This has resulted in little change to the exterior - new alloy wheels, indicator lights and body-coloured windscreen surround being the obvious signs of the 1999 model year alterations - but inside, the changes really strike home. Gone are the lashings of black plastic and old-fashioned console dials. Everything has taken on a more stylish look in sporty aluminium and carbon fibre or classic wood. A whole range of different gearknob and trim choices is available, plus a £600 leather option which can be colour co-ordinated to the car.
The biggest change comes with the introduction of the 1.8i Steptronic which, at £20,170 on the road, offers a racing-style sequential shift gearing system. In a set-up similar to that now found in the Alfa Romeo 156 and Porsche Boxster, it becomes possible to shift up and down the gears via the steering wheel. This is can also be done by using the the gearstick. The 'box can also be left in standard Drive or Sport mode for a hands-free automatic ride through the continuously variable transmission.
Ride and handling are unchanged from the previous model, but the taller driver will be impressed with the lowering of the seats by about two inches - no more heads pressed against the vinyl roof. Another major change which should cut fleet costs is the extension of the warranty on the MGF range from 12 months to three years/60,000 miles.
Standard specification now includes driver's airbag, power steering, electric windows, electric heated door mirrors, tilt adjust steering column, remote central door locking, volumetric and perimeter alarm, leather steering wheel, alloy gearknob, gearshift surround and door casing inserts, and 15-inch alloy wheels.
At a premium of £1,900 over the manual 1.8-litre engine, the Steptronic offers the sequential gearbox plus ABS, part leather seats and square spoke 15-inch alloys. The VVC, at £829 more, offers another 25bhp plus a single-disc CD player and 16-inch square-spoke alloys. Other items on the options list include air conditioning, cruise control, power hood and CD autochanger.