A week with the: MG6 Magnette DTi TSE

Mike Humble:

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If any car maker qualifies for having nine lives like a Cat – it has be our very own MG. Passed around from pillar to post having more owners than the Rovers Return – MG at long last seems to have found stability in the marketplace under the incumbency of the Chinese motor giant SAIC. More recently, the new MG3 has received positive reviews from the vast majority that have experienced it – and deservedly so. Regular visitors to this site will be aware we tested the MG3 a short while ago and found the combination of cheeky good looks, impressive value and talented chassis tough to beat for the money asked.

We also ran an MG6 GT-TSE 5 door hatch last year and also found that to be a relaxing motorway muncher and nimble on its toes through the apex. Again, the combination of value, chassis and a strong pulling engine left us feeling satisfied that the brand still has potential if handled in the right fashion – albeit in an ever fiercer market place with some seriously talented rivals. The partner in crime to the GT is the 4 door saloon – better known as the Magnette, offering a similar brace of power units – a turbocharged 1.8 petrol and a 1.9 turbodiesel. The consensus of opinion seems to be that the saloon looks better in the metal than the hatchback model – we kind of agree with that.

The Magnette looks very European and some say better than the hatchback version. Panel gaps and paint finish is pretty good.
The Magnette looks very European and some say better than the hatchback version. Panel gaps and paint finish are pretty good.

As often as not, a traditional saloon car tends to be stiffer in body construction and more refined than a hatchback, so we were keen to accept when MG Motor UK offered us a lengthy trial of the MG6 Magnette diesel. Up close the car looks very European and well proportioned in a true 3 box sense without being angular. The lines flow rather nicely, the shut lines are acceptable for the price tag and the silver paintwork was well applied and even in finish. The smoked effect alloy wheels look great and are shod with grippy looking low profile tyres that promise a few smiles per mile. A decent sized boot with a low sill height is spacious enough, and more space be required, the rear seat back rests fold down to get you out of trouble.

Lifting the bonnet reveals an Asian built but UK developed 1.9 16v transverse diesel that punches out a healthy 150PS while lower down the range gives the pilot a hefty 350Nm of torque at around 1800rpm. The installation looks okay too with a nicely made acoustic cover with chromed 3D MG badge. All your usual daily / weekly inspection levels can be checked without hunting for dipstick or cap either – it looks very well laid out with plenty of space to work around. The engine starts cleanly and once warmed through, idles with a healthy sounding thrum that’s not offensive to the ear. Eco friendly touches include a quick warm up period and urban stop-start function along with a 6 speed gearbox.

The British developed 1.9 diesel pulls really well and looks good under the bonnet. Daily checks are easily done but its prone to harsheness and a little vibration when driven hard.
The British developed 1.9 diesel pulls really well and looks good under the bonnet. Daily checks are easily done but its prone to harsheness and a little vibration when driven hard.

Entering the leather clad interior you are treated to mixture of good and bad. The seat is initially supportive but lacks those all important leather quirks that makes a car feel special – touch and feel. The leather has none of the expected creasing to the hide and has virtually no fragrance to the nose. On the plus side, the leather trimmed steering wheel feels good with a thick chunky rim that glides through your hands well. A traditional brace of analogue dials work alongside a digital L.E.D fuel and coolant gaugue but we did find the calibrations a touch small and fussy. MG provide a multi-function trip computer too but the appearance of the font looks a little out of date with current rivals.

The top part of the dashboard is nicely padded and has a decent looking faux leather grain to it but other plastics like incidental switchgear and the cup holder feel cheap and provide little confidence towards long term rigidity. This top of the range TSE comes with dual zone climate controls that are easy to fathom out but the buttons are a little small and fiddly with the display often being unreadable in bright sunlight as its prone to reflections. The same applied to the radio / sat nav display that doubly annoyed by seeming just that bit too bright at night. The driving position is fairly good with the wheel being almost perpendicular to the brake pedal, perfect throttle pedal angling and a short stubby gear lever that’s just the right distance away.

Inside the TSE - Its well equipped and comfortable though some of the plastics and minor trim are not acceptable in terms of quality. Dash and Climate display very prone to reflections and bright light.
Inside the TSE – Its well equipped and comfortable with class average leg room though some of the plastics and minor trim are not acceptable in terms of quality. Dash and Climate display very prone to reflections and bright light glare – Nasty looking handbrake is awkward to use but facelfited model due soon should address this.

Sadly, the test car came with an electric tilt / slide sunroof that robbed valuable headroom so as a consequence, the drivers’ seat height had to be dropped much lower than one would have liked. Sliding the electronic key into the slot releases the steering lock and fires up the engine, although the key has been universally panned for feeling too light and flimsy feeling in the hand. Urban refinement is impressive and the punchy engine really does pull well from most revs but the test car was noted for easily stalling when moving around in tight spaces. Once up to speed the Magnette remains un-fussed as it goes about its business, only fast acceleration produces excess noise and a little unwanted vibration but motorway cruising is very good indeed.

