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The Independent - United Kingdom; Apr 13, 2002
BY MICHAEL BOOTH

Since its launch six years ago the MGF has been Britain's best- selling small sports car, but frankly a makeover was long overdue. So the new MGTF (named after the classic MG from 1953) gets sleeker flanks and a more aggressive nose. As with the new, improbably scintillating range of MG saloons based on the Rover 25, 45 and 75, the TF has also had its undercarriage thoroughly beefed up (out with the bouncy- castle Hydragas suspension), with the result that the TF now handles as well as rivals like the Mazda MX-5 and Toyota MR2.

The MGF was always good value and with prices starting at pounds 15,750 for the latest 115bhp version (rising to pounds 19,995 for the TF160 we tried) it remains so, but as soon as you climb inside the car you can see where costs have been cut. The MGTF's interior is an unappealing blend of cheap plastics and poorly produced mouldings. It is cramped, ergonomically flawed, and the Kenwood stereo has the most fiddly buttons (confirming Booth's theory that the faster a car goes, the more difficult it is to operate the hi-fi). Our car came with, as Diane (centre) so accurately described it, tart's boudoir raspberry red trim. Most unsightly. And the hand-brake gaiter came adrift, which doesn't bode well for the rest of the car.

Like Alison (top) I was shocked by its scuttle shake, but the MGTF at least now corners like a proper sports car. If all goes to plan, by this time next year MG will have launched the X80 - a much quicker and more expensive machine altogether, and by all accounts a supposed Porsche beater. That really would be a turn up for the books.

Alison Moore, 42, dental surgeon, from Twickenham, Middlesex. Drives an Alfa Romeo 156 Sportwagon

"The MGTF was all right, but there was a lot of scuttle shake [just driver- side of the bonnet] and I cut my hand on a nasty bit of metal inside the boot lid. It performed OK, it was quite sporty, but it's not that quick. It's a bit more butch now, but still a bit of a hairdresser's car. The car wouldn't appeal to me - I am really put off by that shaking. Compared to a *** Z3 it is good value. The MG badge has no special meaning for me, perhaps for older people it might. I don't hate it but I wouldn't buy one."

Diane Johnson, 41, hypnotherapist and reiki healer, from Cheam, Surrey. Drives an Alfa Romeo 146

"I was fairly impressed. It was an enjoyable drive, but my Alfa is faster. It is a lovely shape; I like the changes they've made and the handling is very responsive. It's more of a driver's car than just a pretty face. The engine sounds nice and gutsy and it feels much more solid than my car. I would rather buy British than a Mazda MX-5; this is more of a man's car. I didn't go for the tart's boudoir colour scheme inside. It was very comfortable for such a low-slung sports car, and the ride was very good."

Fiona Harrison, 37, account executive, from Wallington, Surrey. Drives a VW Polo

"It takes time to get used to, but it was great fun. It is the first sporty car I've driven. It responds really well and really wants to be driven fast. That power helps make it feel safe, but sitting so low made me feel less safe. It wasn't so good in strong winds either; I'd feel happier on the M25 in high wind in my Polo. There's not a lot of space - I personally would need a bit more room. My car is like a house to me. It would be totally impractical, but good fun at weekends. It is a girly car, the interior is definitely girly. I would expect more for my money and it's a bit plasticky inside, but it does look lovely from the outside." E

Road test If you would like to take part, write to The Verdict, The Independent Magazine, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, giving your age, address and contact telephone number, and details of the type of vehicle, if any, you drive. For most cars, participants must be over 26 and have a clean driving licence.
 
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