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MG TF: Buying guide and review (2002-2005)

MG TF: Buying guide and review (2002-2005) Classic and Performance Car
MG TF MG TF MG TF MG TF
MG was known for its sporty two seaters back in the ‘50s, and its return to the category in the 1990s after a period of re-badged saloon and hatchback Austin-Rover models in the 1980s was well received. 
 
The MG TF may be an increasingly rare sight nowadays, but it was massively popular back in the early 2000s, with it good looks and competitive pricing it was the UK’s best-selling two-seater sports car for a number of years. So what made the TF such a desirable machine? At the turn of the century, MG wasn’t particularly flush with development funds so while rivals were releasing new models, the MGF received a huge number of upgrades and clever development, turning it into something that looked a bit sharper, and drove a lot better.
 
Making do with minor exterior cosmetic changes, the bulk of the changes were done under the skin. The suspension received a thorough overhaul, ditching the hydragas units of the F in favour of some conventional springs and dampers – improving handling greatly. 
 
Despite a few reliability issues, these little cars have developed quite a following. Turbulent times for the MG brand in the early 2000s meant that the TF was discontinued, along with all other MG Rover vehicles in 2005, however it was re-introduced in limited numbers by the new Chinese owners in 2007. Our focus will be on the cars built up to the end of MG/Rover ownership.
 
Which one to buy?
 
Modern convertibles tend to insulate their occupants from the driving experience a bit better than their older counterparts. This can be a boon on longer trips but shorter blasts down winding roads tend to be a bit less engaging. The TF definitely does not isolate you from the driving experience! The ride is firm, the canvas roof is pretty basic and road noise is ever present. 
 
Not ideal as a daily driver or motorway mile-muncher, but it’s just the thing to blow out the cobwebs on a Sunday afternoon. Practicality is a bit better than front engined rivals due to the extra storage space where the engine would go, with just about enough space to fit a weekend’s worth of luggage for two.
 
There are four different versions of the four-cylinder Rover K series engine available in the TF. First off was the entry-level 114bhp 1.6-litre, which was only available with a manual gearbox. A 1.8-litre version produced 120bhp in automatic form or 134bhp when paired with a manual gearbox. The top option was a VVC equipped 1.8 which produced 157bhp and could sprint to 60mph in under 7.0 seconds. The light weight of the TF means that even the 1.6 is an enjoyable drive, although many say that the best all-rounder is the manual 134bhp 1.8.
 
A number of special edition models were released such as the Sprint SE, Cool Blue SE and Sun Storm LE. Most changes were limited to unique paint and trim options, however the SE models generally came with the desirable wheels and uprated brakes from the TF 160. 
 
Three Sports Pack options were also available, offering lowered suspension on the SP1 and adding 16-inch alloys and ABS on the SP2 and SP3. 2005 model year cars had a hugely desirable glass rear window, which was a great improvement over the plastic items in earlier cars however as production ended in early April it may be easier to find an earlier car and retrofitting this item.
 
Due to their relatively low value servicing may have been skimped on so ensure that there is a comprehensive service history as neglected cars will cost more in the long run. 
 
Performance and specs
 
MG TF 135
Engine 1795cc 16 valve DOHC inline four
Power 134bhp @ 6750rpm
Torque 122lb ft @ 4500rpm
Top speed 127mph
0-60mph 8.2 seconds
Fuel consumption 36.7mpg
Gearbox Five-speed manual
 
Dimensions and weight 
 
Wheelbase 2375mm
Length 3943mm
Width 1628mm
Height 1261mm
Curb weight 1105kg
 
Common problems
 
· Parts are in good supply, reasonably priced and available from a number of sources, the TF was built in relatively large numbers so there should not be any issues in keeping your MG running well.
 
· Head gasket issues due to overheating are a common TF issue. It is a regular problem with the Rover K series engines, and many running changes were carried out in an attempt to alleviate the problem. Keeping the cooling system in top condition is key as well as ensuring that servicing is carried out regularly.
 
· Rust can affect the car in a number of places, especially around the air intakes, sills, indicators and front wings. If the sub-frames show signs of rust then walk away.
 
· Water leaks can aggravate the rust issue so check for wet interior trim in the footwells and boot. Replacement rubber seals are a good investment.
 
· Badly aligned wheels often show up in heavy wear on the inside edge of the front tyres, easy to rectify but worth checking before you buy.
 
· The MG TF dropped the MG F’s Hydragas suspension system so there are no hydraulic leaks to worry about however old dampers can leak and brittle rubber mountings can make the ride very hard.
 
Model history
 
2002: MG TF goes on sale. Major suspension redesign, uprated engines and updated bodywork differentiate it from MG F. Sprint SE special edition released in July, 600 units built. Available on TF135 and TF 160 variants. TF 135 models received uprated brakes and ABS.
 
2003: Cool Blue SE special edition released in March, offering bespoke trim and three unique colour options. Available on TF 115 and TF 135. Sun Storm LE special edition released in October, included standard hard top, and was available on all engine options. 500 units produced.
 
