MG 6 20T Trophy: Svelte, Standout Sports Saloon

Pitched as “British born” MG has been a Chinese owned and operated car maker since 2006 – now under the SAIC Motor umbrella – the erstwhile British brand is ever quick to draw attention to its rich 94 year history. Proving itself beyond expectation soon after its regional debut, MG claimed two segment wins for the thoroughly competent entry-level compact MG 5 saloon, and top honours at the 2020 Middle East Car of the Year awards for the impressive HS compact SUV. It is however the mid-size MG 6 liftback saloon that truly captures the MG brand’s inspired and sporting traditional essence.

Used as a daily driver during a week of intensive pre-award test drives including far pricier, more exotic cars and certain storied Italian supercars, the MG 6 did not disappoint in the slightest. In fact, it always left a smile on this driver’s face whether driven on short jaunts between venues or at a more athletic pace through winding desert roads. A perhaps overlooked but truly inspired sports saloon with roots going back partly to before and to the early days of MG Chinese period, with plenty of engineering and development in the UK for the first generation and carrying over to this second generation.

Probably the most rewarding driver’s car in its segment, and even beyond, the MG 6 20T Trophy owes much to its authentic British engineering knack for designing and fine tuning a rewarding, sporty and engaging steering and chassis set-up. Somewhat related to the defunct Rover 75 and first developed for a 2010 release, the second generation MG 6 circa 2017, has however not grown significantly in size. Sitting somewhere between most modern compact and mid-size saloons in size and weight, the MG 6’s comparatively lightweight 1,320kg mass also goes a long way to keeping it keen and nimble.

Though smaller than most mid-size rivals, the MG 6 is nevertheless a well-packaged car with good in-class cabin room and comfort to rival the bigger cars in its segment. A svelte and flowing car with saloon styling, including a long bonnet, short rear deck and athletic posture on the road, the MG 6’s liftback tailgate however deliver much better cargo access than larger traditional saloon rivals, and better versatility with its rear seats folded, as luggage room increases from 424-litres to a voluminous 1,170-litres. Slimmer than most rivals and with a generous glasshouse, the MG 6 also offer excellent maneuverability and visibility.

Redesigned in 2017, the MG 6 a distinctly sporting style that nevertheless avoids the excess and over-styling of many rivals. From profile its has a fluid arcing roofline, subtle Coke-bottle hips, small built in spoiler and side vents. Meanwhile from front view it features more dramatic slim headlights, big hungry side intakes and a big elegantly upscale chrome-ringed ‘Star Rider’ style grille reminiscent of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Best in sportier Trophy trim level and in Mg’s rich signature candy red paint, the MG 6 rides on two-tone alloy wheels shod with 225/45R18 tyres that deliver the right compromise of grip and steering feel.

Driving with the clarity and connectedness of a bygone age before over-wrought, desensitized and disconnected cars became more prevalent, the MG 6 nevertheless features a contemporarily downsized and efficient drive-line. Powered by a turbocharged 1.5-litre 4-cylinder engine co-developed with Opel and driving the front wheels, the latest MG 6 20T iteration delivers better output, efficiency and performance than its 1.8-litre turbo predecessor. Developing an advertised 166BHP at 5,500rpm and 184lb/ft throughout a broad and ever-versatile 1,700-4,300rpm band, of which 90% is reportedly available throughout and over-arcing 1,500-5,000rpm range. Meanwhile, the 20T boasts brisk 7-second 0-100km/h acceleration and a 210km/h top speed.

Returning frugal combined cycle 5.8l/100km fuel economy, the MG 6 however proved too addictive and engaging to drive at the sort of slow pace required to achieve that figure. Quick spooling and responsive from standstill owing to its turbocharger’s short gasflow path, the 20T is impressively capable given its small displacement. With subtle yet evocative background growls and dump valve hisses, the  MG 6 rides a rich, broad and flexible torque band, yet delivers its power in a progressive and eager manner, pulling hard in a strident sweep to its red-line. Best yet, it is in theory available with a three-pedal manual gearbox suited to its sporty sensibility.

Probably the most entertaining and engagingly agile car in its class, the MG 6 is however offered in the Middle East with a similarly sporty slick and quick automated dual-clutch gearbox with steering wheel-mounted pedal shifters. An affordable front-drive family liftback sports saloon with the heart and eager, nimble reflexes of a well-sorted hot hatch corner carver, the MG 6 is nevertheless a refined, smooth and comfortable long distance commuter and user-friendly city driver. Settled and reassuring at speed without being disconnected or disengaging, the MG 6 is instead confident and alert, ever eager to switch from highway cruising to sporty off-ramp maneuverability.

If not the most powerful or technologically advanced mid-size saloon out there, the MG 6 is certainly one of the most thrilling and rewarding through twists and turns. Lightweight and backed up by an XDS selective braking and stability control based electronic differential, the MG 6 is eager and agile into and through corners. Turning in tidily and on the proverbial dime, with its well-weighted electric-assisted steering providing direct, natural and textured feedback to one’s fingertips, the MG 6 communicates a nuanced feel for its position, the road and the exact limits of road-holding in terms of grip and slip.

