MGF 1997 to 2001

Introduction


The MGF was the first all-new MG roadster since the arrival of the 'B in 1962. It also scored a notable production first for being mid-engined (the ADO21 and MG EX-E were also mid-engined, but didn't get near to going on sale). The MGF had superb weight distribution and brilliant roadholding thanks to its interconnected Hydragas suspension system. It was a clever little car that used many other off-the-shelf parts - not least a pair of Metro subframes, and its K-Series engine.
In summary, the MGF was greater than the sum of its parts, and remains a unique driving experience to this day. There are two engines available, the 1.8i K-series 1796cc 16v and the 1.8i VVC (Variable Valve Control), with power figures of 118bhp and 143bhp respectively which give a 0-60 time of 8.5 (1.8i) and 7.0 (VVC) seconds. 


The MGF was developed on a budget that might just have kept BMW's staff canteen in Munich in Bratwurst for a couple of weeks, and using a raft of components dug out of the Rover parts bin, it arrived at the height of the roadster boom of the mid-1990s, and proved a rather profitable venture for the company. Yes, its critics may dismissively describe the MGFas little more than a back-to-front Metro with a big engine in it, but after a recent re-visit, it's difficult not to come to the conclusion that the Rover engineers were pretty good at re-cooking their meat 'n' two veg into something rather spicy...
Take a look at the styling, and time has been kind to the MGF- the organic curves may be a little out of fashion right now, but that doesn't stop it being balanced and characterful. Considering it's mid-engined, non-car people would be hard-pressed to tell that you actually sit in front of the powertrain. Fans of Italian supercars might think that's a bit of a waste - but low-scuttled wedge designs and Metro front bulkheads don't really mix. So, given that compromise, you have to conclude that Gerry McGovern and his colleagues made a great job of the MGF.
The running gear's a masterclass in stirring the pot - Metro Hydragas interconnected suspension, K-Series engines, offered initially in 1.8-litre form, but expanded to include the VVC cylinder head, and a bunch of R8 and R17 interior parts. For someone into 1990s Rovers, it makes the MGFa delightful place to sit. However, the chassis engineers developed it into something rather special - and if you're worried about the idea of a Hydragas suspended sportscar, then fear ye not... once you get your head around the idea, and actually drive it, you'll be pretty pleased...
Performance and Economy
Okay, so at 1087kg, the MGF is no lightweight - and there are plenty of sporting hatchbacks with plenty more muscle and trimmer bodies that will leave it for dead in a straight line, but that's not what this car is about. It's no cruiser, either - slightly frantic gearing and a peaky engine means you'll not be slogging at low speeds in a high gear in the pursuit of effortless progress.
In a straight line, it's quick enough, though. Thanks to excellent traction off the line, 60mph comes up in 8.7 seconds, and the top speed is a respectable (for its 118bhp power output) 123mph. In the real world, a mildly quick turbo diesel will leave it far behind on the motorway, but factor in traction exiting corners or roundabouts, and the sheer amount of lateral grip available (in the dry) and the MGF more than holds its own.


Handling and Ride

The MGF is a compact and wieldy car and that means you'll enjoy hustling it through bends. That's pretty obvious really - it's fairly low and the engine's mid-mounted, resulting in near-perfect weight distribution. However, what will surprise - and hopefully delight - is the excellent ride quality. Okay, it's no Rover 75, but we'd compare it favourably with a number of newer family hatchbacks in terms of control and softness.
However, that relatively compliant ride and well-controlled damping doesn't lead to roly-poly cornering - like many Hydragas suspended cars, it's flat in bends too. For anyone with a pre-2005 MG TF, a ride up a rough B-Road will be an enlightning experience, in fact, a bit of a revelation. In fact, it's only the scuttle shake and associated rattles that will really ruffle you - not the boneshaking ride normally associated with such cars.
You'll be able to tackle your average cross country run at enormous speed as a result - unhindered by the crashiness and joggling you might expect from contemporary rivals, and be egged on by the sheer amount of lateral grip on offer. In fact, it all seems rather effortless, and you'll only realise you're mullering the road you're on by the speed you catch (and pass) the cars around you.
In the wet, it can't bend the laws of physics, though - and snap oversteer can turn into a very nasty spin... so be careful when playing.
In short, the rough and tumble of the city streets shouldn't be too much of an inconvenience, rough roads are pretty much shrugged off - aside from when the short wheelbase conspires against you, and motorways are a stable and four-square planted affair...


At the wheel

Is this place special enough for you?
Although it wouldn't be correct to describe the MGF's interior as anything other than functional. You'll be clasping an R8 steering wheel, twiddling R17 knobs and peering into Metro/100 rear view mirrors - making this a sportscar that you'll feel quickly at home in and not at all intimidated by. Some aspects of the ergonomics are exasperating, such as the electric window and foglamp switch placement, and you'll be wondering at what the point of some of the tiny storage compartments actually is.
The controls themselves are generally good to use though and within a few miles, you'll be feeling confident and happy.


Finish and equipment

Hood down, the MGF looks good...
It's all solid and functional - even if it's unglamorous. The hood itself is elegantly simple, well engineered, and you'll get it up and down just as quickly as your average poseur, but without all the weight and complexity.
It would be nice if there had been a glass rear window from the beginning (2005MY TFs received one - too little, too late), and the exposed mechanism of the single skinned hood looks a little quaint - but don't let that put you off. Not at the price of these cars ...

...and it's not too bad hood up, either. Open to closed is a 20-second job if you don't rush it...

Summary

Practical everyday roadster with a surprising amount of luggage space for a mid-engined car, decent handling, plenty of used ones around
Build quality problems, head gasket failure is common, fared very badly in customer satisfaction surveys

Updated 1 December 2001
MGF production ended - replaced by steel-sprung MG TF
Additionally, there were several special editions available throughout the production life of car including the Abingdon, 75th Anniversary and Freestyle.Plans were already afoot to thoroughly update...

77,269 were produced
9876 MGFs left at the end of 2016