What is it?
The chances are the name MG6 is one that you haven't heard of. Limited resources in terms of marketing has meant the Chinese-owned British brand has not had the opportunity of advertising their cars on prime-time television. Although two MG6s racing in the British Touring Car Championship have created a little buzz around the brand, it's not widely known that MG is back and making cars.
But here we're focusing on the MG6 Magnette, and not the slightly more exciting MG6 GT fastback. The name Magnette was last used in the 1960s on a re-badged Austin Cambridge, and has been used to try and evoke the glory days of classic British sports saloons. But apart from the nostalgic name, this is just a straight-laced saloon car designed, engineered and built in the UK but with Chinese technology and money.
What's it like to drive?
It's really not as bad as you think. A lot has been made of the fact that this car has been engineered in the UK for 'European tastes' at MG Motors' Birmingham HQ (read MG Rover's old Longbridge plant), and you know what? It's not bad at all. Turn into a corner and the Magnette grips tenaciously with little body roll. Poor steering feel (and a cheap feeling steering wheel at that) does its best to blunt the driving experience, but a snappy six-speed manual gearbox and a more than adequate 1.9-litre diesel engine are plus points. The engine is co-developed between MG's owners, SAIC, and another Chinese company and it performs strongly. It gets to 60mph in 8.9 seconds and there's plenty of torque for overtaking on the motorway. Combined MPG is 53.5, although we never really bettered 47, and all MG6 diesels come with stop/start and regenerative braking technology.
What's it like on the inside?
The first thing you'll be struck by is the dashboard's striking similarity to the type you'd find in a BMW – stark and sombre. That is until you start touching and prodding. The plastic used in the MG6 are by no means dreadful but they do lack in the quality stakes. The radio is one of the fiddliest contraptions around and rivals Ford's Sony systems for lack of simplicity, and the multimedia screen's penchant for turning greyscale at night beggars belief. The dials are difficult to read too and the handbrake's release button – located under the lever – is both poorly designed and stiff to operate.
That said Magnettes come only in TSE trim – the highest on offer in the MG6 range. That means the seats are upholstered in leather and the fronts are electrically-operated and heated. There's also dual-zone climate control, sat-nav, front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera – all for a very reasonable £21,590.
Is it practical?
Well, it depends upon how you look at it. MG is quite proud to proclaim the Magnette 'straddles' the C- and D-segments adding that because of this it has 'an even broader customer appeal'. Think of the Magnette as larger than a Focus but smaller than a Mondeo and you have a good idea of the car's size. It's big on the inside and offers 472-litres of load space with the seats up or 1,268 with them folded down.
Should I buy one?
MG wouldn't want to admit this but since the car's launch in 2011, the MG6 range hasn't exactly flown out of showrooms. In fact, so far this year, the company has sold a dire 156 cars. With the forthcoming launch of its brand new supermini called MG3, the company hopes to receive greater brand awareness and, more importantly, acceptance among the British buying public. There's nothing really wrong with the MG6 Magnette, it's just that it doesn't really excel enough for it to warrant serious consideration amongst buyers. It's good to drive, spacious and quite good looking, but doesn't offer much else. If you really want one though, we suggest you look at a used one. Unsurprisingly being such a new company, MG6s suffer from heavy depreciation so the best bargains are used examples.
MG6 Magnette 1.9DTI TSE
Engine: 1.9-litre, turbocharged diesel
Power: 148bhpTop speed: 120mph
0-60mph: 8.9 seconds
Fuel economy: 53.5mpg (combined)
Emissions: 139g/km CO2