MGF (before the new TF)

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Buying Guide by Andrew Phillips (Scarlet Fever)

1.6i – Surprisingly good, but can feel a little asthmatic at the top end. Pulls well from low down in the rev range however. A good motor. Looks a little odd without colour keyed exterior trim IMO, especially as the MY 2000 has a colour keyed windscreen frame (earlier models were all black)

1.8i Has the edge on the 1.6 at the top end, difficult to separate them during normal driving. More tuning mods available for the 1.8 and 1.6 than the other models as the VVC head and MEMS limits what can be done, if you are into personalising your F, this is the one to go for IMO. Generally an excellent all rounder – recommended.

VVC – 1.8i has the slight edge over VVC on pull away, but the VVC more than makes up with greater torque from mid range all the way to the higher rev limiter. Despite being a significant development of the VTEC principle (WAY cleverer than the Honda version which is very crude in comparison), it delivers the extra power smoothly across the rev range, so you don’t get the ‘thump in the back’ of a VTEC. This means the car goes a lot faster than it feels and has left some people disappointed. Personally, this character makes it an excellent daily driver, again recommended.

Stepspeed – a 1.8i with an autobox, pushbutton gear change is IMO a gimmick, more fun to be had by using the auto shift like a WRC car, ie nudging it forward to change up and back to change down. Even so, it is still a bit gimmicky IMO, especially as it is imperialistically the slowest of the bunch. If you do a lot of urban driving then I suppose I can see the point, otherwise, my advice is to stay away there’s more fun to be had elsewhere.

Trophy 160
Basically a VVC with re-worked breathing (intake and exhaust), this car liberates another 15PS from the 145PS VVC. This means that the extra performance can be easily achieved on a stock VVC with a sports exhaust and a K+N air filter. Where it scores big time over the VVC is the excellent brakes and suspension, which is a lot lower and stiffer than normal, giving improved handling (at a small ride comfort price). The exterior styling is a matter of personal taste, personally I think the spoiler is too angular for such a curvy car and despite being the best looking splitter available, I remain to be convinced.

Common faults.

VVC cam bolt – This was the subject of a recall (unofficially, it was done at the same time as the seat belt escutcheons). If you are after an early VVC, make sure this was done.

Inner rim tyre wear Caused by poor ride height / tracking settings, easily cured but needs regular checking.

Petrol smell in the cabin – If this is the case, WALK AWAY. Caused by dodgy fuel tank or breather hoses and VERY difficult to cure.

Flickering brake lights –  Easy cure this one, plunger switch mounted inverted above brake pedal has a self adjusting mechanism which can ‘wind itself up’ making it hyper sensitive. Give plunger a short sharp tug to re-set.

Split rear screen – Caused by flinging the hood back with the screen zipped in place on a cold day. Replace screen from someone like Mike Satur (less than ½ price and better quality item than MGR dealer!)

HGF (Head Gasket Failure – ) Number of causes, mainly alloy block with steel liners which can be a few microns out of true causing undue pressure on gasket (this has been cured on later models). Coolant leaks / poorly done coolant replacement as part of a service, can cause air bubbles in system and thus hot spots on the gasket, made worse by high engine bay temperatures in mid engined MGF (Elise too). Thermal shock of thermostat caused by very cool return flow from radiator (long pipe run under car adds to cooling), during warm up causing thermostat to open and close thus creating more cool pulses (vicious circle). Later 2 causes can be partially eliminated by repositioning the thermostat, replacing the circlips on the coolant hose joints and not thrashing the car from cold (hey, you’ve got an oil temperature gauge – use it!).

Leaks  – Early 3 seam hoods are worse than later 1 seam ones (which are pretty much sorted), boot can also leak (generally through light cluster gasket).


Poor build quality, most Fs are OK (none are brilliant), some are a bit crap. Press has had a few bad reports from owners of ‘lemons’ and has used this to slate the MGF big time (a complete U-turn from their early glowing reports). Don’t expect German build quality standards, and some elements could have been better designed (manual wing mirror adjusters, the odd squeak and rattle), but overall it’s pretty well made.

Hairdressers car, In the derogatory sense, used to describe a car that is more fashion than function, think MINI one and new Beetle. Whilst the F is not the fastest car in the world, it knock spots off all the directly priced competition (exceptions – new MR2 is slightly better handling and slightly quicker (not top end), Elise knocks spots off MGF, Trophy 160 is in same price bracket). You have to spend a lot to get a better performing sports car, we are talking Z3 2.8 and upwards / Honda S2000 / V6 Alfa Spider money, £25,000 plus

MGF Background Information

Throughout its 77 year history, MGs have always been true to their values, representing the definitive affordable, fun, British sports car. This latest range from MG allows customers to fully realise their ambition, offering industry leading combinations of interior trims and options, innovative technology and a truly rewarding driving experience.

