What is the MGF?
Exterior and Interior Styling
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The MGF was unveiled at this years Geneva Motor Show, and is the first all-new MG since the MGB way back in 1962. Unlike the recent MG RV8, which was little more than a facelifted MGB, the MGF is a thoroughly modern sportster bristling with the latest in auto technology.
The MGF is a small two-seater sports car which was styled by Rover's
in-house design team, and boasts a mid-engined rear-drive layout. It
is a 100% British design, Honda took no real part in it, and
BMW arrived too late to have any major influence upon it.
The MGF is similar in size to what will be it's main rival, the Mazda MX-5, and it has a very appealing and attractive shape. Rover have described it as a "candid camera car - nobody is sure where the engine is", this is because the bonnet appears long and high compared to other mid-engined cars, yet remains too short for a front-engined car.
The mid-engined layout is a first for Rover, and the unique VVC (Variable Valve Control) engine is a first for anyone. It also has the now finely honed Hydragas suspension and new speed-sensitive electric power steering.
Not surprisingly seeing that the last "real" MG was 30 years ago, the MGF
has very few styling links with its predecessors beyond the octagon-badged
grille, which is very reminiscent of the MGB. The car seems the have an
impressive ability to look thoroughly modern, whilst still having a certain
classical MG look.
It is fairly high-waisted, and though the front arches cut well into the body at the front, they do little to avoid the MGF looking slightly flat-sided. The MGF looks very pretty with the roof down, and equally so when the neat and easy fitting hood is up. There is also a hard top which can be easily fitted without the need to remove the existing folding roof, which is available for just a little under one thousand pounds.
For such a small car the interior space is very generous, there is a large
amount of leg room and plenty of headroom even when the roof is up. Other
interior features are typically Rover, which generally fit in well with the
overall look of the interior of the car.
The mid-engined layout leads to a high rear end to the car, and the rapidly disappearing bonnet line behind the relatively high dashboard could lead to visibility problems for the shorter MGF driver. But to compensate for this the almost fixed driving position is quite high in the car, giving the feeling that you are sitting on the car rather than in it.
Rover has done well to cram so much equipment into a car so small. And it is claimed that the boot is big enough to take two sets of golf clubs in relative comfort (7.4cu ft). Although there is space under the bonnet, most of this is taken up by the radiator, battery, ABS unit, and space-saver spare wheel, and is exposed to road dirt and grime.
Hidden somewhere in the middle of the MGF is an engine. It is brand new,
totally British, and also happens to be very good too since it is based on the
very successful K-series engine.
For the MGF, the K-series engine has been bored and stroked out to 1,796cc. This required Rover to come up with the "damp" liner, ultra-lightweight pistons, and a plastic inlet manifold. All this results in 118bhp at 5,500rpm and 121 lb/ft at 3,000rpm. Rover claim that this results in a top speed of 120mph, and a 0-60 time of 8.5 seconds.
By the end of the year, there will be a more powerful version with VVC - Variable Valve Control. Unlike Honda's V-TEC engine, VVC offers an infinitely variable cam period between two limits, though the amount of lift remains constant. The VVC equipped K-series has 25% more power (143bhp @ 7,000rpm) and 5% more torque (128lb/ft @ 4,500rpm). Fuel consumption should remain the same, but the VVC is 10mph faster with a max of 130mph and should reach 60 in seven seconds.
By putting the engine in the middle, Rover have been able to use its tried and tested transverse engine layout, whilst retaining the ability to use rear wheel drive. This also means they are able to use an equally tried and tested gearbox (from Honda), which is the same as is fitted to the Rover 600 and hence offers a gearchange with lots of feel, but it a little imprecise.
Like a true sportscar the MGF has fully independent suspension with double
wishbones both at the front and rear. This is damped by the now well tuned
Hydragas suspension system (first seen on the Allegro!) instead of more
conventional springs and dampers. This is fine tuned through the use of
anti-roll bars both front and rear.
The MGF's steering is by rack and pinion, but get the VVC model (or pay for the option) and you get the new speed-sensitive electric power steering system which works in a similar manner to that of the Honda NSX. Brakes are servoed discs all round with the ABS optional on the 1.8i and standard on the VVC.
In keeping with MG tradition there aren't too many toys in the MGF, but you do get electric windows and central locking as standard, together with a decent stereo which can still be heard with the roof down due to the MGF's low levels of wind noise and buffeting. On the options list is a six-CD autochanger and air conditioning. Also available later will be a luggage rack for the boot, ski & bike carriers, and of course MGF mudflaps.
MG have always claimed "Safety Fast", and this is very applicable to the MGF. Rover claim that the F is amongst the stiffest sports cars ever produced. Having the engine at "mid-ships" leaves a large crumple zone at the front end, add to this door beams and waistline rails for side-impact protection, a windscreen which includes a high-tensile steel roll bar, seatbelt pre-tensioners and airbags, and you get one of the strongest and safest sports cars on the road at the current time.
The MGF has remote-control "superlocking" (deadlocking) and an engine immobiliser. The alarm protects the car even while the hood is down, and the stereo has a removable front panel. The boot can only be opened by the key, and the bonnet can only be opened from inside the boot, giving the MGF a high level of security as standard.