Away from the arrow straight motorways and into the country lanes, the talented chassis set up gives little cause for complaint. There’s some suspension noise over the ruts and tyre roar on concrete or rough surfaced roads but the car is well damped, balanced and there’s enough communication through the steering rim to connect your senses to the wheels. On the whole, the MG6 is a nice car to throw around on the back roads and yet cleverly remains suited, booted and relaxing on long motorway journeys – a recent jaunt to the N.E.C from the South coast had no complaints from driver or passenger. The test car came with tired feeling brakes – possibly as a result of 15.000 fast and furious journalistic miles but the 5 door tested last year had no issues in this area.

Just the MG6 GT, the Magnette is very much a practical family car. Able to swallow big loads thanks to a large and low boot - back seat backrests fold to if required.
Just like the MG6 GT hatchback version, the Magnette is very much a practical family car in every sense. Able to swallow big loads thanks to a large and low boot floor – rear seat backrests split fold too for even more space.

We found the car to be reasonably well screwed together with no rattles or squeaks but it did blot its copy book part way through the week. Without warning the car developed a fault with a gear selector inhibitor switch that effectively immobilised the car on the driveway just a few hours before an important meeting. A phone call was made to MG Motor UK and the switch was bypassed enabling me to get to the aforementioned meeting – albeit an hour late. We have since been informed this was down to an over eager valeters jet wash lance causing water ingress to a wiring connector thus shorting out the switch – understandable maybe but an item that certainly needs looking into to avoid a widespread concern maybe?

It also became known after the test that our example car was an early Chinese assembled vehicle, so expect the build quality to be improved on UK assembled cars from Longbridge. On the whole, the MG6 Magnette is a better option to the hatch if practicality is not your first priority. It looks better and seems to be that little bit more refined – it’s not a bad old Hector to drive either… especially for long journeys at speed. In a crowded and cut throat marketplace does the Magnette stack up as a viable option? Well, there are some tempting offers from the manufacturer at the moment including free trim upgrades and mouth-watering finance packages to drive down the ownership cost that little further and MG seem to be steadily plugging the voids in the dealer infrastructure.

Chunky steering wheel and the pedal layout give a good driving position. Fitted sunroof robs headroom though and the visual layout of the cockpit is overdue for a re-vamp.
Chunky steering wheel and the pedal layout give a good driving position. Fitted sunroof robs headroom though and the visual layout of the cockpit is overdue for a re-vamp.

But as for the car itself, the facelifted version that’s due in the near future needs to come quickly as some areas of the MG6 are in a desperate need for fettling or improvement. The handbrake is simply horrible to use and look at while a few items of interior plastics such as the key and some switchgear or controls are simply no longer acceptable at any cost in terms of quality or appearance. As a driving tool though – its pretty fine in nearly everything you ask it to do, it looks decent and has a credible level of toys including Sat-Nav, a reversing camera, all round power windows and electric / heated seats. All it needs is a nip and tuck here and there – after all… the devil is in the detail!

For more information on the MG6 CLICK HERE

The Humble Opinion:

The test car was a little disapointing compared to the UK built GT we tested last year owing to it being an early Chinese assembled car, so expect UK built models to be far better – of which they are. A combination of good performance and fair eceonomy when cruising makes the DTi a fine car to crunch long mileages and its smile inducing through the twisty stuff too. Its well equipped, has bags of grunt and looks good, needing just nip and tuck to seriously impress. But the continuing lack of visible advertising is always going to hold the car and company back in both sales and public brand perception… this NEEDS to be adressed and quickly!

Autobritannia Rating: 6/10

MAIN STATS: MG6 Magnette DTi TSE

Pricing: From £19.995 contact dealer for latest offers

Producer: MG Motor UK / SIAC Longbridge Birmingham

Engine / Transmission: 1.9 16v Turbodiesel & 6 Speed Manual

Power / Torque: 150Ps with 350Nm @ 1800rpm

Suspension / Brakes: All round independant coils / Front & rear discs.

Economy / Co2: Combined 53.5mpg (48mpg on test) 129G/km

Safety: ABS / EBD / 6 airbags / Traction Control / 4 star NCAP rating

Peace of Mind: 3 years or 60.000 mile warranty – manufacturer backed.

The Highs: Strong & willing engine – Good equipment – Entertaining chassis – Decent ride comfort – Well equipped – Huge boot – Smart looking – Practical – Body construction feels solid and secure – Tidy exterior fit and finish – Great motorway cruiser – Good purchasing packages on offer from manufacturer – Much better to drive than some might expect – Dealer network tends to be independant and customer focussed rather than corporate gin palaces.

The Lows: Some interior fittings well below quality expectations – Questionable re-sale values – Noise and vibration when driven hard – Dashboard and heating controls very prone to bright light and reflections –  Dreadful looking and feeling handbrake – Restricted front headroom with factory fitted sunroof – Needs revising and face-lifting to keep up with the rivals – Thick front A posts hamper visibility in tight spaces.


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