When the Chinese government gently leaned upon SAIC to buy NAC it was any-ones guess how the brands of Roewe and MG would work together, they could chose to continue with the same dated range that NAC had started, create a new range off the more mainstream orientated Roewe platforms, or simply stick a MG badge on their cars. The brands first outing after itís acquisition was when SAIC signed a deal with vehicle importer S.K. Berge to import Roewe's range, then the 550 & 750, into Chile, and it was the MG brand that they did it under. Aside from this change of badge there was nothing else to distinguish these cars from their Roewe counterparts. Could the 550 cut it with an MG badge in Europe? Fortunately SAIC were planning to do much more than just a spot of badge engineering.
MG6 in China
The name MG6 was floating around before even the Chillian MG, and in 2009 conformation came in the form of official sketches of the new car. The MG badge was clearly doing its job, with the car receiving much attention not only in China but also in Europe, even before the car had been officially launched. It was at the 2009 Shanghai Auto show the car was officially shown in the metal, a near production car in a rather nice metallic red, and not so nice alloy wheels, continued to bring the car and the brand much attention. In December of the same year the production car was on the market, featuring both turbo and naturally aspirated versions of the1.8 N-series, 133 and 158bhp respectively. Power comes through a 5-speed gearbox, or a 5-speed tiptronic auto, chassis details are carried over from the 550, which in turn came from the 750. The car was well received by the Chinese press, although many commented on its comparatively high list price.
October 2010 saw the saloon launched, essentially applying the MG6 front and new tail-lights to the Roewe 550. It may sound simple, but it is effective, the MG6 has a suitably different demeanour to its Roewe relative. Sales of the car have been good, selling over 47,000 in 2010/2011, although it has always been behind the 550. The 550 will be getting a new dual clutch gearbox in 2012, and itís likely that the MG6 will receive this too, as well as a new 6-speed manual. While the Roewe will also be receiving a facelift this year, thereís no evidence to suggest the MG6 will be receiving one as well.
MG6 near production car shown at Shanghai Auto Show
MG6 in the UK
2010 saw the newly named MG Motor UK begin to stir up excitement, claiming the car would see a UK launch in October of the same year. April saw Autocar testing the car, and it not only met expectations, it exceeded them by being a very competent steer, a tribute to it's UK based engineering team. Like the 750 and 550 the MG6 was developed by SAIC's Ricardo 2010 team now incorporated into SAIC's UK Design Centre, featuring many ex-MG-Rover engineers. The car was benchmarked against a Ford Focus, the class standard for driving dynamics for many years, and not an easy task for a Chinese maker giving it's first shot at a European car. MG were even confident enough to let your average punter to have a go in Chinese built models at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and like Autocars review, the main gripe was with the Chinese quality interiors.
The MG6ís interior is much the same as you would find in the 550; opening the same front door youíre greeted by the same basic dashboard. The main difference is the clocks, which have lost their 'Silverstone' digital set up in favour of a more traditional two-dial set up. This lack of change is no bad thing, the well thought out interior of the 550 needed little improvement, as in design at least it is thoroughly competitive against the European opposition.
October 2010 passed by without any MG6 launch, the event actually took place in February 2011. For the UK the MG6 is being assembled from knock-down kits, supplied from china, and with the car in production reviews of UK spec models came in. Autocar stuck with their earlier praise of the handling, but in their more exhaustive test, found much else to deride the car for. Mainly the powertrain, the naturally aspirated 1.8 wonít be on sale in the UK leaving only the turbo motor. However poor performance, economy and refinement, as well as an out-dated 5 speed gearbox. added up to a sub-par review. It was clear tat the car needed a more competitive engine to meet European class standards. The MG6 is due to get that with the arrival of a Diesel, developed by SAICís UK technical centre in Birmingham, although no firm facts of it exist. What we do know, thanks to a accidental, perhaps deliberate, leak by MG is that the engine will be a 1.8 and would appear to be near production ready as of December 2011.
There may not have been a Diesel for 2011 but there was a Saloon. Launched at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2011, the car received the somewhat retro nameplate of Ďmagnetteí. However disappointing reviews and a lack of awareness amongst many as to what the car actually is have translated into underwhelming sales figures for the brand. However with a deal to supply 500 to Avis car rentals, and sales up in December things are beginning to look up. MG have also made the shrewd move of competing in the BTCC in 2012, which can only help with their limited brand awareness. This will beneficial, not only in advertising to BTCC fans, but also the general public. A tie up with Tesco means the MG6 will receive advertising at the supermarkets petrol stations, which should see a few more people at least aware of this cars existence. Critically the car needs a diesel, and a better gearbox, both of which are in testing as we speak, they canít come soon enough. Also rumoured is the addition of a 2.0 petrol in the vain of the BTCC car, as well as the introduction of the dual-clutch gearbox currently testing for the Roewe 550. Hereís to a good year for MG Motor UK.
The October launch date for the UK model was pushed back to January 2011, and at the time of writing (the end of that month) the MG UK site still has nothing to report. Back in China October 2010 saw the launch of the MG6 saloon; more closely based on the 550, the car still manages to look rather different, conveying the sporty image that its designers undoubtedly wanted it to.