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Road Test

MG TF 133bhp

Driven January 2009

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Who remembers 1995? It was the year Eric Cantona kung-fu kicked some bloke in the head. Nick Leeson got busted. Oh, and Rover unveiled the MGF.

But 13 years have passed since then - long enough for Rover to die a slow, lingering death, and for MG to fall into Chinese hands.

Now, for the first time since the Nanjing takeover, MG is returning to the UK. And the car it's giving us - the flagship vehicle to usher MG back to Britain - is the, er, MG TF. Which is almost identical to the 2002 TF. Which was the same as the '95 ‘F' (bar some suspension tweaks and superficial trim updates).

OK, so MG admits it's an old car that should be considered Nanjing's foot back into the UK's door. It's promising an all-new sports car by 2012, and other new platforms before then. But for now, this is it.

To be fair, the TF actually looks quite cool, with its new front end and bigger wheels, not to mention the matt black Darth Vadar spec of our test car. Admittedly, seen with the ‘burnt orange' paint job in these pictures, it's a different story. 

Inside, things really are seriously ropey. The interior is basically the same as the '95 original, with a bit of added bling like piano-black surrounds and posh Pioneer stereo. But the new toys feel like tinsel on a rotting Christmas tree. 

It's the same old driving experience too. Pull shut the rattly door, slide in and you sort of perch on top of it, rather than sit snugly inside. The steering wheel and pedals are offset, and if you're anything near six foot, your head will poke over the top of the screen like a fleshy periscope.

It feels brisk enough, thanks to the old (but updated, and spritely) 133bhp engine. But it doesn't excite you like a mid-engine, rear-drive sports car should. Push hard, the tyres squeal like angry piglets and you plough on into understeer. And the scuttle shake is best measured on the Richter scale. 

But at least it's cheap. The LE500 comes fully loaded at £16,399, which includes a bolt-on hard top.

None of which is enough to pop it out of its time warp. So unless you're a fan of Nineties tech, you're better off with a more modern alternative. 

An MX-5 should do it.

Dan Read

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