MG (short for Morris Garages) has a lengthy and chequered history. Although now in the grasp of China’s SAIC Motor, the Brit brand is best remembered for the bone-rattling yet charismatic roadsters it built until the early Eighties.
But do you recall the mid-engined MG F that launched in 1995? It was the first new model designed purely as an MG since the volume-selling MGB that was built and sold from 1962 to 1980. From that point on — until the introduction of the MG F — the marque was content to stick its badge on tarted-up versions of mainstream products churned out by its Austin Rover Group parent company.
In this context, the mould-breaking MG F was a breath of fresh air, and its mid-engined layout and perky contemporary styling also augured well. Although the basic recipe was sound, as was so often the case with British cars, the MG F was let down by poor execution, especially when it came to the Mk1 model.
The entry model was powered by a 117bhp 1.8-litre Rover K-Series engine, which apart from being wheezy, was also prone to head-gasket failure. The company did little to address this, which meant many owners were left with expensive repair bills. There was also a 143bhp version of the engine with VVC (variable-valve control), but that wasn’t too much sprightlier.
The MG F pioneered a suspension system called Hydragas, in which gas and liquid replace the steel springs of a regular suspension design. Although an interesting novelty, this set-up was complicated and trouble-prone. No surprise, then, that it was ditched in favour of conventional coil springs in its TF successor.
But by far the MG F’s biggest downfall was its mediocre build quality. The roof was a chronic leaker and bits and pieces were likely to rattle, break or snap off. The paint scratched easily and flaked off, and the interior plastics didn’t always fit together properly. Oil leaks were also common and the plastic rear window cracked with age.
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