The Roewe 350 won’t be formally launched until the Beijing motor show later this month, but already it has been confirmed a hatchback version will be on sale in the UK this time next year, badged as an MG and part assembled at the MG Birmingham plant in Longbridge.
As with the MG6, a development model of which we recently drove and found to be borderline best-in-class to drive, the Roewe 350 is based on an all-new platform. Its set-up has been tuned by the SAIC technical offshoot in the UK.
There are some similarities in appearance to the 550/MG6, although it’s hard to call the 350 stylish. Inside it is a cut above the 550/MG6, although there’s still a fairly basic use of leather and silver trim detailing. The switchgear shows some flair and the interior materials are of a high standard.
Visibility is good, particularly up front thanks to small A-pillars that give the cabin an airy appearance. It’s spacious too, particularly in the rear.
The 1.5-litre engine, however, is a disappointment. Part of the new NSE family of engines being produced by SAIC, it only meets Euro 4 emissions standards and will need modifications to reach Euro 5, meaning UK buyers won’t be buying it in this spec. Instead, a 1.5-litre turbocharged unit will be added to the Roewe 350 line-up, with a new 1.3-litre unit expected to feature in the MG range.
With just 107bhp and 100lb ft of torque, the unit in our test car lacked grunt and needed to be worked hard, with power only coming in strongly above a raucous 3000rpm. It’s not that frugal either, averaging 37.6mpg, although both wind and road noise are well suppressed. Part of that is down to the four-speed auto gearbox which does, at least, make smooth changes.
More positive is the ride and handling. The 350 rides smoothly in town and out on the motorway, but is firm enough to be reasonably fun on twisty roads.
The handling isn’t sporty, with a deliberate emphasis on comfort, but the steering offers a reasonable amount of feel. However, it is let down by a very soft brake set up that does nothing to inspire confidence.
In the Chinese market this is a good car, if not class-leading one. In Europe that’s unlikely to be enough, but it’s worth remembering, though, that there will be significant changes before it goes on sale as an MG – and that’s why we’re reserving final judgment.