First drive: Chinese MG 550 1.8T 2011 in Dubai

First drive: Chinese MG 550 1.8T 2011 in Dubai


While we were trolling around in Dubai looking for a midsize sedan to buy, we came across this attractive compact car, fully registered, and driven by staff from Arabian Automobiles, who happen to be the local dealers for Nissan, Infiniti and Renault here. On closer inspection, “SAIC” badges revealed its Chinese origins. It was also badged as an MG 550 1.8T. Those who keep track of such things will know that Chinese carmaker SAIC now owns the MG brand as well as some bits of Rover. On further pestering, the “owner” told us that Arabian Automobiles has handed out a bunch of these cars to staff members a couple of months ago, and plan to start selling them in the UAE once showrooms are ready. We also tied him up, threw him in the boot and took the car for an exclusive mini test-drive!

Our research tells us that this compact sedan is already on sale in China as a Roewe 550, built by the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation. The 1.8T hints at the 1.8-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine under the bonnet, good for 160 hp as well as 214 Nm of torque from only 2500 rpm, mated to a 5-speed automatic and front-wheel-drive.

This car will be rebadged as an MG in the GCC, since SAIC owns the legendary British MG nameplate now. Incidentally, this car is also based on a shortened Rover 75 platform. If anyone remembers, Al Tayer Motors used to sell the Rover 75 in the UAE earlier in this decade until Rover went bankrupt, back when BMW owned MG-Rover.

The car truly is attractive, with a hint of “premium” VW, only better. The front end is refreshingly original, and hides the Rover-derived engine. The rims are 16-inch alloys with 215/55 tyres.

The interior is downright stunning, especially since we hear it will compete in the economy compact class. The black upper dash and door bits are firm “soft-touch” materials, while the fake wood and hard beige bits make up a cabin that feels almost like a BMW.

Everything seemed firmly in place, although we did find excess plastic bits left over from the moulding process inside the central cubby, the only quality flaw that hints at its humble origins. There may or may not be more quality glitches, but our hostage incessantly screaming in the boot forced us to hurry up our test.

Space is about expected for a car in this class, with no surprises in terms of rear legroom. The luggage boot is pretty big though, so our hostage had enough room to breathe. The a/c also worked fairly well in the summer afternoon. And the gauge cluster is rather cool.

We only went for one round around the block. The engine has a good low-end kick that makes it feel quicker than most economy cars, thanks to the turbo, although it is by no means a rocket. It’ll likely still take 10 seconds for the 0-100 kph run, but it’ll sound really awesome doing it, with the engine emitting a pleasant raspy note.

The ride and handling seemed fine too. There wasn’t much body roll or bounciness to speak of, definitely more like a Ford Focus than a Toyota Corolla, although the turning circle seemed particularly large. Brakes stop the car when stomped on, but the pedal feel isn’t perfectly linear. We can’t comment on cabin noise because the driver-side window didn’t go all the way up due to some glitch.

A launch date hasn’t been set yet, and the price hasn’t been fixed either, but estimates of Dhs 55,000 are floating around. If quality is not looked upon with a microscope, a car like this could easily sell as a VW, and we expect reliability to be about the same as a VW too. Whether it will sell as an MG is another question altogether. The guy in the boot had no opinion on it either way.

What do you think?

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Comments

  1. kool looking car!! like this one…”It’ll likely still take 10 seconds for the 0-100 kph run, but it’ll sound really awesome doing it, with the engine emitting a pleasant raspy note”

    Can any of the 1.8’s do that!!leaving the A4 which wud be thrice as expensive!!hope this is at least better reliable..

  2. I had a Rover 75 before and nice to see a glimpse of it back again.

  3. Wow, the interior does look more than the estimated 55k, and 214 [email protected] is impressive as well for it’s class. Great job again with the exclusive Mash, I hope the trunk was comfy enough for our “host”age.

  4. The MG version is called MG6 and has been on sale in China since late last year. It comes in 4 door saloon and also 5 door hatch configurations. The base vehicle is the Roewe 550 a car designed by SAIC’s design team in the UK and mostly engineered by their engineering team, also here in the UK with both teams now firmly planted in the former MG Rover facility in Birmingham. (They are mainly former MG Rover designers and engineers SAIC took on after MG Rover went under. BTW BMW departed in 2000 and sold the car assets (less Land Rover) to a group of British Businessmen and the company name changed to MG Rover and it was this company that failed in 2005.)

