of the MG GS compact SUV. One thing’s for sure. He’ll certainly be able to point to a big sales uptick compared to the last venture. Convincing an industry-significant slug of potential customers will be much harder. The cars are likeable, the company listens to feedback and learns fast. They’ve commissioned James Brock to run an MG6 team at next year’s Bathurst 6-Hour. The team will race an MG6 derived production car in Class E at Bathurst and will compete in the four production car rounds following as well as the Winton 300, so that earns them a big thumbs up from us. 

It seems a bit odd describing cars that have been around this long as a little way off the finished article, but there are promising signs here. Monetising that promise is the challenge that Huenerbein and his team face. Nobody said it was going to be easy.

 

Vital Stats

MG3

Price: From $13,990 (plus on-road costs)

Engine: 1.5-litre four cylinder petrol

Power: 78kW at 6000rpm

Torque: 137Nm at 4500rpm

Transmission: 5-speed manual, FWD

Fuel Consumption: 5.8L/100km

 

MG6

Price: From $21,990 (plus on-road costs)

Engine: 1.8-litre four cylinder turbo petrol

Power: 118kW at 5500rpm

Torque: 215Nm at 2000-4500rpm

Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch automatic, FWD

Fuel Consumption: 7.8L/100km

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