Absolutely my friend - don't get an MGF - they are utterly, utterly, UTTERLY ****! It's your cash though - and as in all things in life one takes advice, but you have to experience these things for yourself. Test drive a P plate and you'll see. Sure, it'll look pretty, but when the door closes with that 'spang!' noise you'll know what I mean. For the same money (£5k?) you can get a beautiful MX5 that will just not go wrong. You see dozens of 10-year old MX5s on the street that are immaculate. I know someone who bought a P plate MX5 recently and in 10 years all that's been needed was a new battery!! :) Good luck to you :)
It looks like I'm going to buck this trend. I bought a 'P' plate MG MGF almost 2 years ago and the only issue that I've had with it so far was a damp weather start problem, this was soon rectified by fitting a new set of HT leads.
If you don't have a lot of money then don't get one of these. They're cheap second hand for a reason... they are crap. If you are on a budget then you will probably be looking at an old model 96-98, I can assure you without question it will cost you a fortune in repairs and make your life a misery. Paying a little more up front for something that's built properly (I haven't owned one, but the MX5 is a likely candidate) will save you £££'s in the long run and be a pleasurable experience which, after all, is what owning a soft top is supposed to be about. Don't do it...
I have an MGTF purchased from new. It does everything I expected it to do. I changed the hood for an X-power hood with a heated glass rear window, because it is so much easier to lower and also clearer to see through, but apart from that the car is perfect. I use it everyday, summer and winter. It's just sailed through its first MOT. Apart from new tyres it's cost me nothing; looks really good and goes really well.
I used to own an MGF (VVC). What attracted me to the car was, I must admit, its looks - however, as soon as I bought one (second hand) - the problems began to flow in, starting with an engine surging problem that even left the brilliant mechanics at rover stumped - their solution was trial and error - costing me money everytime I drove in and out of the place. The problem (after a year of faffing around), was the fuel pump. In addition to this, I have had the car lock me out occasionally for no apparent reason. I got rid of it after 2 years and it was the best thing I did. I would give it 0.5 out of 10 for reliability, and 2/10 for overall mark.
I bought a MG ZR 160 recently and it developed a knocking in the top end, apparently they all do - so I flushed the engine with flushing oil for 1 hour changed the oil and filter for 10/30 oil - noise still there, stripped the top end and cleaned / replaced the hydraulic tappets / blew out the oilways... noise still there - it is the V V C unit itself in the head (£460 to buy).
Apparently you have to FILL the engine up with thinners (about a gallon added to the oil) and start it up - let it run for a good while and this flushes out the poorly designed engine oilways to stop the knocking. These engines as said before need a head gasket / head skim at 50,000 miles and they just fall to bits... They really are utter CR*P - I have no idea why people buy these things??
I'm sorry but the above comment is not true! The VVC mechs CAN develop a noise similar to what a diesel engine sounds like, pouring a gallon (4.5l) of thinners in to an engine will do no good whatsoever, the engine takes 4.5l of oil, so I have no idea why you think that.
The noise develops when the mechs wear away at each other, perhaps if the engine oil levels aren't kept right or the wrong type of oil is used. It is just a noise and doesn't affect the performance of the engine at all, it's just a noise, and it's up to you if you want to spend over £400 to reduce the engine noise!
These engines are perfectly reliable provided they are maintained exactly to the service schedules, i.e. oil change every 6000 miles using 10w40 semi-synthetic oil. These engines are highly complex. Never ever ever take a VVC engined car to a garage that don't know exactly what they are doing, as otherwise it'll result in a huge repair bill, and possibly irreparable damage. I have heard so many stories of garages trying to fix these engines and making matters even worse.
The original head gasket is rubbish, they can last indefinitely if the engine is looked after, but will fail at some point in all likeliness due to its poor design. Some HG's go at relatively low mileages, others go well after hitting the 100,000 mile mark. Keeping the engine well maintained will help keep everything running nicely.
It's quite crucial to spot symptoms before the head gasket goes bang, such as a mayonnaise like sludge on the oil dipstick, in the oil filler cap and in the coolant expansion tank, this is a sign that the oil and coolant are mixing. If it's spotted and repaired early enough, the damage done will be minimal and you can usually get away with a simple gasket swap, and repair the cause of the head gasket failure (i.e. knackered thermostat, water pump etc).
When the head gasket is replaced, make sure to get it replaced with a Landrover Freelander 1.8 head gasket, this is a much more advanced head gasket of a completely different design that will last indefinitely. I have done 30,000 miles in my Rover Coupe since replacing the head gasket with a Land Rover gasket, and everything is running perfectly fine.
As for build quality, I've got to say that the build quality in every MG-R I've ever driven/repaired has been pretty good, as have the materials used in them. Things rattle and break usually when they've been tampered with in my experience, for example the windows in my Coupe weren't aligned properly when I bought it because some joker had played around with them before my ownership, and managed to break all of the clips holding the door card on creating rattles.
I would strongly recommend an MG F/TF to anyone looking for a small 2 seater convertible, but the key is to check the whole car over thoroughly, as said checking for any mayonnaise like residue in the engine, as well as any rattles or any loose trim on the rest of the car.
On a side note, the mentioned engine "rattle", which sounds like a diesel engine, only affects the 1.8VVC engine, the 1.6 and non-VVC 1.8 engines are solid cam and don't suffer from this problem.