This is the home of automobile road tests in South Africa. We drive South African cars, SUVs and LCVs under South African conditions. It also just happens that most of the vehicles we drive are world cars as well, so what you read here probably applies to the models you can get at home.
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Published in The Witness Motoring on Wednesday March 7, 2012
“It’s designed and engineered in the UK,” said Sergio Lopez, MG South Africa’s director of sales and marketing: “Only the money comes from overseas – sort of like that other company.” “How about the 6 on the boot lid?” we asked. “That’s a series number,” Lopez replied, “a small 3-series is in the works while 5 and 7 will follow later.”
When MG-Rover went into receivership in 2005, the manufacturing facility at Longbridge, Birmingham, closed down and 6000 lost their jobs. Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation bought the rights to the names and moved production overseas. In a neat turnaround, the Shanghai plant now exports CKD kits back to Longbridge for assembly in the old factory, giving employment to about 200 workers. Our cars arrive fully assembled from China.
So, is it new? Sort of: the old Rover 75 became Roewe 750 under its new owners and this MG developed from that. Design and development took place at the MG Motor UK Technical Centre in Birmingham. The engine is an 1800 cc turbocharged four-cylinder unit developing 118 kW of power and 250 Nm of torque. Suspension is by means of McPherson struts in front and a multilink setup at the rear. Brakes are ventilated discs at both ends.
Two body styles, saloon and fastback, named Magnette and GT in the UK, and in three levels of trim, are offered. We just call them Saloon and Fastback and refer to Comfort, Luxury and Deluxe trim levels. Our test car was a mid-range Luxury saloon. All versions use the same engine and have ABS with EBD and EBA, dynamic stability control with traction control, front and rear fog lamps, four airbags, ISOFix child seat mountings, heated and folding outside mirrors, alloy wheels, a six-way adjustable seat for the driver, ambient lighting, power windows all ‘round, push-button starting and single channel air conditioning.
Luxury trim adds rear parking assistance, indirect tyre pressure monitoring, a leather-bound steering wheel, cruise control and a classier entertainment system with SD card-based satnav. Deluxe versions brag with a rear view camera, electrically adjustable and heated front seats, leather upholstery, automatic headlights and wipers, automatically dipping interior mirror, dual-zone air conditioning and a smarter entertainment system with Bluetooth and upgraded satnav.
Just as the original Magnette your grampy had, or wished he had, was a family saloon that went a lot better than it looked, so too does the modern version. The engine is only lightly turbocharged, well within the kind of power potential that an 1800 can produce, but it’s well balanced. Zero to 60 mph comes up in 8,4 seconds, so the benchmark 100 km/h would probably be reached in about 9,0 seconds. The UK version is governed to 120 mph, or about 194 km/h, to qualify for a cheaper insurance class, but our cars go on to 205 km/h.
Most turbocharged cars run into a wall of marshmallow when the rev limiter kicks in at around 5500 rpm, but this one is redlined at 6750 and is prepared to go further. We took the test car to 7000 rpm before deciding to err on the side of caution by backing off. An interesting side effect is that third becomes an excellent gear for quick overtaking, making ‘a hundred in third’ a doable old-fashioned proposition, if you catch our drift. While up to such shenanigans, not that our readers ever would, of course, one will notice how stable the car is and how well it handles.
Oh, yes, we were calling this a family car, weren’t we? The boot is big and square, measuring 472 litres and opening out to 1268 when the seatbacks are folded down. A spacesaver spare is provided and your SA Standard tall passenger can get reasonably comfortable in the back seat. Knee room rates a ‘ten’ while head- and foot space earn eight points each. That’s when the driver’s chair is all the way down, and acknowledging that most modern cars sacrifice some headroom for fashionable coupé styling. Space for bits and bobs is taken care of with a variety of storage boxes and a generous glove compartment.
But it’s Chinese, you say; fit and finish just has to be cheap and nasty, doesn’t it? How do we put this – the dash is a pleasant mix of soft and hard surfaces, tidy yet conservative, and the quality of plastic switchgear is generally not bad. It’s bright, shiny black though, so it appears cheaper than it probably is.
We have only two criticisms of what is generally a very nice car. They are the plastic key fob that we do not see lasting for five or ten years of repetitive work and the clutch that does not take up evenly, making the car easy to stall sometimes. The company is aware of the clutch problem and assures us that it is being addressed.
Price: R239 900
Engine: 1800 cc, four-cylinder, turbocharged
Power: 118 kW at 5500 rpm
Torque: 250 Nm at 2500 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: About 9,0 seconds
Maximum speed: 205 km/h
Real life fuel consumption: About 9,4 l/100 km
Tank: 62 litres
Gearbox: 5-speed manual
EuroNCAP: 4 stars
Warranty: 3 years/80 000 km
Service plan: 3 years/90 000 km, at 24 000 km intervals.
This is a one-man show, which means that road test cars entrusted to me are driven only by me. Some reviewers hand test cars over to their partners to use as day-to-day transport and barely experience them for themselves.
What this means to you is that every car reviewed is given my own personal evaluation and receives my own seat of the pants judgement - no second hand input here.
Every car goes through real world testing; on city streets littered with potholes, speed bumps and rumble strips, on freeways and if its profile demands, dirt roads as well.
My articles appear every Wednesday in the motoring pages of The Witness, South Africa's oldest continuously running newspaper, and occasionally on Saturdays in Weekend Witness as well. I drive eight to ten vehicles most months of the year (press cars are withdrawn over the festive season - wonder why?) so not everything gets published in the paper. Those that are, get a tagline but the rest is virgin, unpublished and unedited by the political-correctness police. Hope you like what you see, because there are no commercial interests at work here. As quite a few readers have found, I answer every serious enquiry from my home email address, with my phone numbers attached, so I do actually exist.
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