MG TF - Used Car

Review

MGTF, front
MGTF, rear
MGTF, side
MGTF, interior

THE all-conquering Mazda MX-5 seems to have the cheaper end of the two seater sportscar market all to itself these days but it wasn't always so.

Between the late 1990s and 2005, with a small numbers of cars being produced later, there was the MG F and TF - one of the British cars that marked the swansong of the MG Rover Group before it went into liquidation.

And there are still good numbers of both models on the secondhand market, with prices ranging from a few hundred to more than £10,000.

I'll concentrate on the later TF, which was very similar to the F in most ways, with the same mid-mounted engine and five speed gearbox.

But it did differ in one important way. The F was fitted with Rover's Hydragas suspension system, which used interconnected liquid and gas-filled ‘springs' at each corner, while the TF came with more usual coil springs and dampers.

This meant that while the earlier cars cornered beautifully and also rode very well, the TF had a firmer feel.

All are great fun, with free revving engines, marvellously tactile steering and excellent brakes.

There is still nothing quite like that feeling of wind in your hair motoring on the right sunny day and on the right country road, and this is one of the best cars to be driving.

But you'll rarely see owners of open cars driving them with the roof down on the motorway because it's too fast to be fun - the buffeting wind feels like it could turn you inside out!

It must also be said that with the engine behind the driver's left ear, the cockpit is a pretty noisy place with the roof up.

Engines are a 114bhp 1.6 petrol and a 1.8 with 134 or 157, and all drive the rear wheels through a set of close ratio gears to make the best of the power.

There was also a short run of 1.8s with 120bhp and an automatic gearbox.

Even the smallest 1.6 will barrel to 60 miles an hour from rest in just 9 seconds and it's rated at 39 miles per gallon economy. In real driving expect somewhere around 30.

The 135bhp 1.8 sprints to 60 in 8.5 seconds and is rated at 35mpg while the 157bhp VVC version does the sprint in 6.7 and could do 37mpg.

The MG looks great from all angles, and the noise problem can be negated by buying a hardtop for the winter.

There are still plenty around, so only buy the best with full history or evidence of major work like the head gasket and timing belt having been done. Cars with an MoT but needing some work are down to under £1,000.

Only the driver gets an airbag as standard, and side airbags were not even an option. However, it did score well in crash tests.

An alarm, immobiliser and deadlocks are standard, together with alloys, electric windows and mirrors, central locking, sports seats with part-leather trim and an FM radio with CD player and remote control.

For a mid-engined sportscar the TF is very practical. There's a decent sized boot behind the engine, and a small amount of storage space under the bonnet. There's also decent space for small items in the cabin.

Insurance, parts and servicing are all reasonable, and there are quite a few MG specialists around the country to take care of them.

Prices for the best cars with low mileage are holding up very well because they are becoming collectable.

Pay about £7,000 for an '02 52-reg 1.8 VVC with just 21,000 miles, or £5,000 for an '05 05-reg 1.6 showing 41,000 miles.

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