comes the sun. It's nearing that time of the
year again; lazy hazy days, balmy nights, and
hedgerows alive with the sound of bird song
whilst country lanes resound with the creak
of hoods being lowered. Spring has arrived,
the fabric roof is stowed, and the MG really
comes into its own again.
As a keen follower of the marque
for many years it is only fair to declare my
hand straightaway. But to be honest it is difficult
to say anything derogatory about the MGF roadster;
it really is a purist's dream come true with
no real competitor in the same price bracket.
Few marques have enjoyed such a
welcome return to the limelight as MG, especially
after a period when its badge had been associated
mainly with hotted-up versions of fairly unimpressive
family saloons from a decade or so ago. But
all that changed in early 1995 when the public
saw the MGF for the first time.
at the Geneva Motor Show it was an immediate
success and soon became a much sought after
car, as well as the best-selling contemporary
sports model in Britain. The trend continues
undiminished to this day and it is no exaggeration
to say that this sporty two-seater is as popular
now as it was when introduced three years ago.
A waiting list in excess of 16
weeks still exists for the model, and a second-hand
example in pristine condition can still command
a price near to the list figure of a new car;
at one stage a profit could even be made on
the showroom selling price!
Just occasionally a vehicle comes
along that has the same mass appeal to all groups
and the sleek stylish lines of this all-new
traditional roadster is in this category. For
certain, it proved that our engineers can still
compete with the best that Italy or Germany
can muster as most of the development work was
completed prior to the BMW take-over of Rover
in 1994. So it really was an all-British effort
from conception to delivery.
Maybe it's the ghost of the old
MGAs and Bs that still lurks in its curvaceous
silhouette that makes it so attractive, or even
the recognisable grille with the traditional
octagonal badge. Interestingly, it's as popular
with the more mature driver as the young trendsetter
and, perhaps, it is also responsible for the
increased sale of string-back gloves and flat
caps over the last few years!
thing is for sure, it's at the very heart of
the recent sports car renaissance - but it would
be verging on criminal if the name wasn't part
of this revival - and it truly reflects the
aspirations of the Morris Garages (MG) founder,
Cecil Kimber, more than 70 years ago.
Whichever power unit you opt for,
1.8i or 1.8i VVC (Variable Valve Control), the
engine is located transversely behind the seats
in a classic mid-engined configuration to give
the best possible weight distribution. This
is allied to a rear-wheel drive five-speed transmission
layout, combined with double wishbone arms,
to ensure a true sports car level of handling
And boy does the MGF go! With a
top speed of 120mph in the lower powered 1.8i
trim and a 0-60mph time of 8.5 seconds, its
performance is rapid to say the least. However,
in VVC form, an extra 10 mph on the aforementioned
top speed figure is attainable and another half
second can be sliced off the zero to 60mph time.
Quite sizzling performance all round, but it
doesn't end there.
Outstanding grip under hard acceleration
is the norm, mostly due to weight transference
from the midway mounted engine (the heaviest
part of the vehicle) onto the rear wheels. At
the same time the steering is uncompromised
by front-wheel drive torque and high front axle
weight, as is often the case with a forward
mounted engine and transmission.
Interestingly the suspension medium
used is the well-proven hydragas system, interconnected
front to rear, that is similar to the layout
employed on the Rover 100, nee Metro, (as opposed
to the P4 Rover of an earlier era). This gives
an unusually supple ride for a modern sports
car, which will be most welcomed by the 'more
mature' owner who may well shy away from the
firm ride usually associated with this type
An innovative power steering system
relying on direct electrical assistance to the
column, thus eliminating the hiss and groaning
noises often associated with hydraulic powered
systems, is used. This is standard fitment on
the VVC model, but the connoisseur who may prefer
a more direct feel will be pleased to know this
is an optional extra on the standard 1.8i variant.
felt well put together on our test car and the
stylists have done a good job of the interior
fittings giving a traditional sporting flavour
without going over the top.
The black-on-white instrument dials
and the dashboard switch layout works well,
and stowage space is adequate. Maybe if anything
is to be criticised it must be reserved for
the seating position, which as a six footer,
was a bit uncomfortable, but not enough to turn
me against the car.
Operating the hood couldn't have
been easier. A black hard top, incorporating
a heated rear window and full headlining, is
available to convert the car into an attractive
At £17,440 for the 1.8i and another
£2,500 for the VVC derivative, it's not difficult
to understand why people are willing to wait
the best part of four months to become the owner
of an MGF and turn their dreams into reality.