The MG F was one of many small roadsters that jumped on the bandwagon when it came to taking on the Mazda MX-5 and its trendsetting ways. During Rover Group’s tenure under BMW in the 1990’s and its eventual twilight years of the early 2000’s, the MG F was something of an endearing little machine that struck a chord with the British car buying public, and even today hundreds continue to roam the streets of the UK in the everyday employ of their respective owners.
The MG F gave the MG brand its first dedicated sports car since the legendary MGB was axed by British Leyland in 1980. For the previous decade, this badge which had become synonymous with Britain’s motoring history found itself yoked to mildly tuned versions of Leyland’s regular family cars; the Montego, the Maestro and the Metro. Aside from the obscure MG RV8 of 1993, it was feared that there would never be another true MG.
The MG F, however, took much of the technology behind the MG RV8 and created a truly wonderful little drop-top roadster. The car wasn’t designed to set the world ablaze, it’s not particularly sporty and can be somewhat sluggish even when pushed, but for the UK market it was just a merry little convertible that could nip down narrow country lanes on a warm summer’s evening.
The car does have quite a few endearing features, including a surprisingly large amount of luggage space given its compact size. It’s mid-engine configuration makes for perfect 50/50 weight distribution, which, combined with its incredibly light weight, makes it, as Richard Hammond once put “like a Greyhound out on the track!”. Handling is sharp and fairly decent, again largely attributed to its light weight. This machine is truly effortless to drive and is honestly the perfect little car for anyone who suddenly gets the notion to disappear off for a sunny weekend on the south coast of England.
Simply sling your cases in the oodles of bootspace and hit the road!
However, it’s not all hunky dory for the MG F, as let’s not forget this car was built at Longbridge by Rover Group; all of which become a terrifying prospect if you’re looking for a car which has been built with at least a modicum of credibility.
While the Rover K-Series engine from the Metro is a capable powerplant, the biggest issue that haunts this otherwise able piece of machinery are the head gaskets. When viewing a prospective buy, check the service history thoroughly for any instances where the head gasket has failed and, hopefully, been replaced. More importantly, check if it hasn’t previously failed as problems could be not far over the horizon. A common test to measure the condition of the head gaskets is to check the dipstick under the flap in the boot to determine the state of the oil. If the oil appears to be a dull brown, like coffee, then the head gasket has failed. Furthermore, turn on the car and make sure it fires without issue. Another good test is to make sure it idles at 850rpm once it has warmed up. Always request a test drive and be sure to feel for the car’s acceleration as it should be effortless and without misfire.
As for the car’s other mechanics, the sheer number of MG F’s that are still on the road in the UK means there are plenty of bangers about which can easily be hidden behind some spit and polish. As a cheap roadster, it is likely that most previous owners have pushed the car to the limit in order to see what it can do, so expect some of its running gear to be a little careworn. Scratches and dents are the least of your worries, check the chassis for rust and make sure the hydragas suspension units, again derived from the Metro, are working properly and haven’t sprung a leak.
The MG F, even for a car from the 90’s, is not particularly well equipped. The car was, and still is, a basic roadster, not much refinement and not many toys to play with. When it comes to the interior, however, the thing you should look for most of all is rust in the footwells. As the car is a convertible and the UK is a very wet country, chances are rainwater has gotten inside the car at least once in its life. For soft-top versions, the usual rules apply for giving the car a once over; making sure the fabric cover hasn’t gone into holes or is lined with moss. For the hard-top version, check to make sure that there are no leaks and that the seals properly fit so that water doesn’t ingress through holes in the rubber seals. The best thing would be to take the car to your local mechanic and have them remove the roof to check the linings.
Aside from these issues, which is why the car falls quite a way down the list, the MG F is a capable everyday roadster. If you want to make your journey to work a little more interesting with a sense of nimble speed and sprightly performance then this fun little car is for you. There are still plenty left and prices start from as little as £1,500 due to brand depreciation.
- Comfort – 6/10 – Hydragas suspension units from the Metro make it a touch more comfortable than most sports cars
- Practicality – 6/10 – A bit more bootspace makes it a useful little machine for couples
- Reliability – 5/10 – It was built by Rover during the 90’s, that alone is enough to cause worry
- Speed – 6/10 – Not supremely fast, but certainly nippy
- Handling – 7/10 – Very sure footed thanks to its mid-engine design
- Looks – 9/10 – Perhaps its best feature, an inoffensive and perhaps even cute looking car
- Equipment – 6/10 – Has a fair number of toys for the respective owner to play with, but not too many
- Price – 10/10 – No shortage of cheap examples roaming the roads, with genuine minters for less than £10,000
- Value – 3/10 – MG and Rover products of yesteryear fail to hold their value, so you’ll struggle to resell this car for any major profit
- Total – 58/90 – Quite a useful little sports car, but reliability and build quality can be cause for concern.