    Google or other searches under MG6 will give you the Chinese market images of the MG6 and a few of the development UK versions, which will be built in Birmingham from later this year with a UK launch early 2011. The UK version aside from being right hand drive will feature different suspension spec, larger 17 and 18″ wheels and tyres, different interior trim spec and different instrument pack. This UK spec car will also have some external body appendages too. In due course production of left hand drive versions will follow at Birmingham for launch into Europe.

    Only two parts are carried over from the Rover 75/MG ZT ranges, so calling the car a cut down 75 is not accurate, however saying that the 550 and MG6 are using some developed parts from those MG Rover cars is more accurate.

    Having driven pre production MG6 in the UK and being very familiar with (and being a former owner) of the MG ZT range I can certainly say that the positive solidity of the former cars is present in MG6. That does make that MG6 feel a little heavy and that does impact on the performance slightly, obviously more so with the auto rather than the 5 speed manual versions. However, vast experience with the engines means I know that they will not be giving their best until beyond 5000 miles (8000kms), and that difference can be quite marked.

    Autocar magazine here has already done a very positive report on driving a pre production car with a UK spec suspension and wheel package calling it potentially best in class in respect of suspension steering, ride and handling. Pricing here in the UK will dictate how well it does as it has to fight against well regarded and established German and Japanese competition.

    MG6 is also the first of a new series of MG saloon cars all involving UK design and developement that will launch over the next three years.

  5. This one is a nice car. On my 1 year stint in China, the company provided this one with a driver. A MT costs between 1,26,800 RMB (70,000 AED) and 1,43,100 RMB (78,000 AED). A AT costs between 1,38,800 RMB (75,000 AED) and 1,56,400 (85,000 AED). All prices are ex-showroom. Even being in Honda Civic territory, people bought this car because there were too many Buicks, VWs and Civics going around and this one looked a little different (as one Chinese friend puts it – looks like a 5 series Beemer)

    Interior Pics –
    http://data.auto.qq.com/car_public/1/disp_pic_nl.shtml#sid=441&tid=2&pid=375100

    Exterior Pics –
    http://data.auto.qq.com/car_public/1/disp_pic_nl.shtml#sid=441&tid=1&pid=375078

    More Exterior Pics
    http://data.auto.qq.com/car_public/1/disp_pic_nl.shtml#sid=441&tid=3&pid=375108

  6. The MG 550 is already on sale in Oman, it supposedly costs around 67000 Dhs.

    Check here for specs – http://www.mhdoman.com/mg/mg550.aspx#

  7. Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury Author

    ^Thanks for the heads-up. That price seems too high really, for a start-up brand.

  8. It doesn’t possess anything special to justify the pricetag.Outside of China MG550 sells only in a handful of countries and the product’s reliability is not yet tested. Also the engine is based on the ancient Rover K-series albeit with a bit of modification.

    Suzuki’s Kizashi is also expected to be priced in the similar range and it definitely seems to be a better option when compared to the MG550.

  9. wow!! always loved the 75!!! glad to see they are back!!

  10. havent seen a lot of cars that idle above 1000 rpm recently. Nice car though. good power, nice interior and decent exterior style (except the front).

  11. Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury Author

    ^I got the photo of the gauges off the net. Rest of the photos I took with my camera phone, with a couple using the hostage’s camera. This wasn’t a planned event.

  12. Interesting to see the 550 arrive in the UAE, although I must point out that it’s not a cut down Rover 75, only the front subframe is from the 75, the rest is entirely new. Have a look at the likes of the UKs Autocar on the closely related UK/EU bound MG6 fastback for more.

    The site owner is welcome to email me if he’d like to talk more.

  13. what’s with the carpet?

  14. nice BUT

    price wise it should be AED 50k
    have a long 5 year + unlimited KM warranty
    – and low running costs..

    other wise it will fail here for sure..

    at AED 50k u still get a good second jap car.. so why go for this especially at time people are un certain about thier jobs

  15. Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury Author

    “Based on a cut-down but updated Rover 75 platform, the car that has become the Roewe 550 was in development before MG Rover collapsed in 2005.” – Autocar UK

  16. If it proves to be reliable and quite cheap to run then its a good buy i assume.. Though id prefer an NA engine.. About the price tag, mainstream cars should be priced like that actually..

  17. Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury Author

    Haha Orion, good catch! Don’t know what you doing reading the China Economic Times though.

