MG Extender is built in Thailand.
MG Extender is built in Thailand.

This Chinese ute could be destined for the Aussie bush

It's a brand known for fragile old sports cars that drop oil and occasionally refuse to start, but that most British of brands - MG - could soon take on the Aussie bush.

The now-Chinese car maker has revealed its first ute, a vehicle set to stretch the boundaries of what the former sports car maker stands for.

It's called the Extender and is being produced in Thailand, with the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger in its sights.

Sharing its DNA and a production line with the LDV T60 - LDV and MG are both owned by Chinese automotive giant SAIC - the MG ute is a long way from the diminutive sports cars that helped define the MG brand almost 100 years ago.

The Extender features a bluff nose, bulging wheel arches and a 119kW/375Nm 2.0-litre turbo diesel that could have the MG faithful choking.

Far from the innovative ways of the British sports car maker, the Extender sticks to a familiar commercial vehicle formula, with a high riding body, truck-like ladder frame architecture and chunky proportions.

Sales of the LDV T60 are up by about 24 per cent this year.
Sales of the LDV T60 are up by about 24 per cent this year.

It is being produced in three body styles: single cab, space cab and dual cab.

There's no word yet on whether MG plans to sell the Extender in Australia, although it makes sense considering the popularity of utes and the recent growth in MG sales.

Utes currently account for about 19 per cent of sales - almost one in five new vehicles - and they have been steadily growing for more than a decade.

Large American trucks from Chevrolet and Ram have joined the battle for the ute dollar and even luxury car maker Mercedes-Benz has weighed in on a market segment that is increasingly appealing to families.

MG is a brand on the move in Australia.

It has grown its sales from almost nothing a few years ago to now account for almost 1 per cent of overall sales.

While that may sound inconsequential, MG is now outselling Skoda, Renault, Peugeot and LDV.

For the first seven months of 2019 MG's Australian sales have surged 150 per cent. That comes off the back of 401 per cent growth in 2018.

These days, MG does not produce any sports cars, instead relying on Chinese-made budget-priced SUVs and hatchbacks to attract buyers.