MG Rover’s sporty mid-engined MGF roadster has been given its first major facelift since launch in 1996, reviving the popular TF model name first used in 1953 on a tiny two-seat sportscar model whose design dated from the pre-war era.

Styled by MG Rover Group designer Peter Stevens, the MGTF goes on sale in February 2002 with a restyled body, upgraded interior and a new suspension with conventional coil spings and dampers replacing the MGF’s interconnected gas/fluid Hydragas system. Four engines with 115, 125, 135 and 160bhp outputs are offered and there are new paint, trim and hood colours.

Key styling changes include new front, side and rear panels, plus aerodynamic improvements including redesigned side engine compartment vents and front and rear airdams plus an integrated bootlid spoiler.

New headlamps incorporate projector beam head and indicator lamps and the restyled grille has a strong family resemblance to that used on the upcoming Qvale-based X80 sports coupe.

The suspension features a multi-link rear axle with precise kinematics control while coil springs front and rear replace the previous interconnected hydragas system and solidly-mounted subframes replace bush-insulated units for what MG Rover claims is “improved handling responsiveness”.

The four models in the new MGTF range are badged according to their power output: 1.6-litre TF115, 1.8-litre TF135, 1.8-litre TF120 Stepspeed (with CVT stepless automatic transmission incorporating ‘stepped’ manual override option) and the range-topping TF160, using the 160bhp engine from last year’s MGF Trophy limited edition model.

The MGTF makes its public debut at the Brussels Motor Show on January 15.