Remember MG Rover and its demise? We do, vividly. In a tale of blame, accusation and much finger pointing one of the upshots (some would say causes) of MG Rover’s failure was a proposed buy out by - then subsequent selling off of model platforms to - Chinese car firms. Fast forward seven years and SAIC, not the original firm involved in 2005, now own the MG Brand and its "Roewe" sister.
SAIC is China’s largest car firm - largely because it has joint-ventures with companies like VW and GM and makes cars with them in China. But it has big plans for MG and Roewe, and, pleasingly, part of those plans include British design, engineering and manufacturing capability. A growing team is based on the former MG Rover Longbridge site in Birmingham at SAIC’s UK technical centre. It’s that team that’s largely been responsible for this Icon concept car.
From some angles it might remind you of a Mini and from others the Nissan Juke. That’s not necessarily MG’s team’s intention, but it surely can’t hurt. In fact, the looks heavily reference the MGB-GT. Cover up other bits of the car with your hand and just look at those headlamps, the grille and rear boot shape and the MGB is clear to see. But this is mixed into a very modern package of a B-segment (Fiesta/Polo) sized car, which is high riding and has what the PR people would probably call "lifestyle" qualities.
It even has an interior - something a lot of concept cars at the Beijing motorshow didn’t - which was pleasing. This features a double-hooded dash, like MGs of old – but you’ll probably be more excited by floating seats that hang off the centre tunnel and an all-digital dash display, although sadly we couldn’t see it in operation.
This was one of the most "concept-y" cars we saw in Beijing. Unlike the Merc, it’s far away from anything that’s likely to be produced. But as an indication that MG is far from dead, and of the technical and design capabilities parent firm SAIC has at its disposal, it’s important.
You may have read a lot about the Chinese car industry. Probably about how the firms make terrible, copycat products. Well, it’s changing fast and it’s now far from the majority case that all Chinese cars are bad. SAIC is the arguably mature and savvy of all those Chinese companies. Rest assured that it will be a success and take pleasure in the fact that British talent is helping make it happen.