Roewe 550 unveiled

Other News Materials 23 April 2008 01:36 (UTC +04:00)

Chinese firm reveals Ford Focus rival that's set to be built in Britain. ( AE )

This is the car which will put MG back on the map - in Birmingham. It's called the Roewe 550, but Auto Express can exclusively reveal that an MG-badged version is on its way, and is likely to be made at Longbridge.

The 550 has been designed to appeal to British buyers - the lines were penned by a team of leading UK stylists working for Roewe's owner Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC). The Chinese firm recently bought NAC MG, and is now looking to use the famous octagon logo to give it a slice of the lucrative European market, as SAIC has decided not to bring the Roewe badge here. A car based on the 550 will be the first MG to go on sale.

It's a saloon that's roughly similar in size to Ford's Focus, and should cost about the same, too. The sharp lines follow closely from last year's Roewe W2. But the roadgoing version, which will go on sale in China next month with a 1.8-litre turbo-charged petrol engine, has a new slatted grille. Inside the modern theme continues, with a curved dash and two-tone finish that's similar to the BMW 3-Series. However, it's highly unlikely that the Roewe's build quality will be anywhere near a match for the German machine.

But building the MG version at Longbridge - which has had ?39million of investment ploughed into it by NAC MG, and still retains a small but experienced workforce - should ensure this model will deliver the quality demanded by European buyers.

Before the Birmingham plant returns to mass production, it will be used to assemble small numbers of the TF. There had been speculation this plan had been scrapped, but an NAC MG official told Auto Express that things are back on track, and TFs are likely to start rolling out of the factory gates within the next six months.