MX-5 v MG TF

Is MG TF still an MX-5 rival?

The MX-5 is undoubtedly a great roadster. It's also excellent value - there are few cars  at the same price that can rival it for driver enjoyment, style or quality. But there's a newcomer on the horizon which could be a serious alternative.

I say new - this is the MG TF LE500, a reincarnation of the old MG TF which ceased production in 2005. Now under the ownership of Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (or SAIC for short), the MG badge has returned, with the cars being assembled at MG Rover’s old home of Longbridge in the Midlands.

But can it really compete alongside the MX-5? MG's owners say the the new TF is a big improvement over the old model. But it's hard to see where. From the outside it looks the same and the interior is little changed either. I've always been a sucker for the styling, but I expected some more extensive changes.

Low rent cabin

Compared to the MX-5 it feels unbelievably dated, especially the old-fashioned switches, indicator stalks and dials. The MX-5 may not be especially stylish but it feels far more modern and well built. In contrast the quality and finish of the TF cabin is poor.

And the interior isn't the only thing stuck in a time warp. The TF uses a 1.8-litre engine with 133bhp but it's neither as refined nor as responsive as the Mazda's. Even my old shape MX-5 (with similar power) is better to drive.

I like the design of the leather seats in the TF, but the driving position is as awful as the old car. You sit high up, almost on top of the steering wheel, unlike the MX-5, which has a low slung seat. The offset pedal layout is worse and makes smooth driving a real challenge.

Overpriced

Maybe some of these shortcomings could be excused if the MG was good value, but it's not. Amazingly it costs £16,399 - that's £650 more than the entry-level MX-5. True it does come with leather seats and air conditioning as standard, but this is still way too overpriced.

Comparing the MG TF alonsgide my old MX-5 and the latest model, you can't help but feel as though you're looking at a timeline of convertibles. Unfortunately the MG TF is woefully out of date and although enthusiasts might like it, the MX-5 is superior in every single department.

Current mileage: 4335

Average mpg: 37.8