The MG6 shakes up the compact car status quo

The MG name and the octagonal badge has always been synonymous with sporty roadsters. While most 20-, 30-, or even 40-somethings won’t recognize it by now, they were, at one time, the car world’s hottest ticket. As it seeks a return to relevance under its new owners, SAIC, one sure hoped that a sportscar was somewhere in those plans. For now though, the closest thing is the MG6.

At a glance, it’s clear that the MG6 isn’t a roadster; it’s a compact car designed to do battle with the Civics, Corollas, and Mazda3s of the world. Dig deeper though and its apparent that there’s a fair share of sportiness baked in. The MG from old is alive and well here.

For starters, there’s the way the MG6 looks. It’s clean, well-chiseled — not an angle wrong. The design, featuring elements also found in the ZS crossover like the London Eye headlights and Stardust grille form a strong familial look while the two-tone 18-inch alloys fill the wheel wells perfectly. If there’s one minor complaint, it’s that the rear bumper exhaust cutouts are fake — the real ones are routed beneath it.

That aside, the rest of the MG6’s unique design gimmicks are welcome. Chief among them is the MG6’s fastback rear-end. Pop the trunk and the entire metal portion and back glass go up like a BMW Gran Coupe, revealing a cavernous cargo hold bigger than any other compact sedan out there (with the parcel shelf removed, of course). Turn on the signal indicators, and they light up sequentially too. It’s clear the MG guys wanted to pepper it with lots of de rigueur design cues, and frankly it could have ended up being too busy. Thankfully, it doesn’t.

Next up, there’s the interior. Climbing aboard, the MG6 shows off an attractively-made and decidedly high-tech cabin. The sheer amount of red is, admittedly, a bit much, but at least it’s something that goes only with the Pearl Black or MG Red exterior colors. Build quality is superb and everything operates with tactile precision. That said, poke around and there’s not much soft-touch plastics to go by, so MG designers opted to distract visually using satin chrome accents and faux carbon fiber. Surprisingly, it works.

There are some parts in here that feel over the top at first, like the seven-inch LCD screen nestled between the analog speedo and tach. But with easy-to-read HD graphics and displays switchable using the steering wheel controls, the Virtual Instrument Cluster, as MG calls it, becomes indispensable. The eight-inch infotainment system is the very same one found in the ZS, and like its application in MG’s crossover, it has its quirks. Some have to do with misspelled English menus (“heasted window”), but the major annoyance is how the radio always turns on at a pretty loud Volume 5, regardless of whatever setting it had last.

Getting comfy with the MG6 is easy with its tilt/telescopic wheel and powered driver’s seat. The ergonomics are spot on and visibility, great too. Space-wise, there’s nothing to complain about at the front, maybe except for the lack of storage spaces. Move to the back though, and the fastback roofline robs usable headroom. Those seated at the outboard positions have nothing to worry about, but the person in the middle has to be smaller than 175 centimeters. Any taller and he or she risks getting bonked by the rather large hatch. And that’s a shame because the rear accommodations are actually great; there are even air vents here, too.

So far, MG’s gotten the styling and packaging right, but what about the driving? Does the MG6 score well in this department too? For the most part, yes. Based on the same platform that underpins the ZS crossover, it feels more solid in this application. With no panoramic sunroof to speak of (it has a traditionally-sized one though), there’s much less chassis flex, equating to sure-footedness during cornering. It doesn’t offer the same sort of precision or directness as the leading compact cars, but at least it ekes a dash of sportiness to its otherwise comfort-oriented ride. Plus, it actually has good bump soaking capabilities. Aside from its pliant ride, the steering is done well. Here, the steering effort isn’t changeable, but it doesn’t need to be. At low speeds, it’s light and responsive, and at high speeds, it weighs up nicely for added stability.

Honestly, it’s only with the drivetrain where the MG6 shows its weakness and it’s not for the most obvious reason. Despite being short in power compared to two other compacts with a turbocharged 1.5-liter engine, the 166 horsepower, 250 Nm of torque outputs are more than enough to label this car as spirited. Squeeze the gas, and the car is quick to oblige. The problem largely has to do with the engine’s gruff note. It’s not loud or intrusive, but the audible roughness lessens the sense of overall refinement. Oh, and it’s worth noting that this car is sustained by a strict diet of 95 octane fuel. Economy-wise, it’s pretty good when traffic is light, reaching 11.49 km/L (average speed of 27 km/h), but in heavy stop-and-go traffic (16 km/h), it gets bogged down to just 7.75 km/L.

Mated to a seven-speed dual clutch automatic, the MG6 feels subjectively quicker than any other in it class, and that’s even before the Sport mode’s engaged. Slapping the gear lever to the right of “D” engages “S” and this is confirmed by the analog gauges changing colors from white to red. In this mode, the gears are held longer and can be swapped using the steering wheel paddle shifters. What’s more, the dual clutch system employed by MG isn’t the jerky, problematic dry-type. Instead, it’s a wet-type, oil-cooled clutch that eliminates most gear hunting and improves longevity.

Compared to other choices in the local MG line-up — the MG ZS subcompact crossover and the MG RX5 compact crossover, the MG6 has its job cut out for it. The compact sedan segment is fiercely competitive and one filled up by badge loyal buyers. Nonetheless, remove any badge bias, and the MG6 comes with the styling, engineering, and equipment to play with the established players. Plus, with a price of just P1,188,888, this top-of-the-line trophy is excellent value too. It may be the sort of thing MG needs to shake up the pecking order of the Philippine automotive industry.

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