Long term tests

MG SV-R

Another month spent commuting by air to the Isle of Man with, to be honest, only spasmodic use of the MG that's been billeted there. Unfortunately, what is dominating the news as I write is the fact that MG Rover has called in the receivers, which has cast a cloud of gloom over my whole stewardship of this motor car. I feel sad when I look at it now, as one might at a child whose parents have been bankrupted and jailed. Who's going to look after the poor mite? The receivers have yet to ask for it back, so O

Another month spent commuting by air to the Isle of Man with, to be honest, only spasmodic use of the MG that's been billeted there. Unfortunately, what is dominating the news as I write is the fact that MG Rover has called in the receivers, which has cast a cloud of gloom over my whole stewardship of this motor car. I feel sad when I look at it now, as one might at a child whose parents have been bankrupted and jailed. Who's going to look after the poor mite? The receivers have yet to ask for it back, so Orphan Annie is kipping in my garage for the time being.

I reported last time that the battery went flat after just a week of non-use of the car. The instruction manual, so spectacularly unhelpful with jump start instructions (the battery, as is often the case on the modern motor, is buried in the bowels of the car, necessitating, I discovered, off-side front wheel removal for access), was rather more helpful with advice about disconnecting the battery, so that's what I now do whenever I'm leaving the car for longer than a few days. It's not the most sophisticated isolating mechanism, just a big plug you yank out of a socket. On first reconnection, the pillar-less electric windows wouldn't seal their last half-inch. Then, after 48 hours, they were fine. Predictable, this car is not.

I eventually got my long-awaited lap of the spectacular Isle of Man TT course - all 37 miles of it - and the SV-R delivered joy and irritation in equal measure. The joy for me remains the chassis - I lurv the steering and the car always feels taut and neat and tidy. Despite the short wheelbase, it doesn't feel remotely snappy and the relative compliance of the suspension set-up is a delight in the real world of dodgy road surfaces.

The non-satis bit is the drivetrain rearward of the engine. The clutch has too long a travel, the gearbox is a little clunky and the final drive is way too highly geared. The last-mentioned probably for noise emission reasons: higher gearing = lower revs = less racket. I hear that you can retro-fit a lower final drive to the SV to improve things but I might also recommend the sacrilegious act of fitting an auto 'box. Not exactly the streets image MG might have been seeking but the company does offer an auto option, even on the SV-R, and I would be fascinated to compare and contrast it with the sticky stick shift. Sadly, with the marque's fortunes heading south, I can't imagine now that I'll get the chance but the 'box/clutch/gearing situation as it stands just makes driving the car too much like hard work. The engine doesn't help much. It sounds great and feels meaty and strong but it also exhibits a strange wheeziness. There's little eagerness there, no fizz. It's telling that the engine's revs take forever to decay: is it being hampered by a heavy flywheel, often used to disguise drivetrain deficiencies? The engine just feels lazy and that's perhaps another reason why an auto might suit.

A final thought, which may surprise you, is that I have grown to really like this car's looks. I dislike the rear wing but, if you took that off, you would have a very neat looking car. And if you think you rather like the wing, I should tell you something that I've discovered about it. It's so obstructive of the rear view mirror that Agents of the State can hang on your tail, unseen, for miles. Still like it?

Running Costs

Date acquiredJanuary 2005
Total mileage3068
Costs this month£0
Mileage this month768
MPG this month17.7mpg

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