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The MGF continues to turn heads three years after
its launch. Wessex Wheels investigates.

   Here 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.

   Launched 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!

   One 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 grip.
   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 of vehicle.
   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.

   Everything 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 coupe.
   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.

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