Poor MG. If you’re going to get back into the sports car game, it probably pays not to send your press release out on April 1.
That meant it got lost in a sea of brilliantly executed automotive announcements that I really wish were true, such as VW rebranding itself Voltswagen to reflect its leap towards electric cars, Alfa Romeo coming up with an windscreen-mounted AR filter that could transform the A59 into the Almalfi Coast in an instant, Skoda stereos being able to autotune anyone singing badly in its cars and – perhaps most far-fetched of all - Kia launching an in-house space programme.
But no, apparently ‘April Fool’ doesn’t translate terribly well into Mandarin, so MG’s Chinese paymasters really are serious about showing off a new sports car, more than a decade after the TF was pensioned off and more than 40 since MG’s Abingdon factory was shuttered by British Leyland’s bosses. Cue the Cyberster, being shown off at the Shanghai Auto Show later this month (which, incidentally, must be one of the few motor shows going on anywhere at the moment).
MG’s making a big play of it being designed by a team of Brits based in London, and that it’s taken lots of cues from the old MGB – although MGF-esque snout aside, I reckon it owes more than a few nods to Aston Martin’s V12 Speedster, right down to its abrupt rear end and the cowling behind the rollover hoops. It’ll also feature 5G connectivity – although quite why you’d want that in a stripped-back sports car, I’m not entirely sure – and an all-electric powerplant capable of pummelling you and a passenger to 60mph in three seconds and covering 500 miles before a recharge, although presumably not at the same time.
But what I really want to know is how much of it, once you peel away its interactive front headlights and ability to chat seamlessly to your iPhone, is actually based on the MG5 or ZS, or the next generation of models headed to MG’s showrooms. MGs, from the M-types of the early Thirties to the MGFs you can still pick up for a few hundred quid in the classifieds, have offered go-faster thrills at real world prices because they’ve used relatively humdrum tech beneath their slippery shells – and if the Cyberster’s based around the grubby bits of MG’s existing hatches and crossovers, there’s more chance it’ll actually make it into production, rather than being a mere motor show boost for MG’s ego.
Two-seater sports cars don’t bring in anything like the bacon that Qashqai-esque crossovers and posh saloons do, but right now Britain’s fastest-growing carmaker could do with something that actually does those two little letters proud, even if it’s only to help it win more friends on the American market. MG needs to stop making tiny nods to its illustrious heritage with Magnette-branded models and one-off concept cars, and get on with making sports cars again.
Just try not to announce the production model on April 1, chaps.
David Simister is the editor of Classic Car Weekly