Allowing one to accurately place it on road and fine tune a cornering line with finesse, the MG 6 delivers reassuringly committed road-holding, but is nevertheless eager and adjustable, allowing the driver to shift weight and tighten cornering lines with confidence and clarity when desired. Driving like a smaller and sportier vehicle with its visceral driving experience, the MG 6 meanwhile well-controls body roll and feels settled and hunkered down on dips and crests. Driven largely smooth Dubai roads, the MG 6 takes most imperfections in its stride but can however feel somewhat firm over sudden and jagged  bums, lumps and cracks.

Well-spaced and distinctly sporty inside with Trophy spec two-tone leatherette, circular vents, chunky steering wheel and alert, comfortable and supportive driving position, the MG 6 has a user-friendly and intuitive layout and ambiance, employing good materials, if not as plush as the MG HS. However, the Trophy version’s otherwise good 8-inch Apple Carplay-enabled touchscreen infotainment system disappointingly didn’t accommodate Android Auto connectivity or USB drive MP3 playback. Based on the Dubai drive, the MG 6 to be an affordable, practical and affordable sports saloon highly recommended for driving enthusiasts, but we are awaiting a promised second test drive to evaluate how it copes with rougher Jordanian roads.

Specifications: MG 6 20T Trophy

  • Engine: 1.5-litre, transverse, turbocharged 4-cylinders
  • Bore x stroke: 74 x 86.6mm
  • Compression ratio : 11.5:1
  • Valve-train: 16-valve, DOHC
  • Gearbox: 7-speed dual clutch automated, front-wheel-drive
  • Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 166 (169) [124] @5,500rpm
  • Specific power: 111.8BHP/litre
  • Power-to-weight: 126.2BHP/tonne
  • Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 184 (250) @1,700-4,300rpm
  • Specific torque: 167.7Nm/litre
  • Torque-to-weight: 189.3Nm/tonne
  • 0-100km/h: 7-seconds
  • Top speed: 210km/h
  • Fuel consumption, combined: 5.8-litres/100km
  • Fuel capacity: 50-litres
  • Length: 4,695mm
  • Width: 1,848mm
  • Height: 1,462mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,715mm
  • Overhang, F/R: 965/1,015mm
  • Luggage volume, min/max: 424-/1,170-litres
  • Kerb weight: 1,320kg
  • Suspension, F/R: MacPherson struts / multi-link, anti-roll bar
  • Steering: Electric-assisted rack & pinion
  • Brakes, F/R: Ventilated discs / discs
  • Tyres: 225/45R18

Rivals and alternatives

Mazda 3 Sedan 2.0

A stylishly swooping and evocatively designed compact saloon with convincing ‘premium’ status aspirations and progressive, efficient, free revving and refreshingly crisp naturally-aspirated power, the Mazda 3 sits at the smaller side of the segment straddling MG 6, the other side of which sits the Mazda 6 saloon. That said, the Mazda 3 is closer on pricing and has similarly alert and eager handling and driving disposition.

Specifications: Engine: 2-litre, transverse, 4-cylinders; Gearbox: 6-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive; Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 153 (155) [114] @6,000rpm; Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 148 (200) @4,000rpm; 0-100km/h: 8.5-seconds (estimate); Fuel economy, city/highway: 8.4-/6.6-litres/100km; Length: 4,762mm; Width: 1,795mm; Height: 1,440mm; Wheelbase: 2,725mm; Head room, F/R: 965/947mm; Weight: 1,354kg (estimate); Suspension, F/R: MacPherson struts / torsion beam

BMW 318i

Long regarded by some as the standard bearer of the sporty compact executive saloon segment, the pricier rear-driven BMW 3-series is not exactly a direct competitor to the affordable front-drive MG 6. But given the MG 6’s sublime front drive handling characteristics, better value and performance, there is nevertheless a case to be made for an asymmetric comparison with the base BMW 318i version

Specifications: Engine: 2-litre, in-line, turbocharged 4-cylinders; Gearbox: 8-speed auto, rear-wheel-drive; Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 154 (156) [115] @4,500-6,500rpm; Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 184 (250) @1,300-4,300rpm; 0-100km/h: 8.4-seconds; Top speed: 223km/h; Fuel economy: 5.3-5.7-litres/100km; Length: 4,709mm; Width: 1,827mm; Height: 1,435mm; Wheelbase: 2,851mm; Head room, F/R: 993/957mm; Weight: 1,565kg; Suspension, F/R: MacPherson struts / multi-link

Audi A4 35 TFSI

The sportiest, most agile A4 yet, Audi’s stylishly elegant and understatedly classy uses a less conventional in-line engine, front-drive architecture for entry-level variants, and Quattro four-wheel-driver for more powerful variants. Trading away a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine for a detuned 2-litre turbo, the revised base 35 TFSI variant’s headline stats are little altered, but it gains a broader, more versatile torque curve.

Specifications: Engine: 2-litre, in-line, turbocharged 4-cylinders; Gearbox: 7-speed dual clutch automated, front-wheel-drive; Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 148 (150) [110] @4,000-6,000rpm; Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 199 (270) @1,300-4,850rpm; 0-100km/h: 8.9-seconds; Top speed: 210km/h; Fuel economy: 5.5-5.9-litres/100km; Length: 4,762mm; Width: 1,847mm; Height: 1,431mm; Wheelbase: 2,820mm; Head room, F/R: 1,039/953mm; Weight: 1,545kg; Suspension: 5-link

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