Wednesday, 12 August 2015

MG needs to get back to its sports car roots

OPAL FRUITS, Stephen Fry’s tweets and Top of the Pops. It’s funny how you only really start appreciating some things when they’re gone.

In fact, I’d like to add the MGF to that list. It's roughly 20 years since its launch  – and the more I think about it, the more I realise its absence is a fairly significant bit of Britain’s automotive armoury missing.

Okay, so it wasn’t perfect. If I had a pound for every armchair critic who dismisses the ‘F for blown head gaskets I’d have enough to buy a replacement Rover K-Series engine, but much more serious were its poor showings in customer satisfaction surveys when it was new. Oh, and Anthea Turner was a proud owner.

Yet despite Anthea’s best efforts Britain loved the ‘F – in fact, for a brief stint it actually outsold Mazda’s MX-5 – so for more than a decade it acted as the nation’s fun, inoffensive sports car of choice. Just like the MGB did a generation earlier.

Where is the modern equivalent? It’s the middle of summer, there’s a generation of company car drivers given allowances rather than mid-range Mondeos by their fleet managers – and what I suppose would be called the MGG is nowhere to be seen.

MG is alive and well, but it should be hunting on the territory it used to call its own as well as targeting the Hyundai-peddling masses.

I drove an MG3 last year and it was frugal and fun in an old-school, Citroen Saxo-ish sort of way. I suppose – and feel free to raise your eyebrows at this one – it does sort of live up to the legacy left by the old MG Metro. Fair enough, but what I reckon the world really craves is another proper MG, the sort you can pop the roof down and enjoy when the sun’s shining, and hole up in the pub and discuss breakdowns when it isn’t.

The MGF’s old rivals – the Fiat Barchetta, the Toyota MR2, the Alfa Spider and so on – are all gone, leaving the MX-5 as just about the only option left if you want a small, fun, inoffensive sports car.

Now is the time for MG’s Chinese masters to make it happen, but chances are they won’t. Don’t get bored with waiting – chuck a grand at a cheap MGF and remind the world what it’s missing.

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