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What Car? says

2 out of 5 stars

For It's a pretty and affordable introduction to mid-engined sports cars

Against The driving position and steering are not what you'd expect in such a sporty car

Verdict MG TF is easy to live with and surprisngly practical for a two-seater

Go for… 1.8 VVC 160

Avoid… 1.8 120 Stepspeed

MG Rover TF Open
  • 1. Even the slightest crease or tear in the hood will let water into the cabin. Make sure the hood folds up and down smoothly and latches into place easily
  • 2. The 1.8-litre engine can suffer from a blown head gasket; a slimy white gunk around the oil filler cap is a sign of problems
  • 3. Check the gearlever shifts cleanly as its joints can wear, making for a sloppy and inaccurate change
  • 4. Don’t panic about repairs, as there are more than enough spares to keep the TF on the road for many years
  • 5. The best TF is the 1.8 VVC 160 while the 1.6-litre TF is the most affordable. Avoid the 120bhp Stepspeed at all costs
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MG Rover TF Open full review with expert trade views

Although the MG is mid-engined, just like the Lotus Elise it shares its engines with, the TF feels much more like a hot hatch to drive than a trickier performance car.

That’s not to say the TF lacks performance, though. Its 1.6 and 1.8-litre engines have to be revved hard to give their best, but they thrive on it.

The main problem for a keen driver is that the steering uses electric assistance and feels vague compared with a Mazda MX-5’s, and the driving position is set too high.

When MG turned the original MGF into this TF in 2002, it also redesigned the suspension and did away with the F’s gas-filled suspension. This means the TF turns into corners a little more crisply than the F, but it doesn't ride as comfortably over poor surfaces.

Generally, though, it's fairly comfy. When the roof's up, the TF is watertight and the hood seals out noise well enough.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

These now look good value. Sweeter 1.6 not quickest but best engine

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

The best TF is the 1.8 VVC 160 model with variable valve timing, which also happens to be the quickest. The reason is that it has the oomph to make the most of the TF’s fine handling. It will blast from 0-62mph in less than 7.0sec and, thanks to the TF’s relatively light weight, still return fuel economy of more than 35.0mpg in daily driving.

The 1.6-litre TF is the most affordable way into the model, although performance is sluggish, while the 135bhp 1.8 is a good compromise between cost and performance. Avoid the 120bhp Stepspeed model at all costs.

Some former Rover and MG dealers still keep a stock of MG TFs, but the best bet is an independent MG specialist as many now include the TF alongside more classic models such as the MGB.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Stepspeed bad news, but special edition 1.6 and 1.8 VVC all good

James Ruppert
Used car guru

None of the TF range will cost the earth to fuel. Even if the engines need to be worked hard, the lightweight TF’s slippery shape makes sure economy is excellent for a sporting car.

Insurance is also a strong plus for the TF because it’s not seen as such a big risk as a Mazda MX-5 or Toyota MR2 by insurance firms.

You’ll need to find a good former MG dealer or independent specialist for servicing, but the costs should be no more than for the average supermini. Don’t panic about repairs as there are more than sufficient supplies of spares to keep the TF on the road for many years.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

These now look good value. Sweeter 1.6 not quickest but best engine

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

The condition of the TF’s hood is very important as even the slightest crease or tear will let water into the cabin. Make sure the hood folds up and down smoothly and latches into place easily. If it doesn’t, the frame may have been bent by someone leaning on it and this can be pricey to fix.

The engines are generally rugged, but the 1.8 can suffer from a blown head gasket; slimy white gunk around the oil filler cap is a dead giveaway. Also check the gearlever moves cleanly as its joints can wear, making for a sloppy and inaccurate shift.

Electrical glitches are another bugbear of the TF, such as sticking electric windows and radios that don’t want to play.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Stepspeed bad news, but special edition 1.6 and 1.8 VVC all good

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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