Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Morris Dancers of China
On test... MG6 1.8T Luxury

The Opium Wars... not Britain’s proudest moment. In a nutshell: during the mid-1800s, the Brits were making a fortune flogging opium to the Chinese. When the Chinese emperor objected to both the amount of coin leaving his land and a growing number of addicted subjects, Her Majesty dispatched an expeditionary force to remind this impudent regent of his place. Which they summarily did. Not only did the British navy once again open up the opium trade, but they claimed Hong Kong for Queen and country too.

It’s not surprising then, that revenge figured prominently in Chinese thinking. What is surprising though, is the manner in which they took it. Instead of send their hordes to invade that small, damp island in the North sea… they bought the MG brand.

It was a cunning move. What better way to teach those foreign devils a lesson than reach out halfway across the world and pluck out the very heart of British heritage. Until then, Morris Garages had been one of Britain’s most venerable automotive brands. For the best part of 80 years, MG had produced cute little convertibles that smelled gloriously of leather, wood and hot oil. Unfortunately, and most inconveniently, though in 2005 the MG Rover Group went bang.

Sensing its opportunity had finally come, China, in the guise of Nanjing Automobile, snapped up the rights to the MG badge and went about serving that dish best served cold. Which brings us to the MG6…

Thing is, the MG 6 is not a bad car. Sure, the styling might be a something between a new Hyundai and previous gen. Renault, but both the fastback and the sedan are nonetheless handsome automobiles. Performance is reasonable too, although one would expect a little more go from its 118kW 1.8-litre turbo (the car’s two ton heft is a bit of an issue). And while it’s not totally at ease changing direction in sharp cornering, the handling is assured and planted through fast, sweeping corners.

It offers decent value for money too – at R239 000, the MG6 fastback Luxury we tested is in the same price bracket as a top-spec Hyundai Elantra, a mid-spec Toyota Corolla or a low-spec Ford Focus and VW Jetta. Up against these, the MG offers both a bigger engine and considerably more space. You could fit an old MG Midget in its cavernous boot.

So it’s not bad…And that’s the nature of the Chinese revenge.

The MG is simply “not bad”. Unlike its ancestors, this car is not quirky, interesting or even charmingly awful… which many old MGs were. This is simply “not bad”. They’ve given back the British an adequate, but bland version of a brand they had once loved.

It has the right badge, but it’s not all there. Like it’s been smoking opium…

Prices for the MG6 Fastback and Sedan range from R229 900 to R269 900

**as appeared in the Oct 2012 issue of the Kulula in-flight mag