If ever a car has attracted more than its fair share of drivel from the established motoring press and armchair internet commentators, it’s the MG6.

Clarkson stalled one in a west London high street and, after failing to restart it, took revenge by writing a scathing piece for the Sunday Times.

Quentin Willson expressed his genuine surprise at how much he enjoyed his time with the MG6 in a YouTube video, and was branded a ‘sell-out’ as a result.

The trouble is, much of this is unnecessary.

The MG6 is the first product of the new MG Motor company, the phoenix coaxed out of the Longbridge ashes by SAIC, China’s largest auto maker.

Available in both Magnette saloon and GT fastback forms, the MG6 is the sort of gentleman’s sporting express that you’d expect to see steaming its way in spirited fashion towards Brands Hatch to watch a day’s BTCC.

Designed and engineered by an endearingly talented team at MG’s Technical Centre in Birmingham, where final assembly also takes place, the ‘6 has thoroughly modern and rakish lines complemented by sharp shoulder creases and bulging front wheel-arches.

It’s a well-resolved shape, particularly at the front, although it is a look that changes with colour: silver seems to make it a little bland, whereas the red gives the design some real pop.  It’s pretty mean in black, too.

The interior’s been given a healthy dose of sporting elegance, and while some of the plastics might not be the last word in petro-chemical quality, there’s a well-judged use of aluminium trim and other finishes.

The controls for the ventilation system are perfectly within reach, mounted just in front of the gear lever, while the audio and navigation functions are piped onto a colour screen to the left of the instruments that’s presided over by a jog dial just below it.

That steeply-angled windscreen might rob those of headroom who prefer a bolt-upright driving style, but at 6ft4 I had no trouble settling into a comfortable position, aided by the both reach- and height-adjustable steering wheel.

The heated leather seats of our test car are comfortable and supportive, with a wide range of adjustment.  Rear seat passengers should feel equally at home, and the extra body length of the MG6 over most of its rivals allows it to offer more cabin space in almost all directions.

The high window line creates a feeling of being securely ensconced in something with a measure of sporting intent, and that’s just as well because that’s what the MG6 is full of.

Two engines are available, starting with a 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol with 160PS and 215Nm of torque, enough for a 0-62mph sprint of 8.4 seconds.

More interesting, though, is the 1.9-litre turbodiesel that’s squirreled away under the bonnet of our test car.  Developed in-house, it utilises all the clever buzzwords you’d expect in this day and age, such as common-rail direct injection and variable-geometry turbocharging.

Its vital statistics show 150PS and a chunky 350Nm of torque, while 0-62mph is dealt with in a creditable 8.9 seconds.

On-paper numbers only tell half the story, though, and the nay-sayers may be surprised to hear that this is a real gem of an engine.

Although peak torque arrives at 1,800rpm, this is a diesel unit that offers surprising flexibility below that.  It’ll happily lollop along in most gears at not much over idle, and will pull cleanly in fifth with just over 1,200rpm showing on the clock.  On the road, this makes it a very forgiving power-plant.

It’s surprisingly refined, too.  Although it’s unquestionably a derv-drinker on start-up, on the move noises from the engine bay are well insulated, even as you press on into the outer reaches of the rev range.  In fact, MG have managed to instil the ‘6 with an appealing bassy exhaust note that reminds me of the old MkII Golf GTI.

The six-speed gearbox offers a satisfying shift-action that allows you to make the most of its well-chosen ratios.  My preference would be for a slightly shorter gear lever to add to the sporting theme, but as it is you’ll likely find yourself changing down for a corner – not because you have to, but because you want to.

In fact, my only complaint with the drive-train is a slight vibration through the pedals on over-run that becomes evident when decelerating through the gears from dual-carriageway speeds.

Still, that’s an edge-case at the most, and certainly doesn’t get in the way of enjoying the fine handling.

I don’t know what they put in the water in the Midlands, but somehow it’s an area that seems to breed chassis engineers.  I remember driving an MG ZR at launch many years ago and was astounded that some blokes in a shed in Birmingham had managed to coax such a responsive and balanced performance out of a distinctly ancient bag of bits.

Clearly, some of these people now work for the new MG, and the same engaging demeanour that we discovered in the new MG3 is just as prevalent with the MG6.

The steering responds with such linearity and the nose turns in with such keenness that you’ll wonder how they’ve achieved it.

At least part of the answer stems from the fact MG have retuned the chassis and suspension to suit the diesel engine’s extra weight, and it’s a level of attention to detail that pays real dividends for the ‘6.

Bumps are absorbed well, and what body roll there is arrives in such a progressive fashion that your passengers won’t notice you pressing on through a set of twisties.  There’s impressive motorway stability, too, although the larger 18-inch wheels of the top-spec models can grumble over coarse surfaces.

Practicality hasn’t been forgotten in all of this, with a vast 498-litre boot that increases to 1,379 litres with the rear seats folded.  CO2 emissions of 129 g/km place it in VED Band D (£95 pa), and although we couldn’t match the government economy figure of 57.6mpg, we managed a fairly consistent 48mpg during our testing.

Both petrol and diesel models are electronically-limited to 120mph, and while that sounds a rather arbitrary place to set a limit, the result is a group 14E insurance rating.

Prices for the MG6 GT start at £15,455 for the 1.8 petrol and £16,995 for the 1.9 diesel, with our top-of-the-range GT TSE pegging out at £20,590.  Standard TSE kit includes European navigation, Bluetooth, cruise control, climate control, reversing camera, heated leather seats and 18-inch alloy wheels, making it good value for money as well as good to drive.

Oh, just one more thing: if your name’s Jeremy and you stall it again, you need only slot the gear-lever into neutral and it will restart automatically.  The MG6 will even display a helpful reminder in the instrument cluster if you forget where neutral is.

Entry-level Price £15,455 Price as tested £20,590
Engine 4-cylinder turbodiesel, 1849cc Transmission Six-speed manual
Power 150PS @ 4,000rpm Torque 350Nm @ 1,800rpm
0-62 8.9 secs Top speed 120 mph
Economy 57.6 mpg CO2 129 g/km
Dimensions 4651 x 1827 x 1472 (LWH) Kerb Weight 1615 kg