MG TF good-looking blast from past

Iain Dooley says the much-loved and popular MG TF is fun to drive and affordable.

Engines – With MG's venerable four-cylinder motor in 1.6 and 1.8-litre guise powering the TF, the choice for the driver was power output. With a range from 114bhp to 157bhp, there's something for everyone. The 1.8 in 134bhp trim is often thought of as the TF's performance sweet spot.

Exterior – This second-generation car stays faithful to the original MGF but gains a few sharper curves for good measure. Roof up or down it looks great, which is something not all rivals managed to achieve.

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Interior – A strict two-seater like Mazda's MX-5, the MG TF's cabin offers plenty of room and a reasonable amount of storage space. It might now be showing its age design-wise, but the car's cabin remains functional and practical even today.

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Driving – The MG TF's classic mid-engined, rear-wheel drive layout affords keen drivers a great opportunity to have some fun without having to wind the car up to illegal speeds. At low speeds it flatters the average driver and proves to be a nimble car around town. For maximum enjoyment the engines do need to be worked hard, although that's rarely a chore.

Ownership – Despite its modest levels of practicality the MG TF is an easy car to own. Planning ahead for shopping trips or driving holidays is essential, but travelling light is all part of the fun of MG TF ownership. This is not a new car design so, over the years, various niggles have surfaced and it pays to be prepared. The ownership community is active and knowledgeable though, which helps.

What to look for – Heavily-used or abused examples should be ignored. Pampered cars might cost a bit more but should be more reliable in the long run. An enthusiastic owner should be able to produce a solid history in the form of receipts and service records – good for peace of mind. A road-test is essential, and not only to confirm that the MG TF is the right car for you.

Model history – 2002, MG introduces heavily-revised MGF roadster – renamed MG TF. Updated exterior styling plus the switch to conventional steel suspension are the main highlights. Improved range of engines and equipment levels completed the update programme.

Reasons to buy – Popular, fun to drive, affordable, attractive, enthusiastic ownership community.

Reasons to beware – Mechanical niggles not uncommon, an old design, fabric roof must be in perfect order.

Pick of the range – MG TF 1.8 135.

What to pay – 2002 02 �3,175; 2002 52 �3,250; 2003 03 �3,475; 2003 53 �3,550; 2004 04 �3,825; 2004 54 �3,900; 2005 05 �4,150; 2006 06 �4,550. Showroom prices for cars in A1 condition.

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