This is another road test where the verdict was very positive
The use of an illustrious name such as Magnette for a series of widely differing models inevitably leads to comparisons. It is difficult, therefore, perhaps not too undesirable, to compare the latest "Farina-line" Magnette to its predecessor. It seems sad that the Magnette has lost the sporting characteristics which the name used to signify, but in all fairness it must be admitted that the process began with the previous model. The nest step that has been taken may not be approved by many Magnette followers, who will see in the car nothing more than a luxurious medium-priced family saloon with a good performance. At the same time it must be recognized that in its new form the Magnette will attract a new type of customer and, to our certain knowledge, has tended to encourage previous Austin and Morris buyers to raise their sights slightly higher.
As far as the actual specification and performance of the car is concerned the differences between the new and the old Magnette can be quickly summed up. The new car is slightly inferior in performance, slightly longer-although with a shorter wheelbase, has considerably more room inside, slightly less power, and slightly inferior roadholding.
Let the comparison end there because it is only fair to the Mark III to treat it as an interesting new motor in its own right. Nor is there any need to enter into controversial discussions concerning the shape of the car. There are many who admire this Farina creation, but there are many more who deprecate its Italian look and in particular its fins. The blending of the M.G. grille into the general bodyline has been achieved most happily, and our main criticism of the appearance of the car lies in its considerable height for a vehicle of this type. Nor is appearance only affected: frontal area is greater than formerly, which inevitably slightly reduces performance, as noted.
The interior of the Magnette is really delightfully appointed and laid out. The seats are upholstered in leather, and the back seats in particular have a fine air of comfort with high squabs achieving the dual purpose a head rest and a ledge preventing items on the rear window shelf from falling off. The front seats are comfortable without being able to give the maximum amount of support over long journeys. The driver's seating position is excellent, with forward and rearward visibility of the highest order, although the steering wheel appears to be positioned rather higher than necessary and could even obstruct the view of someone of very small stature. The instruments are pleasantly laid out in a cowled, black-crackle panel immediately in front of the driver although, as we commented in our original description of the car, the absence of a rev counter is an inexplicable failing particularly since the equivalent Riley model has been thus equipped. Willing and robust though the 1 ½-litre engine is, the use of a rev counter is nigh on essential particularly if the maximum performance of the car is to be used. The toggle switches which are one of the most praiseworthy features in the controls of these new B.M.C. cars, are widely used on the Magnette, and are very positive and accessible. An interesting feature is the two stages of panel lighting which are available, the one lighting only the speedometer and a further depression of the switch giving full lighting of all the instruments. Despite the adoption of Continental style switches the Magnette preserves with a foot dip-switch when we, in common with many other who have had extensive use of Continental cars, have found their current light and dip switches of the hand pattern infinitely superior. The further appointments of the Magnette were described at some length when the car was introduced, and it is not therefore necessary to go into closer detail.
When one first comes to drive the Magnette the impression is that the performance is considerably down over the older model. Hard facts indicate that the difference is comparatively slight, but it now seems more necessary than ever to use all the engine revolutions available to get the car really moving. The is particularly noticeable on hill climbing when it is advantageous to change down almost as soon as the road speed of the car makes the lower gear practicable. Fortunately the gear change is quite delightful, although the lever seems to be set rather far back for the easiest manipulation.
During the course of extended runs in the car is was found that the handling characteristics became more appreciated. If a certain amount of tyre squeal on the corners is disregarded the Magnette can be hustled along winding roads in quite an eye-opening manner. The suspension is perhaps a little firmer than might be expected, and indeed tends on certain types of bad road surface to give a bobbing effect which is ironed out as speed increases. The steering, which is now of cam and lever type instead of rack and pinion as on the ZB Magnette, is precise and high-geared requiring only three turns from lock to lock on its 34 ft. turning circle. Fro manoeuvring the steering is perhaps on the heavy side, although there appears to be just the right amount of resistance once the car is fairly under way. Braking was found to be adequate on all occasions, although there was a tendency for them to come on rather too solidly under hard application at low speed.
In all one can sum up the M.G. Magnette by saying that it is a thoroughly practical family saloon car, with space for four people and all the luggage they could require for holiday touring, which, although not of inherently sporting type, performs well enough to give a great deal of amusement and satisfaction to the keen owner.