First impressions are everything. And in this case, they are good. I first notice the fit and finish of the seats. Then the precise stitching gets my attention; I notice the mature form, and when I sit, support for my back is great. Things get better still. The door closes with a precisely machined ‘thunk’, the door pads are put together with high-quality double stitching, and what I notice next are the carbon-fibre inserts and the metallic highlights, both perfectly fitted. Even the leather on the dash is put together in such a classy manner; neat. A lot of the cabin trim seems to have been borrowed from Volkswagen products (Shanghai Automotive also has a big joint venture with VW in China), and that’s nice.
Still, there are also quite a few less-than-impressive bits. The top of the dash, for example, is made of hard plastic, the buttons below the big touchscreen aren’t put together or designed very well, and then, styling on the inside is, well, a bit immature. And that communist red trim – would that work here? But that apart, the cabin is an extremely nice place to be in. There’s even acres and acres of legroom in the back, and headroom is great too.
Rear seat comfy for passengers with big frames.
I’m not expecting much when I get behind the wheel for a couple of brief laps. But driven in a relaxed manner, the MG 6 also reveals that it isn’t too offensive to drive. The 1.5-litre turbo-petrol engine has 169hp and maximum torque comes in as early as 1,700rpm, so it feels effortless to drive on a light throttle. The automatic gearbox isn’t the smoothest unit around, so occasionally there’s a lurch, and when you use a bit more throttle, it hesitates. Still the 6 can be placed precisely in a corner, the ride is reasonably flat, and truth be told, it steers and drives as well as many contemporary cars sold in India.
On the next couple of laps, I try and extract more driving pleasure from it by going a bit faster. And that’s when things begin to slowly unravel. The 6 really doesn’t enjoy being hurried; the engine starts getting unrefined at medium and high engine speeds, power delivery isn’t linear, and I find that if I carry a bit of speed, even body control gets sloppy.
MG won’t be getting the 6 to the Indian market anytime soon, but what this brief drive has clearly shown is that MG and, especially, SAIC have come a long way from where they were, even a decade ago. Forget every Chinese car you’ve experienced in the Indian market until now; this is an all-new level of competence. At the right price and with the right amount of kit, MG’s India gamble just could work.
Yes, the SAIC-owned Baojun 530 SUV that MG India plans to reconfigure, restyle and sell in India (as an MG) may not be as well built as the car driven here today. Still, if MG actually manages to deliver the Toyota Fortuner-sized 530 at the price of a Hyundai Creta, it could have a good shot at success.
Turbine wheel vents add a touch of class to the cabin.
Can a Chinese carmaker actually succeed in India? The answer, increasingly, could be a yes.