Budget MG’s here (or there) at last!

It was understandable that MG should want to mark its return to business in the UK last year by launching a comprehensively-equipped version of the TF sports car, in the form of the LE 500.

But all the extra features included with the car ended up taking its price above £16,000 -and into the area occupied by its formidable roadster rival the Mazda MX-5.Now the entry-level version of the TF has arrived and, in retrospect, the Chinese-owned firm may have been better served by going with the standard car from the word go.The new MG TF 135 will retail for £13,511, which in itself is not bad value for a 1.8 litre, mid-engined soft-top sports car.

Throw the government’s scrappage scheme into the equation, however, and you can get a new TF for £11,511, plus your old banger as a trade-in.

And at this sort of price point – around the same as a Renault Clio 1.2 Dynamique – the TF starts to look quite tasty.Bar some minor trim alterations, notably to the grille, the car is essentially the same as the limited edition model – only without leather seats, air conditioning, rear parking sensor, the spare hard top roof or a wind deflector.And of the above list, I would suggest only the last is really necessary, as it really can get blowy in an open top car without a deflector.

Air conditioning may be desirable in most vehicles but do you really need it when you can throw back the roof in a matter of seconds?

The TF 135 has a new Clarion sound system with the usual small fiddly buttons that come with many after market sound systems. Other than that, it’s pretty much the same as the LE 500.Compared to some of the modern front-wheel drive open-top cars of today the TF offers an ‘old school’ driving experience.

The engine is gruff-sounding, the steering on the heavy side, and there’s no ESP to interfere with the handling (or help keep you on the straight and narrow in the wet).

The TF is not particularly refined but can hit 60mph in eight and a half seconds. It’s possible to have to some fun with this car – even if the lumpy five-speed gearbox does its best to be a killjoy.Folding back the roof is a simple matter. You unclip two catches and push back the canvas.

If you want the car to look at its topless best you’ll have to fetch the tonneau out of the boot and clip it on; there are around half a dozen studs.

Though the engine is tucked away behind the passenger cabin, there is still enough room for a reasonable boot at the back.While access to the engine bay may be tricky, owners can attend to oil, water and the battery matters by opening the bonnet. The front compartment also houses a proper spare tyre too.Much has been made of the fact that the TF is based on an ageing design but this need not be a problem if the price is right.

After all, Morgan is still doing tidy business down the road in Malvern making cars like the 4/4, which first appeared as long ago as 1955.

Ok, you may not be getting the build quality of an Audi TT Roadster or the handling of a Porsche Boxster – but the TF is half the price of a TT soft top and nearly a third of the price of the Porsche. MG is further boosting the TF 135’s value by equipping the first 120 cars with leather seats at no extra cost, so it may pay to get in quick if you have your eyes on one and can be flexible over choice of colour.The new MG TF 135 will receive its local launch this weekend at Summit Garage in Himley Road, Dudley.

From The Express & Star.