MG TF LE500

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Price: £16,055
Top speed: 124 mph
0-60mph: 8.4 seconds
Consumption: 35.8 mpg
CO2 emissions: 185g/km
Best for the British: motor industry
Also worth considering? Caterham Seven, Lotus Elise, Mazda MX-5

There's a lot of gloom about in the motor industry these days. That makes it all the nicer to be able to report some good news about the future of car making in Britain, which is what the appearance of the MG TF LE500 represents. Not that the TF is a new car; it's much the same mid-engined roadster that MG Rover built at its Longbridge factory in Birmingham until it ran out of money in April 2005, which was in turn an updated version of the 1995 MG F. The story here isn't so much the car itself but the tale of how it returned to the showrooms after a gap of four years.

The intention to relaunch production at Longbridge was announced not long after MG Rover went bust, when what was left of the operation was bought by a Chinese company, Nanjing Automobile. It's taken longer than anyone expected but now the promise to revive the UK factory has at last been kept and the LE500, assembled in the UK with lots of Chinese parts, is the finished result.

The reintroduced TF has attracted some criticism for the age of its basic design, but I believe that the number of candles to appear on its next birthday cake is irrelevant; after all, two other sports cars of about the same age, the Lotus Elise and the Porsche Boxster, are still strong sellers. What matters is how the car performs, and here the TF broadly succeeds. The advantages of its mid-engined layout in terms of balance and weight distribution show through strongly on the road and, combined with light and accurate steering, make this car a lot of fun. The engine – one part of the TF that did see some development while it was taking a rest – has a free-revving and eager character. The TF's exterior styling still works too, although its interior now feels a little dated.

Next up, after the limited run of 500 highly equipped LE500s, is a cheaper version of the TF, at about £14,000, to be followed next year by a new Mondeo-sized car, also to be assembled in the UK. If that arrives as planned, then we really can say that MG has been reborn.

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