CLASSIC CAR REVIEWS - MG MAESTRO

The MG Maestro was Austin-Rover’s attempt at entering the medium-sized hot hatch market. Available with a choice of three engines across a nine year lifespan, the mightiest of Maestros offers an intriguing daily prospect.


VITAL STATISTICS

(MG Maestro EFi)

Engine - 1994cc/4-cyl/OHC

Power - 115bhp@5500rpm

Torque - 134lb/ft@2800rpm

Top Speed - 115mph

0-60mph – 8.5 seconds

Economy - 28.3mpg (urban cycle)

Gearbox - 5 speed manual


WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Bodywork

As with any Maestro, bodywork is important; running issues are often easily and cheaply fixed whereas a bad bodyshell can cost thousands to rectify. The A-pillars and general windscreen area are places to keep an eye on – rectifying advanced rot here involves removing the bonded screen. The wheelarch to sill joins are common rust spots too, and many will have had repairs. Fuel filler pockets like to perform disappearing acts, but GRP and carbon fibre replacements are available from the MG M Group. Unlike the Austin Maestro, the MG only ever came with the plastic bumpers – as these were painted on the car, all metal behind them was left unpainted at the factory. If you’re looking at a car without a boot floor, there probably won’t be any metal left underneath it either! Tailgates can rust along the bottom edge and beneath the rear window – these are easily replaceable if a spare can be found.

A pleasing aspect of Maestro bodywork is that the metalwork is common to the Austin AND MG iants, so panels shouldn’t be hard to source. Beware however that metal and plastic bumper cars used different wings and valances amongst other items – check that any panel you’re buying in front of or behind the doors has come from a plastic bumper car!

MG spoiler sets are easily sourced, though the centre trim for the front spoiler (Removable, to enable access to the towing eye) is hard to source. The Maestro Turbo has unique bumpers, side skirts, and a unique top spoiler on the tailgate – there are reproductions available but they y in quality – it’s best if you source a car with the originals intact.

Engines

Simple Three engines in 4 overall states of tune. Early MG Maestros used the 1.6 R-series engine from the standard Maestro range, topped with twin Weber 40DCNF carburettors. Whilst these sound fabulous, they were renowned when new for hot starting issues, though those still in regular use seem reliable enough. As with the rest of the Maestro range, this unit was replaced by the S-series in July 1984, with the same twin-Weber fuelling arrangement. The principal difference was the replacement of a timing chain with a timing belt – and as with all 1.6 Maestros, oil emulsification in the filler pipe is normal and not a sign of head gasket failure. S-series MG1600s are rare, as three months later the Maestro was given the 2.0 O-series from the Montego, with fuel injection as standard. O-series engines have proven long-lived and trouble free, and the improved power and torque characteristics make the EFi a better bet as a daily driver. In 1989, Austin-Rover fitted the MG Montego Turbo spec engine into the Maestro; a 152bhp O-series with a single electronically controlled SU HIF44 carburettor and a Garrett T3 turbocharger. Many of these will have had performance upgrades, but standard cars are more likely to be in good mechanical condition.

Running Gear

The MG1600s used the same VW gearbox seen in contemporary Golf GTis – though the Austin-Rover linkages left little to be desired. This unit can be notchy in use, and the linkages are prone to popping off the box when worn. This is quickly and easily fixed – and the simple expedient of cable-tying the linkages in place prevents recurrences.  All O-series engined cars use the Honda designed PG1 gearbox from the Montego. Vague gear-changes indicate worn linkages, but search the internet and you’ll find several solutions to worn PG1 gear linkages!. Front wheel bearings wear – and due to the scarcity of components, check all cars with PAS for issues.

Interior

All interiors are Flint Grey, and there were three styles as time went by. MG1600s had specially contoured seats trimmed in grey velour and houndstooth cloth; these are supremely comfortable and hard-wearing. Early MG EFis had similar trim on the standard sports seats, whilst later EFis and Turbos had full grey velour. Until 1987, MG Maestros had red seatbelts and carpets; from then until the end of production all trim was grey.

All 1600s and EFis to 1986 model year had the early Maestro dashboard; which is prone to rattling. All post 1986 cars had the Montego style one-piece dash – rattles are not uncommon from this either, and it has a habit of cracking and lifting above the instrument binnacle. All 1600s should have the digital dashboard, which became an option for the EFi and is very rarely seen in cars with the later dash. Digital dashboards are generally reliable and easy to source if needed, but the trip computer for the one piece dashboard is hard to source. Electric windows were an option and sometimes stick – the best option is to replace the ECU or the switches.


OUR VERDICT

They’re practical, fast, and rapidly becoming rare. With space for four adults plus luggage, easy visibility, all the mod cons one expects and decent power to (right) boot, the MG Maestro is a tempting classic daily. It will even be kind on your wallet; for the O-series engine models in particular are capable of quite impressive economy figures. Plus as with all hot hatches they’re starting to appreciate in value – the time will come when we look back and kick ourselves for not buying nice ones whilst they were cheap.

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