  18. Saw one yesterday parked near the Hyundai showroom. Looks nice and quite big…

  19. Good ‘ol Google search!!

    One more from UK this time.. 😉

    http://www.mguk.org/world-news-f5/mg-arriving-in-the-uae-t352.htm

  20. Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury Author

    ^Looks like a lot of discussion revolves around the sheepskin rugs. If you think those are odd, I left out a photo of the boot. It was full of household items, dinner plates, etc. All that customising and he still left on the seat plastic.

  21. I would like know if this nice car available in Sudan.

  22. probably those guys would have never used the rugs at all!!;)

    comparing to VW has ruffled few feathers..

  23. looks like drivearabia hates audi and VW. However, the comments are genuine.

  24. I saw the new MG 550 (at AED 67k)and another larger model at the brand new MG showroom in Dubai earlier this week and the cars really look stunning inside and out. I was offered a test drive but didn’t have time. I really enjoy my MG ZR and would certainly buy one when they come to South Africa – if the price is right. AED 67k woud be a good price here – but highly unlikely!

  25. Guys we should not forget one very important thing. The security aspects & crash test results.. u can copy the Germans.. but it should be also safe!
    i like tehd esigna ctually but it looks like a mix of new KIA design (front grill) & VW (front lamps.. like vw eos) and the back like wannabe lexus.. it does not look as one solid design.. its like a ugly face made out of beautiful pieces (nose, eyes , etc..) but not fitting together to make that face attractive 🙂

  26. Hope someone doesn’t die from lead poisoning.

  27. Made in China is not a bad thing IF made for an outside brand, as they have their own requirements for production. But a pure chinese product is only good for use and throw. Chinese quality in Cars, God save us. 🙂

  28. Hello, I am a Chinese MG6 owners. Am pleased to participate in your discussions. MG550 you see in China is called Roewe550, only in your country put a MG logo, but in fact belongs to Shanghai Automotive. In my opinion, the real MG6 more beautiful than the 550. Is a hatchback, will be on sale in the UK in April. And China has been listed 2 years. MG6 If you are interested in China, you can contact me by E-maill, I hope we become friends, thank you.

  29. Hey ,, where is the showroom located in dubai or even abu dhabi for MG ?!?!
    thanks .. =)

  30. khilllllllllllllllllllllli gooooooooooooooood

  31. hey
    i owned one of mg-its 55o deluxe
    really its fantastic car there si no comment that i can say
    b4 i was using vw but really mg in body and stability i can only compare it with bmw also for the shape
    keep in mind its sport class car
    and the price is really too cheap comparing with the car
    even if its comes from china but all designers and technicales are from uk
    take it for test drive then u will understand
    the “britsh quality”

    • Hi al-ajmi, i would like to know the performance of A/C on Mg550 especially on summer. I really like to know because im planning to take Mg550 in dubai. You’re experience on the car is highly appreciated if you share your ideas. thanks

  32. Hey Al-ajmi,
    You said it, i have test driven it and i felt the experience. Really awesome car it is for this price and specially i loved the time when i put the key in..it roars out really 🙂

  33. I’m also interested to know how the A/C performs over here in uae. Hope the engine also doesnt overheat.

  34. Hi need to know if the car has done 95000 km is it still a good car to buy, what is the opinion on the engine durability and other maintenance which one would have to pau later.

  35. The car is really good , I have drove My MG 550 around in Saudia Arabia for a wile , its damn hot here and the AC works perfectly , no overheat in the engine , I traveled to Dubai couple of times the car is comfortable and easy , dvd and entertainment and navigation and I would like u guys to look in youtube for the crash test of this car as it is a well safe family sedan also a economical 4 cylinder turbo , nice engine roar and smooth a ride ,powerful , absolutely affordable compared to that price if you look to german or American cars the car is absolutely perfect , parts prices are in range , mostly cheap, also completes the set for such a cheap car . Please guys don’t compare this thing to a British branded vehicle .You know well what is a British standard , like Range rover . Mg 550 model specifically has been a shock for many people in such performance and reliability .that car is a big success for the Chinese as most of the vehicles that they design are staffed with different strange body and interior design and quality, mechanically the engine is super for the mg 550 I never saw a good quality chines engine , seems that mg 550 is a good start for the Saec motors and general chines market as it looks now that they understand the demand and real quality of peoples decision , personally I cant compare it to a chines car , its the first time I drive such balanced and simple functioning and full option sedan in such price , I refer and give my feedback to u not from research but from experience as I work in the automotive business in Riyadh Saudi Arabia , in mechanical services and general automobile trading .

  36. Is mg a Ford product car?

  37. The ignition hand set is faulty. What can I do?

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