Motoring journalists, as car enthusiasts, are an unrepresentative bunch. While most of us love cars (although a sizable minority seem to be ambivalent, at best) we are uncharacteristically picky; being lucky enough to drive hundreds of cars in a year, we are left with a compulsive need to rank them and to say something insightful.
This need to be insightful and wise and all knowing can lead to some curious reviews, reviews where good cars with the odd weakness (often a weakness so slight that no sane driver would ever notice them) have them blown out of all proportion in the name of good copy. Others may have flaws, flaws that are absolutely apparent and cannot be disguised, but which are outweighed by the cars many other entirely positive attributes.
This is my long-winded way of saying that when I was asked if I wanted to drive the new MG3, I was, truth be told, distinctly underwhelmed. The reviews from some of my colleagues might be mixed but they are generally middling at best; they like the price but whinge about the poor quality interior and old-fashioned engine.
Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Here is my week with the MG3.
The MG3s looks are nothing to get too excited about but then there is nothing there to get too upset about either hideous roof graphics notwithstanding. The front end is a bit Polo-ish and the side profile has one crease too many, but the devil is in the detail and the details are just fine.
A square tailpipe and white door mirrors are well-trodden ways of adding sporting glamour and the wide range of optional extras (including some beautifully named colours) mean that you should be able to customise the MG3 to suit your tastes to perfection.
The interior is, despite what you might have read, really rather nice. (Yes, of course you need to ignore the optional 80s red trim, but you knew that, didnt you?) The plastics could be better but if they were then the price would rise; if you want VW-levels of refinement and finish, then buy a VW.
Honestly, the driving position is perfect, legroom in the back is very good, and boot-space is as big as you could hope for. Everything works as it should and falls to hand roughly where you would expect it to be. What more do you need from a sub-10k car?
The heating and ventilation system is the one area that betrays the cars bargain-basement price. Its hard to get a happy balance between hot and cold and the windows have a tendency to steam up when it rains, but other than that all of your 21st century Human Rights are addressed: Bluetooth with audio streaming; a decent stereo; reverse parking sensors; cruise control; air-con; central locking; heated mirrors; and electric windows are all present and correct.
The MG3 is touted as a sporty car for young people, so it had better deliver on the road and it does. It isnt as fluid as a Fiesta (probably the benchmark for handling in this class) but, if you cast your mind back, fluidity is vastly over-rated when you are seventeen
The steering is a bit heavy at city speeds (and the ride is a bit jiggly at the same time) but as your speed increases it gets better and better up to a point. Imagine a bell curve; at low speeds its not that great and at high speed (the sort of speed that gets you a court appearance rather than a ticket) it gets a bit vague and worryingly light, but in between its excellent.
The gearbox doesnt like being rushed, but is otherwise decent enough and the lack of torque at low revs means that youll be using it more than you might in some of its competitors. Thats OK, because youre young and wanging up and down the box red-lining or short-shifting according to your automotive cultural references is what its all about.
It also means that the MG3 feels faster than it actually is, which is good. All the fun, and less of the velocity, so you have more time to sort out your mistakes when you make them and itll hurt less when you dont.
It doesnt just feel fast, either. It is. Faithful handling and utterly predictable road holding build in huge safety margins while leaving oodles of fun to be had. A late night 200-mile drive across country on A-roads because I was enjoying myself too much to schlep along at 80 on the motorway – left me wired and as fresh as a daisy, even if the brakes did smell a bit by the time I got home
Only one engine is on offer at the moment, a 1.5-litre 105bhp four-cylinder with 101lb/ft of torque. Its not the last word in modern design, and the fuel efficiency isnt as good as you might be hoping for (I got just under 37mpg, but I was enjoying myself immensely; MG suggests that mid-40s is possible), but its a decent enough engine and one that only a pedant – or a motoring journalist being paid by the word – will find much to complain about.
The figures? 0-62mph in 10.9 seconds and a top speed of 108mph are absolutely enough. Quality, not quantity, remember?
Value for Money
My car, as a basic 3STYLE, costs 9,999. The options fitted to my car were Smokey Blues metallic paint at 395, TECH part-leather trim at 500, an exterior graphics pack at 229 (which you should avoid), a metallic red interior trim pack costing 99 (ditto), and some rather fetching white wing mirror caps for 39.
The total price, thus equipped, rises to a shade over 11,000, which seems like fine value to me.
Sometimes a car comes out of the blue and slaps you around the face, dragging you out of your clich-laden, slightly smug existence. You are, to use a colloquialism that may only make sense to those outside of the MG3s demographic, Tangod.
The MG3 is such a car. It came, I drove, and as a consequence accorded it the highest honour a motoring journalist can bestow on a review car; a yes to the question would I buy one with my own money?
No, the engine isnt hugely powerful and no, the heating and ventilation system isnt the last word in automated efficiency. But you know what? None of that matters. Its great fun, cheap, and feels every inch the pocket-rocket that it is marketed as and I cant think of a better hatchback to blow 10k on.
If youve got 14,000 then the Suzuki Swift is faster and just all round better, but if you could afford that youd be wishing you had 18,000 to buy a Fiesta ST, which is even faster and even better. Trust me, the Law of Diminishing Returns has never been more appropriate than in the case of the MG3.