2004: 80th Anniversary LE special edition released in January. Three unique colour options, 16” mag wheels and Anniversary logos distinguish these models from others in the range.
Spark SE special edition launched in July, offering usual SE trim on all engine sizes and some new paint options.
 
2005: Glass rear window introduced on all models Suspension changes carried out including thicker anti-roll bars and re-rated dampers to soften ride. Production ends in April as the Mg/Rover Group collapses. 
 
Owners clubs, forums and websites
 
• www.mgownersclub.co.uk - Owners club
• www.xpartautoservicecentre.com – Parts and servicing for MG’s
• www.mgf.ultimatemg.com – Excellent source for detailed info on MG TF ownership
•www.xpowerforums.com – MG TF information portal
 
Summary and prices
 
If you are looking for a bargain convertible then there are few better options out there than an MG TF, prices start at under £1000 for a tired high-miler while top spec cared for models are generally not much more than £2500. At these prices restoring or overhauling a banger will almost always cost more than getting a good one in the first place and as there are a lot to choose from you can afford to be picky. Arguably, the sweet spot in the range is the TF 135 which provides as much performance as you would need and is less likely to have been abused than the top models. Find a low mileage special edition car and who knows, it may even appreciate in value in the years to come. 
 
Words: John Tallodi
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Last updated: 14th Jul 2016
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MG TF
795 33800 GBP
  • MG TF 1.8 Stepspeed 120 2003

    £3,000 £3,000

    Dunley car sales are pleased to offer this rare low mileage TF auto, complimented with having full service history 2 keys, factory hard top, drives very well, loads of service history including cam belt change, lovely spec, Upgrades - Hard Top and Heated Rear Screen (Black), Oxford Leather, 3 months warranty, Next MOT due 10/05/2018, Last serviced on 11/04/2017 at 46,355 miles, Service history, Clean bodywork, Black Full leather interior - Excellent Condition, Tyre condition Good, Standard Features - Electric Windows (Front), In Car Entertainment (Radio/Cassette), Volumetric Alarm, Alloy Wheels (15in), Alarm. 2 seats, Red, www.dunleycarsales.co.uk or simply Google us, 5* dealer, read our real customer reviews, usual dealer facilities

    • Mileage: 46720 mi
    • Engine size: 1.8
    For sale
    £3,000 £3,000
    Dunley Car Sales
    01299 826992 View contact number
  • MG - TF - 2006

    €7,300 - €9,490 est. (£0 - £0 est.) €7,300 - €9,490 est. (£0 - £0 est.)
    Auction Date: 01 Jan 1970
    RESERVE PRICE
    Online Auction
    €7,300 - €9,490 est. (£0 - £0 est.) €7,300 - €9,490 est. (£0 - £0 est.)
    Auction Date: 01 Jan 1970
    RESERVE PRICE
  • MG TF - 2004

    £2,495 £2,495

    Finished in Black with matching interior. This ultra low mileage TF was sold by ourselves a year ago and only returned to us as owner is emigrating. Comes with full service history a new MOT and no issues. Had water pump, cambelt changed and head gasket replaced with uprated type at 21,000 miles. This modern classic has been very well looked after and should give the new owner many miles of trouble free motoring.

    • Mileage: 42000 mi
    • Engine size: 1.796
    For sale
    £2,495 £2,495
  • MG TF 1,3 Roadster

    €31,100(£0) €31,100(£0)

    MG TF 1,3 Roadster Equipment: Bemærk bilen står i Odense Total restaureret Flot farve kombination Trådhjul rød læder skal ses ring for info prisen er ekskl reg afgift på ca. 8000 kr

    • Year: 1954
    For sale
    €31,100(£0) €31,100(£0)
  • MG TF 1,5 Roadster

    €33,800(£0) €33,800(£0)

    MG TF 1,5 Roadster Equipment: Ekstrem fin restaureret Køretøjet står som nyt ring for info Bemærk original 1500

    • Year: 1955
    For sale
    €33,800(£0) €33,800(£0)
  • 1955 MG TF 1250

    £27,995 £27,995

    This beautifully presented MG TF 1250 was supplied new in North America. During the 1980's the MG was shipped to the UK and subject of a top class, professional restoration and right hand drive conversion. The TF was completed by 1989, finished in bright Red with lovely Tan leather upholstery, Beige weather equipment and chrome wire wheels. The car was finished to a high standard and during the 1990's and 2000's has featured at many shows, rallies and events in both England and Wales. The car originally came to us in 2008 having spent many years on the Welsh show scene. The car required very little preparation work and quickly sold to a local MG enthusiast near York. Between 2008 and 2015 the MG has proven totally reliable and has travelled all over North Yorkshire to many classic car shows. Over several years of regular use, the owner spent almost £5,000 on further improvements to include a full engine rebuild. The MG was treated to new main and big end bearings and shells, new camshaft, new pistons and piston ring set, oil pump, cam bearing, re-ground crankshaft and all new gaskets. Further expenditure included regular maintenance. Over the past twelve months the MG has not been

    • Year: 1955
    For sale
    £27,995 £27,995