MG is a well-known brand, having been around since the 1920’s. It brought us cars like the iconic MGB sports car and, in later years, the ZR and ZS; favourites amongst those of a baseball cap persuasion. After its collapse in 2005 a Chinese company bought what was left, including the Longridge production plant. Two new models have been released since then, being the MG6 in 2011 and the MG3 in 2013. I decided now would be a good time to give one a try. So thanks to the helpful PR folk at MG Motor UK, I soon had a (very yellow) MG3 on the drive.
Looks – 7/10
I rather like what MG have done with the styling on the MG3. It’s a 5-door only family hatchback with nice proportions. My test model was the 3Form Sport; which means it featured a bold front bumper with honeycomb grille. LED daytime running lights are incorporated into a sweeping curve at the bottom of the bumper, and there are some angular headlights. There are some nice 16-onch ‘carousel’ alloy wheels at the side, and a square(ish) exhaust sitting at the side of a diffuser style bumper at the back. What I like about the MG3 is the level of customisation on offer. Many colours, graphics packs and wheel options mean you can pretty much make your MG3 unique. I quite liked the two-tone yellow and black on my test car, but why not try out the configurator to choose your own.
On the inside I think the best way to describe the MG3 is functional. For a £10,000 car you can’t expect materials from the far end of the periodic table, and little touches such as the leather steering wheel with red stitching and sporty dials go a long way. The seats too are nice; featuring a two-tone black and light grey fabric with red detailing. The plastics are a little big cheap looking, and this is most noticeable on the door trims, but I think all things considered the interior isn’t bad. The heater controls are quite nifty, and despite the single-colour display the radio looks well in the centre of the dashboard. There are a lot of rounded edges in the cabin, from the door handles to the air vents, and they all soften the interior.
Handling/Performance – 4/10
The engine in the MG3 is a 1.5-litre VTi petrol engine. It’s only available with a 5-speed manual gearbox, although it is a revised Euro 6 engine. Power output is 106PS and 137Nm of torque. That translates into a 0-62mph dash of 10.4 seconds and a top speed of 108mph. On paper it doesn’t sound too bad, but to drive it just feels gutless. You really need to explore the higher realms of the rev range to feel like you’re making forward progress. The problem with this is that the engine doesn’t rev well; it becomes noisy and almost feels strained once you get past 4,000rpm. On the motorway you’ll be doing around 3,000rpm at 70mph, although the advantage of this is that there is some power there for overtaking.
The gutless engine is made even more disappointing because the MG3 actually has a rather lively chassis. The steering is weighty and the turn-in is rather sharp. There’s a little lean from the tyres, but some 17-inch wheels with lower profile rubber would cure that. The suspension is a little on the firm side for the performance on offer. The MG3 rides country roads well, but there isn’t enough power in between the bends. The gearbox is a little notchy too, which you notice more with having to work it hard to eke out every last drop of performance. I think the MG3 needs to be softer on the road, and save the current suspension for some ‘warmer’ version.
Economy – 7/10
With the new EU6 engine MG have tried to make the MG3 economical. There’s start stop technology, which gives CO2 emissions to 124g/km (a reduction from the 136g/km on previous models). That means that road tax will cost £110 a year, and will be free in the first year. Combined fuel consumption is 51.5mpg, which is not too bad. The problem is that in the real world that lack of low end power is going to affect this figure when driving round town. Once you get on a motorway run though you can get decent returns.
Practicality – 8/10
One thing the MG3 has going for it is space. The boot was a decent size, and I was able to get a fair old shop in it. Rear legroom is rather generous, and even a very tall friend of mine (6ft5in or so) could sit in the back, which I think deserves credit. There’s a nifty storage compartment under the passenger seat, as well as a USB socket in a covered cubby hole at the top of the dashboard. I found that the media system works well; featuring Bluetooth hands free, DAB digital radio, iPod control and steering wheel control. Remote central locking, electric windows all-round, hill start assist, air conditioning and electric mirrors complete what is a rather nice package of standard equipment.
Fun – 4/10
There are a few aspect of the MG3 I rather like. The customisation is a great feature. It means you can put your own stamp on the car, and could potentially result in a unique car; there are over one million combinations after all! I like the handling, and I certainly see potential in the chassis. MG have a history of sports cars, and I’d like to hope they have a future with them too. Sadly this car is spoilt by a below-average engine and gearbox, and that really takes the fun factor out of the driving experience. And there’s an underlying impression that this car has been built with cost at the forefront, and as a result an opportunity has been missed to make a rather good drivers car. As a self-proclaimed petrolhead that upsets me, and I want to see what MG can do!
So that’s my week with the MG3. There are endless combinations of colours and graphics packs, and I never saw a similar one in my entire week with it. The 3Form Sport I tested starts at £9,899 but with the yellow/black paint job comes in at £10,294. I think that’s remarkable value for what is a pleasant car. I would definitely recommend heading over to the MG website where you can configure your own car, or pop in to a dealer for more information. I just wish MG would come up with a better powertrain, because there aren’t many cars in this price range which boast the space, style and standard equipment of the MG3.
Total Score – 30/50