MG is back, all the way from China

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The MG6 is ready for release next month. Photo David Thomson

When BMW revived the Mini and Volkswagen the Beetle, they had strong shapes to reinterpret.

Shanghai Automotive is not so lucky; in resurrecting the MG brand, it has had no real design lineage to draw from, just an octagonal badge and some defunct names.

The resultant MG6 sedan is therefore something of a mystery. While built upon the bones of the old BMW-Brit Rover 75 - which this Chinese conglomerate also retrieved and restarted - the whiff of nostalgia is not strong.

Remove the badges and forget the hatch is called the GT (a pointer to the 1970s MG GTB) and the sedan is the Magnette (recalling a name used by MG since the 1930s) and you will likely be none the wiser about the heritage that fuels this project.

To be fair, it is hardly the first cynical manipulation of the MG badge. Those who recall the 1980s MG Montego and Maestro will know the previous wholly United Kingdom-based administration was pretty good at that as well.

While clearly struggling to meet the performance aspect that the new owner seeks - the 1.8-litre turbo petrol, a rendition of Rover's K-Series, is simply not fiery enough, nor is the chassis dynamic as sporty as it should be - the MG6 at least conforms to modern standards for looks, equipment and spaciousness.

The price is probably going to look right, too: while final tags are being kept under wraps until October 1, the boss of local rights holder British Motor Distributors, Kerry Cheyne, assures the car will start just under $30,000 and top out around $35,000. Indeed, he told me, it is planned for the entire MG family of 2014 to place below $40,000, with aspiration to open with the MG3 at $18,000.

Remember, in the old days, the cheapest MG cost $42,000, the dearest was more than $70,000.

The MG6 kicks off with with the one engine and transmission (manual, five-speed) in hatch and sedan, but reinforcements are coming. A 1.9-litre diesel is a month away and a sorely needed auto - actually, an automated manual six-speed - will land next year. By 2014, the family will have grown to include an MG5 hatchback and MG3 city car.

Sharp price aside, styling and size will help the MG6. Although truncated from the 75's dimensions, the platform provides a long wheelbase that in turn allows generous rear legroom; shame the sunroof shortchanges the tall for headroom. Also appealing are the solid equipment level, even if Bluetooth comes only to the top spec and sat nav is optional.

The hindrances? They are also fairly obvious - the age of the core mechanical components and chassis, the poor rear visibility and the total absence of traditional MG touches. The interior will get a revamp next year but needs it now; cheap plastics, uneven build and perplexing ergonomics await.



MG is back, all the way from China
At a Glance


Price: $29,990 to $34,990 (est.)

Engine: 1796cc turbocharged petrol four-cylinder, maximum power 118kW@5500rpm; maximum torque 215Nm@2500-4500rpm

Transmission: Five-speed manual

Brakes and stability systems: Disc brakes, ABS, BA, EBD

Wheels, tyres: Alloy wheels, 215/50 R17

Fuel and economy: 7.5 litres per 100km on EU combined cycle, capacity 62 litres

Dimensions: Length 4651mm, width 2008mm, height 1472mm