In 1995, the Rover Group successfully re-launched the MG marque as a world class name in sports cars. The fundamental appeal of the MGF‘s design and technology is reflected in the strong home and export sales demand over the past six years and the excellent residual values of used MGF models. Demand for the MGF since its launch was always impressive, with a continuous order bank for the car averaging 16-20 weeks in the UK.

MG launched the 2000 model range to incorporate the first significant engineering and style changes to be made to the car, many developments of which are in direct response to customer and media feedback. All MGF models now benefit from new standard features that include new designs of alloy wheel, an adjustable steering wheel and electric door mirror controls. Particular attention has been paid to upgrading the cabin style and offering a greatly expanded choice of interior treatments and factory options.

Top of the ‘wish list’ for MGF customers was an adjustable steering column, which is standard across the range. The column angle can be adjusted either side of the original column setting, giving a total travel of 28mm. A spring counter-balances the mass of the steering column, allowing effortless adjustment. Other improvements to driving position adjustment include extended forward travel for the seat and seat cushion for more comfortable pedal operation by shorter occupants. New, more deeply-sculpted seat foams provide greater comfort, support and lateral location for all sizes of drivers.

All five MGF derivatives are now backed with a three-year warranty. The warranty has no limitation on mileage or items covered in the first year. Warranty is subject to terms and conditions and is available in the UK only.

The  MGF is the first MG to boast a mid-engined configuration, rear wheel driven like every drivers car yet boasting near perfect weight distribution for outstanding grip and handling. The  MGF also was the first to introduce MG-Rovers VVC (variable valve control) engine, giving athletic acceleration and eager performance.

MGF 1.6i

MGs have always been the ‘affordable sportscar’ and the introduction of the MGF 1.6i version only serves to impress this fact. The new 1.6i derivative is fitted with the 1.6-litre, 112Ps, K Series engine (effectively a short-stroke version of the standard 1.8i, 120Ps unit). The 1.6i offers all the key driving attributes that have made the MGF Britain’s top selling sports car, but at a new, highly affordable price of £15,500.

To achieve this move into a new price sector, the new model has a simplified specification, colour range and options list. However, it retains important features such as speed-sensitive power steering, driver’s airbag, rake-adjustable steering wheel, anti-theft alarm, electric windows, heated door mirrors and 15-inch, eight-spoke alloy wheels – most of these features are simply not standard on competitor products of the same value. A 3-year/60,000 mile warranty is also included.

With lower purchase, running and insurance costs, the MGF 1.6i provides an attractive new way for budget-conscious new car buyers to experience the exhilaration of open-top MG sports car motoring.

MGF 1.8i

1796cc 120ps K-Series engine. Mid-engined, transverse mounted, rear wheel drive via 5-speed manual transmission. All-aluminium alloy construction. 4-cylinders, 16-valves. Double overhead camshaft, lightweight pistons for refinement and performance. Double platinum spark plugs with 66,000 mile service life. Through-bolt construction for durability and consistent performance. Remote-mounted oil fill and dipstick tube for easy use. Stainless steel exhaust system for long life. Three way exhaust catalyst. Modular Engine Management System controlling all major engine functions, including: control of catalyst, engine immobilisation, and radiator fan speed (reducing speed for refinement and economy at lower coolant temperatures, and providing a cooling down period if required after ignition switch-off). 50 litre fuel tank.


MGF 1.8i Stepspeed

With MG’s revolutionary Stepspeed transmission and a choice of driving modes, your MSteptronic Automatic StyleGF can be as relaxing or as involving as you want.

A first for the sports car sector is Stepspeed transmission, offering both an automatic capability and new driving experience. The new MGF derivative – the 1.8i Stepspeed – is a major evolution of the Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT), with electro-mechanical control and a number of enhanced driver functions like stepped gear shifting using special steering wheel mounted controls, a similar concept to the control used on today’s Formula One cars. Its selection uses six optimised speed ratios to give a manual alternative to complement the sports or drive modes of the automatic.

MGF 1.8i VVC

1796cc 145ps VVC K-Series engine: additions/changes to above: Variable Valve Contryol, giving enhanced breathing capability by allowing an infinitely variable range of cam periods between wide limits. More powerful Modular Engine Management System (MEMS 2) provides additional electronic control for VVC. MEMS 2 also provides for; full sequential fuel injection, with adaptive control optimising performance, economy and emissions control throughout the life of the engine; distributorless direct ignition system with one coil per cylinder for consistent, reliable performance. Larger valves, and special aluminium inlet manifold and plenum chamber with increased flow capacity. Speed sensitive Electric Power Assisted Steering and Anti-Lock Braking are standard on the MGF 1.8i VVC.


