The MGF, launched in 1995 to worldwide acclaim, heralded MG’s return to series production of two-seater sports cars, which the brand had abandoned with the closure of Abingdon in October 1980.
In September 1995 it was initially available only as a single model with a 120 bhp 1796cc K-series engine. This was followed in early 1996 by the VVC (Variable Valve Control) version of the same engine, which produced 25 hp more at higher revs. Both models were only available with a sporty ratio 5-speed manual gearbox.
The most important innovation was the placement of the engine behind the seats to create a mid-engine arrangement. This arrangement is optimal for weight distribution and provides excellent handling, and the MGF undoubtedly has excellent handling. In addition, the hydragas suspension (inert nitrogen gas over a liquid) provides a high ride quality that goes far beyond what is normally associated with sports cars with precise handling. This comes as a surprise to most, as this suspension is largely built into the Metro.
In summer 1999, the MGF underwent its first real facelift, which was mainly equipment changes, but also introduced the Stepspeed (then Steptronic) CVT automatic transmission with a manual option of six individually selectable gears via buttons on the steering wheel or the gear lever on the floor.
In the spring of 2001, the model range was expanded to include a new entry-level 1598 cc 112 hp version and the modified VVC Trophy 160SE 160 hp version.
The expansion of the model range was obvious and necessary, but was severely limited during BMW’s 1994-2000 period to ensure that the MGF did not pose major competition to the BMW Z3 two-seater sports car. The subsequent additions were well received and provided the springboard for the MGF 2, which was launched in January 2002 as the MG TF.