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USED CAR FOCUS MGF/TF – 1995 on

Rover knew it was on to a winner when they designed the MGF. It revived that famous octagonal badge, was fun to drive, and it cashed in on a demand for affordable soft-top motoring that had been re-kindled by the Mazda MX-5.

Too good to be true? Partly. In pre-BMW days, Rover's MG division had a limited research and development budgets. That meant the new sports car had to make do with 200 and Metro switchgear parts. And that also meant the MG inherited many of the faults linked to that kit.

Build quality on early cars was indifferent and MG dealers were thinly spread – not all Rover franchises handled MGs.

Later cars – especially from V and W onwards – improved a great deal (although interiors still look as if they've been thrown together). And there's now a unified Rover/MG dealer network. The MGTF, launched in February 2002 is an altogether different kettle of fish – it seems to be well-built and is an all-round better drive.

LINE-UP
MGF values weakened following the MGTF launch. The desirable 1.8 VVC is now retailing for around £9000 for a 1998 model – and that's with full service history.

Because it's so new, TF isn't common outside the MG Rover network and base 115 models are often stickered at around £13,999, rising to £16,995 for the 160 VVC.

DRIVING AND COMFORT
With a mid-mounted engine, MGF and TF give a good drive with confident handling and good grip. MGTF ditched Hydragas suspension system in favour of coils. This major shift in policy has delivered a substantial hardening to the ride which has also given this model much improved handling.

On the downside, the gearbox does feel notchy, but the swift VVC unit provides MGF and TF with a rewarding drive.

Seats are supportive, but the driving position is cramped (a non-adjustable steering column doesn't help). Passengers will find it more comfortable thanks to better legroom and a reclined seat.

Although loadspace is tight, it's good for the class: there's more than enough room for an overnight bag or even a modest shopping spree.

ENGINES
Three engines were fitted to the original MGF: 1.6 (112bhp), 1.8 (120bhp) and 1.8 VVC (145 and 160bhp), which all offer free-revving twin-cam engines that are willing and responsive. The same units – albeit slightly tweaked – are fitted to the MGTF with a choice of four outputs: 115bhp (1.6), 120 (1.8), 135 (1.8) and 160 (1.8 VVC).

SAFETY AND SECURITY
Euro NCAP hasn't tested MGF or TF, but other small Rovers are far from exceptional and MGF/TF chassis is old-fashioned. All MGFs have drivers' airbag with passenger bag optional. Both are standard on MGTF. ABS remains optional on some models – an oversight.

Security is good with an alarm, immobiliser and visible VIN on all models; fabric roof attracts the opportunist thief. Fast movers
MGF 1.8 VVC is the most favoured MGF; buyers love the free-revving VVC engine. 95N-0151: £5,600-16,100
MGTF models preferred to MGF as they start to hit used forecourts. 0251-0252: £13,000-£20,000

Ones to avoid
MGF 1.6i has minimal specification and an engine that needs to be worked hard.
MGF 1.8 VVC Trophy has outrageous colours (i.e bright yellow) and body kit are an acquired taste.

In the workshop
The mid-mounted engine is tricky (and expensive) to work on. It is vitally important to make sure that the services have been regular and can be verified. Other problems include loose trim and hood faults especially common on older cars. Electrical problems include ignition, radio and electric windows. Bent anti-roll bar links can mean that a new subframe is needed.

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