When you turn the ignition key the information screen of the new MG GS lights up with the legend: MG since 1924. Of course, the new MG Motors was created only seven years ago when the remains of collapsed company, bought by Nanjing of China and then acquired by SAIC, also of China, had its name changed.
From early press briefings, I expected new MG to move fast with lots of publicity and a range of cars. Instead it has been a slow burn. Annual sales have yet to hit 4,000 a year and the slow selling MG 6 was axed.
So it£€™s ironic the new GS compact SUV model that £€˜s probably going to be their biggest seller has only arrived now that the token £€˜assembly£€™ of cars is ceasing in the UK and all are being imported.
Do people care where cars are made? I don£€™t know. Ford hasn£€™t built cars here since 2002 but still tops the best sellers£€™ lists. The MG is a rival to the UK-built Nissan Qashqai but the MG range starts from £14,995, a whopping £3,555 cheaper than the entry-level Qashqai.
MG£€™s press office managed not to invite me to the launch, so I hope buyers get better treatment as I think the car has a good chance of succeeding.£ It is surprisingly sporty and fun to drive. It£€™s handsome too, despite what some car magazines, who seem to have taken against MG and keep emphasising its Chinese owners but fail to point out Jaguar£€™s Indian or Mini£€™s German ones might say.
The designers and engineers at MG Longbridge, Birmingham base, know their stuff and the test car felt well sorted. Flared wheel arches, a bulging bonnet and swish lights give it a sporty look. The only engine available is a 164bhp 1.5 litre turbocharged petrol so the MG is lively.
Initial throttle response is so sharp it£€™s easy to move off with a loud flare of revs until you get used to the car. The test car was way quicker than the official 0-60mph time of 9.6 seconds. A diesel would not see where you went.
And the MG surged up hills with joie de vivre and commendable quietness and refinement. I liked the snappy six-speed gearbox but an automatic is also available. On one long stretch of brisk driving the MG averaged 39.1mpg and late at night, driving for economy, I was surprised to manage 46.3mpg.
Controls are light but precise and braking confidence inspiring with good balance. The steering, electromechanical, doesn£€™t give as much feedback as but is precise and has consistent weight.
The ride is quite firm but the MG feels confident in corners despite its obvious height off the road. There£€™s not much body lean through bends. Even the entry model has 17in alloy wheels, manual air conditioning, cruise control, electric windows, automatic headlights, 60/40 split-folding rear seats and a radio with USB input.
Exclusive trim (£19,945) adds kit like 17in wheels, leather trim, electric seats, climate control and rear parking camera. Some passengers thought the front seats too narrow but the backs quite spacious with good head and leg room.
The rear seats fold completely flat, so the medium size boot is easy to use. It extends from 335 litres to 1,336 litres with all the seats down. There£€™s a space-saver spare wheel. The rear luggage cover clips to the uprights of the rear seat head restraints and is fiddly to undo. The pile was coming off the backs of the seats in the boot area after only a few thousand miles.
Also consider: Renault Captur, Suzuki Vitara, Skoda Yeti.
Verdict Worth a look. Five year warranty.