Thursday, November 18, 2010

MG cars reborn in surprise six model line-up

One of the most exciting pieces of automotive news in 2010 has been the looming spectacular relaunch of the historic MG car brand.

To date the company's only offering since its takeover by Chinese motor group SAIC has been the TF roadster, production of which has been distinctly intermittent.

While the mid-engined sportcar was respected for its handling, its 1990s heritage has left it severely lagging rivals.

But the company's new bosses have confirmed that MG is about to burst back onto the motoring scene with a range of surprising new models.

Showing the company is preparing to mix it in the most competitive sectors of the car market, the first new generation MG to hit the road will be the MG6 family model in both saloon and hatchback guise.

The Ford Mondeo and VW Jetta rival will be the first all-new MG to emerge from the company's historic Longbridge, West Midlands, home for 15 years when UK production starts by the end of 2010 and cars go on sale in early 2011.

Designed and engineered in Britain for sale internationally, the car is set to be powered by a 1.8 litre petrol engine with a 1.9 litre turbodiesel to follow.

Dubbed a 'fastback', early pictures of the production-ready MG6 show a coupe-like profile and, in keeping with the brand's history, the car is expected to have a distinctly sporting personality.

Featuring dramatic front lights, the car's angular face has a VW Golf style thin front grill dominated by a large MG badge with a deep black mesh grill below.

But while it's hard to judge from promotional photos alone, first impressions of the styling suggest that the MG6 may suffer from the clashing hints of Asian, European and American design tastes that come with attempting to build a 'world car'.

Designing an appealing car for all markets is a quest with which even the world's largest car makers have struggled, as the typically ungainly results have tended to underwhelm all markets.

MG, even with the resources of its new Chinese backers, would be very brave to attempt such a feat with its new range.

The '6' will be followed by a smaller Ford Fiesta and VW Polo sized model set to be called the MG3, which will go on sale in China before production moves to the UK by 2012.

Technical details are sketchy but the car is likely to be powered by 1.3 and 1.5 litre four-cylinder engines, with the possibility of a 1.5 litre turbo sports model.

Altogether, the new MG family is likely to comprise six models when production at Longbridge is up to full speed.

Other additions to the line-up over the coming five years are rumoured to be a mid-range 'MG4' to rival the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra, a large four-door model in the mould of the former MG ZT, plus a small electric city car.

A replacement for the dated TF roadster is also in the pipeline for a 2013 launch, with a number of development options being considered from a re-design of the current mid-engined format to an all-new front-engined sportscar. Powertrain options will include a hybrid as well as a potentially exciting V6 unit.

In the meantime the long-lived current TF will be finally phased out at the end of 2010.

Pricing of the MG3 in China shows SAIC's strategy for the marque may be to undercut major rivals while providing distinctive design and high levels of equipment as standard.

A premium sporting brand at a value price is an exciting prospect.

Under Chinese ownership, many false dawns and slipped re-launch timetables have surrounded the iconic British sporting brand. According to SAIC, the launch of the MG6 represents "the start of one of the most exciting periods in the 85-year history of the MG brand".

The latest news certainly shows that the company's new Chinese owners are serious about the marque's future.

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