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27th March 2001

First drive of the latest MGF variants - web exclusive

Today I had the chance to drive the latest MGF variants, including the 1.6I and the Trophy 160SE. Also on offer were the other models in the range - including the renamed 'Stepspeed' (formerly Steptronic) but I focused on the two new models as those were the most interesting departures.

Firstly the Trophy, the example I drove being finished in the attractive Trophy Blue (more classy but admittedly less attention-grabbing than Trophy Yellow). The suspension is indeed quite a bit firmer, as Top Gear's Jason Barlow suggested, but to be frank it was firm in the sense of well controlled (admittedly a bit jarring over potholes) and certainly helped the handling - not that I had a race track to try the car on (as you can guess, TG wrecked the tyres on that yellow Trophy they tested!). Acceleration was great, and needless to say the power further up the rev range was excellent. As the power had been released by clever work on the throttle body and some head finishing, the resulting unit was not harsh in any way - the engineers at MG Rover had simply unleashed further potential from the VVC without affecting normal driving traits.

MGF Trophy 1.6 SE

After driving the Trophy, I jumped into the 1.6I - and what a sweet honey of a car that was! The shorter stroke had led me to guess that the unit might be a bit sweeter than the 1.8 and indeed it was. Okay, off the line the 1.6 had not got the Trophy's grunt, but it was certainly no disgrace, and as 112PS the 1.6 is only 8 horsepower shy of the standard 1.8. The development engineer told me how pleased he and his colleagues had been to find, for example, that the gearbox ratios did not need altering for the 1.6.

Starting at under 16,000, I thought the 1.6 was the sports car bargain of the year; it may have been slightly 'de-specced' from the standard car, by deleting certain equipment such as electric door mirrors, body colouring on some parts and making the hood cover an option, but it still looks as good, and retains standard alloys and power-steering.

Having driven the Trophy, I'd love to own one, but I had to admit that for nearly 6,000 less the 1.6I would make much more sense. At the moment, it is pretty academic in my case (now, where did I put that lottery ticket?).

MGF Trophy 1.6 SE

David Knowles <david@mgknowles.freeserve.co.uk>



112 Ps DOHC K Series 1589cc engine

Five-speed manual transmission

Driver’s airbag and seat belt pre-tensioners

Electric speed sensitive power assisted steering

Electric windows with a driver’s side one-shot-down facility

Heated door mirrors and centre high mounted stop lamp

Height adjustable steering column

Perimetric alarm, with ‘friendly’ passive immobilisation

15" 8-spoke alloy wheels with I 85/55(front) I 205/50(rear) VRI 5 tyres

11 E (exceptional) - low ABI insurance rating

1.8i (as 1.6i, plus):

120 Ps DOHC K Series 1796cc engine

Electrically operated body-coloured heated door mirrors

Remote central door locking with superlocking

Volumetric and perimetric alarm, with ‘friendly’ passive immobilisation

Leather steering wheel

Stereo radio cassette with ICT and 6 speakers

Alloy gearknob and door casing inserts

Hood tonneau cover

1.8i Stepspeed (as 1.8i, plus):

Sequential transmission with CVT (a choice of automatic, sport automatic or 6-

speed sequential manual mode)

Anti-lock brakes

Part leather seats

15" Square-spoke alloy wheels with I 85/55(front) / 205150(rear) VRI 5 tyres

1.8i VVC (as 1.8i, plus):

145Ps Variable Valve Control K Series 1796cc engine

Single disc CD player

Anti-lock brakes, part leather seats and centre high mounted stop lamp

16" Square-spoke alloy wheels with 195/45(front) 1215140(rear) ZRI6 tyres

Trophy 160 SE (as 1.8i VVC, plus):

l60Ps Variable Valve Control K Series 1796cc engine

Uprated suspension derived race spec for stiffer ride and improved handling.

Uprated brakes are productionised version of those used in the MGF Cup

304mm discs with AP Racing 4-pot MG calipers — no ABS is a race trend

New 16" multi-spoke alloy wheel with 195/45 front and 215/40 ZRI6 rear tyres

Exclusive Trophy Yellow and Blue, with Anthracite and Solar Red also available

Body colour steering wheel, centre console and door inserts

Aerodynamic front bib and rear spoiler increase down force and aerodynamics

Bright grille mesh on front grille and side intakes

Sports exhaust silencer with wide bore bright tailpipes

Leather and alloy gearknob

Distinctive Black headlamp bezels

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