Half-Baked MG Revival Continues Apace
By Andy Bannister
Shanghai Automotive Industries Corporation (SAIC) has this week unveiled its new MG6, set to be the cornerstone of the Chinese attempt to resurrect MG as a global car brand.
Needless to say, it’s not a two-seater sports car to replace the antique MG TF roadster, which has been spluttering fitfully off production lines in the company’s factory at Longbridge, England, over the summer.
Dear me, no. It’s actually a Chinese-built five-door hatchback with a vague fusion of recent Japanese-Korean-Malaysian design cues, although it is claimed to have been styled in Britain.
Still, the new model, unveiled at this week’s Guangzhou motor show, does mark the first all-new MG design for aeons. It is pencilled in for possible production in England as well as China by late 2010, since SAIC’s optimistic plans for a full relaunch of the near-dead marque are still very much alive.
The MG6 (its name relates to the larger MG7, a Chinese clone of the former Rover 75-based MG ZT) is a derivative of the already-launched Roewe 550 (Roewe being SAIC’s take on the old Rover brand).
The 550 was under development when MG-Rover collapsed in 2005, and the prototypes were shipped east and brought to market by the Chinese with the help of engineers in the English Midlands. Underneath, it and the MG6 share quite a few components from the Rover 75, a tragically unlucky car which has the distinction of being the only new design developed under BMW’s brief and turbulent overlordship of the British company.
Unfortunately, while clearly much more modern than previous MG saloons, the new MG6 looks at first glance more like a rival for a mid-range Toyota or Hyundai than a sophisticated European-derived junior executive car with a sporting pedigree.
However, despite its mass-market Roewe 550 roots, SAIC insists the new car’s chassis has been specially developed to suit the MG branding, and sees the model as competition for the likes of Alfa Romeo’s current line-up.
The engine choice consists of two Rover-derived the 1.8-litre engines, one turbocharged to give a sizeable 158hp. Interior trim and ambience is also set to be rather more sophisticated than many Chinese efforts.
With a new smaller MG model reportedly on the way as well, the octagon seems set for much greater exposure in China at least, but only the most rose-tinted optimists would agree that these new models are the logical successors to the classic MGs of yore, despite SAIC banging on constantly about the 85-year sporting heritage of the marque.
The great unknown – and the biggest gamble for SAIC – is whether there really still is life left in this much-abused brand, and to what extent motorists in Britain, Europe and perhaps other parts of the globe will be prepared to pay good money for a Shanghai-MG.
Meanwhile, memories of the fate of poor old MG-Rover – particularly the almost indecent haste with which 99% of the company’s assets and production capability were shifted to China – must be causing a few sleepless nights for workers over at Saab, wondering what fate befalls them next.
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