Sparkling New MG Maestro 2.0 EFi, Montago Estate, Revised Metro Range



Sparkling New MG Maestro 2.0 EFi, Montag() Estate, Revised Metro Range

THE potential buyer of a ” hot hatchback” is becoming spoiled for choice. To make matters worse (better?) all of the available cars in the category are extremely good, the best being the last one you tried.

An hour’s drive in the new MG Maestro 2.0 EFi was enough to confirm that here is yet another model to offer a combination of performance, economy, practicality and reasonable purchase price which were undreamed of not many years ago.

Replacing the MG Maestro 1600, the new model uses a two-litre fuel-injected “0” series engine which produces 115 bhp at 5,500 rpm and 134 lb/ft torque at 2,800 rpm. Coupled to a close ratio five-speed Honda gearbox, this smooth and flexible unit will propel the car from rest to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds and achieve a maximum speed of 115 mph.

On the road the car is delightful, smooth and surefooted and the ride is not bettered by any of its rivals. It is one of those cars in which one feels immediately at ease, the steering is responsive, the roadholding matches the best in its class and the brakes (ventilated discs are fitted at the front) offer power without drama.

The interior is spacious and well appointed. Electrically operated windows and central door locking are standard, so too is the three-spoke leather rimmed steering wheel. The car I drove had an LCD dashboard (a proper one is also available) and, though I dislike such units, this one was clear enough to live with. Apparently the Maestro is still fitted with “first generation” electronics whereas the Montego has a “second generation” package. The difference is that you can’t read some of the Montego’s information in daylight.

At the time of writing, prices had yet tube announced but it should be under the £7,500 mark putting it against the Astra GTE and the Escort XR3i and undercutting the Golf GTi, Lancia Delta HF Turbo and the Fiat Abarth Strada, though only by a few per cent. Overall, my feeling is that the Maestro is one of the best cars in its class. The compromise which has to be made between ride, roadholding and handling is spot on, the Honda gearbox is first rate and the engine is smooth and responsive. The whole package feels properly integrated, there is an air of refinement in all departments, and it bustles along quietly and without fuss.

Many of the same remarks could be made of the Austin Montego Estate car. I briefly drove a 1.6L and was very impressed by its handling and ride, the flexibility of its 85 bhp ”S” series engine and by the general standard of appointment on a middle-ofrange car. It’s an honest piece of work.

The Metro range has undergone some cosmetic changes and a five-door version is now available. The suspension has been improved throughout the range and ventilated front disc brakes are now standard on all models. The redesigned bonnets and grilles are claimed to bestow some aerodynamic advantages.

Since MOTOR SPORT is all about sporting driving, not economy cars, I concentrated my attention on the MG Metro Turbo. The ’85 car bona redesigned dash, which is very clear, much improved ventilation, central door locking and a long list of small improvements such as a non-slip fascia mat, footwell illumination and stowage for five tape cassettes. The external facelift which covers not just the bonnet and grille but a revised colour

scheme “MG Turbo” graphics, does not look too dramatic in isolation but. park it alongside an existing model and the difference is pronounced. To my mind, the ’85 model has been greatly improved without sacrificing any of the car’s character.

I think, though, that the MG Metro Turbo is a great little car still looking for an engine. I drove two and even allowing for the fact that one vvas a real lemon which should never have been released, there is a lack of response and muscle which is inhibiting when driving fast. Peugeot have shown the way to go in the small sporting hatchback class with their 1,600 cc injected engine and five-speed gearbox. A 30 year old engine, turbocharged or not, simply does not stretch this car’s potential. — M.L.