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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 cars for sale

45 Search results
MG TF
1395 27995 GBP
  • MG MGTF MGTF 135 Sunstorm 2dr

    £2,999 £2,999

    Type: Used Year: 2004 Make: MG Model: MGTF Trim: MGTF 135 Sunstorm 2dr Body: Coupe Trans: Manual Mileage: 42000 Engine Size: 1796 Ext Color: Silver

    • Mileage: 42000 mi
    • Engine size: 1796
    For sale
    Jeremy Round Cars Ltd
    01380323517 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER
  • 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
  • MG TF

    £3,995 £3,995

    FOR SALE A pristine MG TF 135 with just 27,916 miles and one family owner. EQUIPMENT Reinforced body structure, door side intrusion beams, body-colour bumpers and trim, tinted glass, bright sill finishers, seat belt pretensioners, fuel tank cage, high tensile tubes in A pillars, impact absorbing front and rear structures, laminated windscreen, high level brake lamp, remote central superlocking, Thatcham Category 2 immobiliser, perimetric and volumetric alarm system, heated electric door mirrors, panel lamp rheostat, drivers airbag, tonneau cover. Factory options; Chrome door handles. Dealer accessories; Genuine MG Chrome Safety Roll Hoops, genuine MG tailored rubber mats. EXTERIOR This stunning MG TF sports car is finished in desirable X-Power Grey, (Code LEF). The beautiful original factory paintwork boasts an incredible near flawless finish. Absolutely no corrosion or panel damage sets this MG TF well above the usual offerings, fully commensurate with such a low mileage and well cared for garaged example. Owned from new by Daughter and then Father, the conscientious owners applied protective wax to inner panels and apertures to preserve the car impeccably. A tiny touched in scratch to the offside front wing and small ding to the nearside rear panel are barely visible. All bumpers and trim sections are spotless with no scuffs whatsoever and the manufacturer badges and Union Jack wing plates remain unblemished. The immaculate durable woven acrylic fabric grey hood is effortless in operation and the plastic rear screen displays only light markings. The ever popular gorgeous styling of the MG TF is displayed to the highest order with this example, one for continued preservation and enjoyment. INTERIOR The comfortable yet snug ‘Ash’ cockpit offers real sports car appeal with open top motoring delights. The Sebring cloth fluted seat facings with plain black bolsters, (Code PVD), are in excellent order, and the matching door cards and black carpeting are spotless adhering to such cosseted ownership and little use. Genuine MG tailored rubber mats are included. The flawless dashboard houses fully functioning switchgear, and the silver faced dials and chunky leather trimmed steering wheel accentuate the sporting nature. A surprisingly large rear boot is pristine and the additional front compartment offers more storage and plenty of polished paintwork, ideal for bonnet up exhibiting at shows. A beautifully preserved showroom fresh interior. ENGINE & TRANSMISSION The original four cylinder 1796cc engine produces 136bhp at 6700rpm and 165Nm torque at 5000rpm enabling a top speed of 127mph and 0-60 in just 8.2 seconds. The mid-mounted engine and rear wheel drive configuration displays all the correct sports car credentials to ensure optimum driver delight! A cambelt, water pump and service have just been carried out in September 2017. A spotless engine bay shows clear hallmarks of cossetted ownership and the front luggage compartment displays original plates, stickers and even PDI markings. The short throw sports ratio five speed gearbox completes the package with precise changes. WHEELS, TYRES & BRAKES The factory original 15” square spoke alloy wheels are in near perfect condition with just a miniscule scratch to one spoke! Quality brand new Uniroyal Rainsport 3 tyres of size 185/55 R15 and 205/50 R15 front and rear, as recommended by the MGTF owners club, were fitted in August 2017. The braking system incorporates electronic anti-lock assistance and discs all round (ventilated front) to offer positive stopping power. HISTORY FILE Supplied new by MG Rover Main Agent, Clarks Rover of Leicester on the 30th July 2003, this outstanding MG TF was pre-registered by them. At four weeks old the first private keeper, Miss Sarah Barlow, purchased the car having previously owned an early MGF. A Clarks Rover sales invoice confirms the purchase price of £14,583.25 less £6,500 part exchange for her 1997 MGF. Genuine MG Chrome Safety Roll Hoops were an expensive optional extra but deemed important for safety and cosmetic purposes. After just seven months of ownership, Miss Barlow found her dream first home and persuaded her father, James Barlow, to purchase the car from her in order to have a deposit to put down! Mr Barlow has owned the car since and used it as a weekend car, stored under cover in the garage alongside his Porsche Boxster and 1960’s Lambretta scooter. The history file contains the original leather MG wallet with service and handbook, and all MOT certificates. Two keys with MG fobs and key code tag complete the fantastic history file. A pristine MG TF, wanting for nothing and ready for summer fun! MOT May 2018, HPI Clear. To see a video of this car please click on the link below: https://youtu.be/n68YIuUGYks To see a full set of photographs of this car please click on the link below: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm4dKz5t 'Like us' or 'Follow us' for exciting new cars coming soon at KGF Classic Cars: https://www.facebook.com/KGFClassiccar https://twitter.com/KGFClassicCars

    • Year: 2003
    • Mileage: 27916 mi
    • Engine size: 1.8
    For sale
  • MG TF 135 35000 miles

    £1,445 £1,445

    What a lovely drive this iconic convertible is;Super low mileage at only 35000 miles..;Features include AN UNMARKED SOFT TOP, Electric Windows, Remote Central Locking, Alloy Wheels.;6 years ago the car became uneconomical to repair..and declared a cat c.;12 Months MOT,

    • Mileage: 35000 mi
    • Engine size: 1.796
    For sale
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