25 June 2022

More than an old car #194: MG F

The MG brand is most often associated with eye-catching classic and vintage cars, which is no surprise since it has made its way into the public consciousness for a long while. More recently though, there has been an influx of MG EVs, which is a clear sign of the future of cars. However, I would think many people would be unaware of this 1998 MG F, since it is such a far cry from what people are familiar with...

By the 1980s, MG was in decline as it had stopped producing sports cars (although the MG badge was still used on badge-engineered vehicles during that time. However, MG had been working on prototypes as it still intended to announce its sporting heritage. This began in 1984 with the EX-E, followed by the F-16 concept. A pivotal moment came in 1989 with the release of the Mazda MX-5: this reminded MG of what could have been if it had pushed out the F-16 earlier. Now that the MX-5 had captured the public's attention, there was pressure to produce an MG that could compete in the same market.

In 1992, MG, under the ownership of the Rover group, restarted production of the classic MGB as the limited edition RV8. The subsequent positive reaction encouraged the company to continue development of the 'Phoenix Revival' prototypes, known as PR1/2/3. Outside contractors were engaged to keep costs down and each of the 3 parties were given an F-16 prototype to work on. Road tests between the prototypes led to PR3 winning out with its mid-engine layout.

After the PR3 was given the green light, it was time for final adjustments made to its design. Many changes were made such as a lowered windscreen, rounder headlights and a traditional MG grille arrangement. Furthermore, the car was intended to be as British as possible: practically every part of the car came from the Rover parts bin, except for the Pininfarina-designed canvas top. Even the K-series engine used in the car was a Rover invention despite drawing inspiration from the similar Honda engines.

When the MG F was launched in 1995, it enjoyed a positive reaction from the press: many people praised its British heritage, exemplary handling and cuddly looks. In 1999, it underwent a mild facelift with a revised interior and a new 1.6 litre engine was released as well. The car continued to sell well despite Rover Group being sold to BMW. This unit was powered by a 1796 cc K-series i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 193 km/h with an acceleration of 9.2 seconds [0-100 km/h]. With dimensions of 3913 x 1628 x 1264 mm, it was relatively tiny. It weighed 1060 kg with a fuel consumption of 7.4 litres / 100 km.

Production ended in 2002 where it was succeeded by the TF, which was a heavily redesigned version of the F. Sales of the TF could have been decent but for the collapse of the MG Rover group in 2005. In 2007, the TF LE500 was released by Nanjing Automotive, which owned the right to the MG nameplate. However, only 906 were made under Chinese ownership when production officially ended in 2011. 

A total of 77,269 units were made while under British ownership, and this unit is believed to be the last one remaining here! MGFs were sold here in 1996 by Intra Motors (S) Pte Ltd (which no longer exists): current MG cars sold here by Eurokars are all electric vehicles, a far cry from its sporting heritage. As of the time of writing, it is up for sale: who knows, perhaps you could be inspired to pull the trigger and acquire this rarity here! Its lifespan is still extended for the time being so it won't be gone anytime soon hopefully...I hope you'll be lucky to catch this some day!

12 June 2022

More than an old car #193: Citroen Berlingo

Having spotted cars for quite a long time, I have seen my fair share of weird and wacky vehicles. Along this vein, passenger vans are a curious oddity since they get ignored by enthusiasts and the uninitiated alike. As such, it was a pleasant surprise to know that this 2001 Citroen Berlingo Multispace still exists somehow!

First introduced in 1996, the Berlingo replaced the aging C15 van which had been produced since 1984. Along with its sister model the Peugeot Partner, the utility (van) model was launched, followed by a passenger version known as the Multispace. Interestingly, the vehicle did not have sliding doors at first. Renault had launched the Kangoo shortly in 1997, and it came with sliding doors: sales of the Kangoo was good and PSA (the holding company of Citroen and Peugeot) had to respond. 

In 1999, the Berlingo came with a sliding door on the opposite side of the steering wheel for safety reasons. New engines were introduced in 2000 and the Berlingo underwent a facelift featuring larger headlights and a front end. The Kangoo now featured sliding doors on both sides and the Berlingo followed suit, first as an option for the van but standard for the passenger Multispace. The Multispace was also available with a canvas top that could be unrolled, much like a sunroof.

The Berlingo Multispace was powered by a 1360 cc i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 150 km/h with an acceleration of 17.2 seconds [0-100 km/h]: definitely not meant for hard driving. With dimensions of 4108 x 1719 x 1802 mm, it does not necessarily stand out much from the cars around it. It weighed 1125 kg and had a fuel consumption rate of 7.1 litres / 100 km.

Production of the 1st-generation Berlingo ended in 2008, although local assembly still continues today in Argentina by Stellantis of Bueno Aires: for instance, the local version of the Multispace features double rear doors (like the van version) instead of the hatch version imported from Europe. In Singapore, both van and passenger models were sold back in 1998. While Berlingos are still out and about till this day, this unit is the last 1st-generation version that still exists on the road!

Apparently, its lifespan has been extended by another 10 years so you should still be able to find this on the road. While no one may lament at its absence, the fact that the owner still holds on to it is a testament to its uniqueness in our motoring landscape and I hope you'll be able to recognise it some day!