MGF 160 Trophy SE

 As the brand icon for MG, the mid-engined MGF roadster now features a new level of performance with the exciting new Trophy 160 Special Edition. It’s specification is derived from extensive racetrack action around the world and the tuned version of the advanced K Series 1.8-litre VVC engine, with a wide-bore sports exhaust system, develops 160Ps – over 10% more power than the already potent 145Ps of the standard 1.8i VVC model.

Handling and braking capabilities have been upgraded in line with the greater performance. The Hydragas interconnected suspension has competition-based spring and damper rates and a 20mm lower ride height, while the front brakes are new AP Racing units with 304mm ventilated discs and red-finished, MG-branded aluminium calipers.

A new 16-inch multi-spoke alloy wheel design is standard, with the special option of ultra lightweight forged and spun 16-inch alloy wheels. At the front, the MGF Trophy features a new bib spoiler and a rear deck spoiler has also been added; these combine with the lower stance to reduce aerodynamic drag and lift, enhancing performance and stability. Top speed of the Trophy 160 SE is 137mph and it can accelerate from 0-60mph in 6.9 seconds.

To complement the racecar presence of the Trophy 160 there are four striking paint colours – Trophy Yellow and pearlescent Trophy Blue (both created for the model), Solar Red and the popular Anthracite metallic black.

Other distinguishing features include bright mesh grilles for the front and side air intakes and black bezels around the headlamp reflectors. Inside the Trophy there are new body-colour inserts in the door casings and the centre console, sections of the leather steering wheel trim are also colour-keyed to the body. A special leather/fabric seat treatment with ‘Trophy 160’ badging and an alloy/leather gear knob picks up on the distinctive fuel filler design.

UK market versions of the MGF Trophy 160 SE are now on sale at an on-the-road price of £20,995 including a 3-year/60,000 mile warranty.

MGF 1.8i Freestyle

MG announce the MGF Freestyle special edition – available in 1.8i, 1.8i Stepspeed and 1.8iVVC versions, boasting a comprehensive array of features designed to enhance the MGF’s style and sporting characteristics.

Key Freestyle special edition features include:

  • Distinctive 16" multi-spoke alloys

  • CD Tuner

  • Black leather seats

  • Rear spoiler (similar to Trophy 160)

  • Chrome exhaust finishers

  • Freestyle rear badge

  • Front Bib spoiler (similar to Trophy 160)

These features are in addition to the already high level specification:

  • Driver’s airbag, electric windows, electric door mirrors, remote central door locking with superlocking, anti-theft alarm and immobiliser.

On-the-road prices for the Freestyle SE are:

The Freestyle SE will be available in Solar Red, Tahiti Blue, Platinum Silver, British Racing Green and Anthracite colours. Options include ABS (on the 1.8i), passenger airbag, a body-coloured hardtop and metallic/pearlescent paint finishes.


The SE is equipped with 16" multi-spoke alloy wheels and painted in "Wedgwood Blue". It is available either with the 1.8i or 1.8vvc engines. The wide-bore chrome exhaust hints at the sprinting power and sparkling mid range performance that makes driving the MGF fun (MG-Rover phrase).

The interior is finished in black leather, which complements the chrome fascia. Additionally an alloy gear knob is fitted. While the CD sound system also gains eight speakers.

MGF Limited Edition (1924 – 1999)

This model was manufactured to specifically celebrate the 75 years of the MG manqué. The run was limited to 2000 cars in either Black or Mulberry Red. The Black cars were also fitted with a Red hood, which I personally makes the car look particularly stunning. Apart from the unique colours it is mechanically standard to the main range, except that it is comprehensively fitted with options (AC being one of them). Leather predominates the interior alongside the stainless/chrome furnishings. Finally each car has its own individually numbered MG Limited Edition badges to celebrate the 75th Anniversary.


MGF Abingdon Edition (1997)

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This model was to celebrate Abingdon’s tradition and glorious pedigree of building world famous MG’s. The car was available in Brooklands Green with a contrasting beige hood and Walnut coloured tonneau cover. 16" unique alloys with ultra low profile, uni directional low profile tyres were also fitted on either the 120Ps "K" series or the 145PS "K" VVC engine models.

Inside Walnut leather is used to trim the interior. Traditional wood veneer adorns the console and fascia vents; a crafted wood and alloy gearknob is among the fine details also used to finish the interior.







1.8i VVC  

0-60mph: 9.3 secs 8.5 secs  9.5 secs  7.0 secs 
30-50 mph (4th gear)  8.3 secs 6.6 secs                6.2 secs
50-70 mph (4th gear)  9.0 secs 7.0 secs  6.5 secs
Max Speed    116 mph 120 mph      118mph 130 mph 
Torque (Nm@ rpm)  145 @4700 165 @3000    165 @3000    174 @4500
Max Power  112Ps @6250 120Ps @5500    120Ps @5500    145Ps @7000


Urban 28.2 27.8 24.4 25.2
Extra Urban 48.6 49.3 43.9 48.8
Combined 38.4 38.3 34.0 36.3


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