£8,700 - £11,700 Price range
The MG is the second prong of the reborn company’s twin-pronged attack on the British market, following its collapse under MG Rover in 2004. The first of these products, the MG6, has been less than successful both in terms of sales and its reception in the press.
MG will be hoping for better with the sporty MG3, which debuts in the market with a tempting price tag and a heap more vitality than the larger car. Initial reception is mixed, but the real challenge is whether MG can sell them to sceptical UK buyers.
All testers agree that the MG3′s interior is spacious and airy, with more room than you’d find in the all-conquering Ford Fiesta. That applies to both front and rear seats, with room for four six-footers in the car. Visibility is also commended, while reviews say there’s enough adjustment in wheel and seat to get comfortable.
Less impressive are interior plastics, which feel a little hard. They’re by no means terrible though and everything is nicely laid-out. There’s some imaginative use of storage space, such as the large roller-shutter bin at the top of the dashboard, and importantly everything feels well-built – not always a given in this class. With a 285 litre boot, MG has covered all the bases inside.
Surprisingly, the MG3 is also good to drive for the most part. It gets praise for the damping, grip and steering, the latter of which is tuned to be a bit sportier than the norm. It’s a little heavy at parking speeds though – more like a hot hatch than a city car.
Reports on the ride quality is mixed, but tends towards firm and unsettled. The larger wheels offered on the sportier variants don’t help this too much – you’re better off sticking with the standard rims.
There’s only one engine available in the MG3 and it is broadly considered to be the worst part of the car. Power is decent for a conventional 1.5 litre four cylinder petrol at 108hp, but the fuel economy is below average these days at 48 mpg.
It’s not a particularly pleasant unit to use either, according to reviews. The high torque peak at 5,000rpm means working the engine hard to make progress and, while this does deliver a decent turn of speed, hills are hard going and it makes a din as you do so. At least it’s easy to work the MG3′s five-speed manual gearbox.
For the price, the 108-horsepower unit actually offers decent performance, reaching 60 in under 11 seconds. Unfortunately, it's better on paper than it is in practice - all reviewers say its 101 lb-ft torque peak is reached a little too high, requiring drivers to work the car hard to make progress. It can get noisy, and because of the lack of low-down torque, hills can also be a problem.
Luckily, the five-speed gearbox is neat and snappy, and if MG's plans for turbocharged petrols and a diesel come through, you won't have to endure the 1.5 petrol for long...
While competitors strive to get five stars in their small cars, the MG3 does alarmingly poorly by netting just three. It’s not especially close-run either as the MG3 nets an aggregate score of 64% – well shy of the four star threshold of 70%.
That said, there’s nothing exceptionally alarming about the scores, just a generally marginal to adequate performance. You get six airbags on all MG3s, along with standard stability control, traction control and emergency brake assist.
With the full MG3 range hovering under the £10,000 mark, the MG3 looks like good value. Prices start at just £8,399, but equipment is fairly minimal here, with a USB connection the most exotic aspect of its armoury. Move upward and a body kit, LED daytime running lights, parking sensors, cruise and more become available. Even if you get giddy with options, you’ll not spend more than £12k.
It’s also inexpensive to insure, at group 4E. The trouble is, there are cheaper options out there while similarly priced cars are more frugal. Still, you’ll struggle to find as much space for as little money.
There is still work to be done here by MG, mostly in the engine room, but most reviews for the MG3 are cautiously optimistic for the time being. It’s certainly a better car than the similarly-priced Mitsubishi Mirage, which is a good start.
On value alone it’s likely to shift a few units, but it also makes for a reasonable drivers’ car. The wide-ranging personalisation schemes offer a unique touch too. There are still better cars available for the money, though.