The MGF was first unveiled before the public in 1995, some 15 years after the demise of its classic roadster the MGB in 1980. The new MGF was a complete surprise and a total departure from their successful format of yesteryear. The car went through a number of owners as the Rover Group changed hands several times, eventually being discontinued by the Chinese car manufacturer Nanjing Automobiles in 2011 due to poor sales.
MG's mid-ranged roadster had a contemporary look with hints of nostalgia with its inset headlights, curved wings, and rounded off front end. The platform involved the novel use of an Austin Metro chassis simply turned around to make the MGF a rear engine, rear-wheel drive.
In 2000, MG released the MkII. The designers tinkered with the mechanics and altered the trim, including more standard kit, and fitting an adjustable steering column. However, the body shape remained pretty much the same and the more influential changes came in the powertrain.
After bankruptcy, buyouts, and new factory builds, there was a three year disruption in the MGF construction whilst the Nanjing Company established themselves. In 2008, they started a slightly altered MG TF LE500 limited edition model. In total, there were 906 units manufactured, but production came to an end three years later with the possibility left open for a new version to surface in 2014.
Underneath the bonnet of the MGF were the choice of two engines, 1.8L K-Series V16 and the more powerful VVC (Variable Valve Control), which produced 107Kw of power, against the 87Kw released by the ordinary 1.8L. The VVC flies from 0-100Km/h in 7.7 seconds and reaches a top speed of 210Km/h. The fuel economy for a roadster is pretty good at 7.9L/100Km.
Locating the engine behind the cabin centres the cars balance more and gives the MGF great handling qualities and assured road performance. It has smooth steering around corners, and the great design for the responsive Hydragas suspension means it provides a comfortable ride, when rivals are suffering the bumps.
The inside of the MGF is a comfortable cabin, well thought out with plenty of room for two. The decent sized boot space is able to take more holiday luggage than is necessary, and there are many convenient storage spaces liberally sprinkled around the cabin.
The list of standard features at the start of the MGFs life was still pretty thin but did include such luxuries as dual airbags, powered windows, central locking, immobiliser, and a CD/radio player. The initial options package allowed for air-con, a quality CD player, and hard top roof. Safety equipment on the MGF included ABS and Electronic Brake Force Distribution.
Later, the 2000 models were equipped with such luxuries as a 5-speed sports-shift automatic transmission and a column tilt steering wheel, something that had been an overdue addition to MG cars.
Starting up production in China, the new owners decided to relaunch the MGF with a Limited Edition LE500. This offered customers an even better quality suspension, heated rear windows, redesigned grille and bumpers, parking sensors, 16” alloy spoke wheels, fog lights, wind stop for when the roof was down, and CD player. However, costing more than a Mazda MX5 meant the MGF’s lifespan was short lived.
The main competition for the last of the MG roadsters comes from the BMW Z3, the Audi TT, Lotus Elise, Fiat Barchette, Mazda MX5, and Honda S2000. The MGF is for most people a surprisingly nice package, as it performs well on the road, provides an exceedingly comfortable ride, and tends not to throw up too many surprises for the driver.
Sadly, what MG has suffered over the intervening years is poor management, industrial disruption, and buyouts which has left buyers questioning the car’s status as a true contender. The innovative mechanics are worthy of any of the German cars. Its style competes amiably with the Italians, and its reliability issues are a thing of the past. However, despite all its plaudits, the MGF has never really been taken to the hearts of the car buying public.
It is a great little car, well worth a look, capable of delivering a challenging drive, designed for a comfortable drive with deep sumptuous seats, and its balanced weight distribution gives the car a vice like grip when cornering.