Road Test: MG3 3STYLE 1.5 VTi TECH
Sector: Supermini Price: £9,999 Fuel: 48.7mpg CO2: 136g/km
While the MG3 isn’t a faultless re-entry into the supermini segment, I’d imagine any dealers who remember selling the last of the MG Rover-era products will look at this as being exactly the car they needed 10 years ago. It’s actually rather good.
Beneath the octagonal RAF graphics, racing stripes and Union Jacks, the MG3 is pretty much the same product as is sold in China, the home market of parent company SAIC. This means, at long last, there’s nothing linking the new car to the Rover 200-based MG3 it replaced in Chinese showrooms.
However, MG hasn’t just shipped a Chinese-market car into Europe with hopes buyers won’t notice. European cars have been tuned for our roads and customers’ high expectations of agility. As well as a completely redesigned front-end, engineers at Longbridge have spent time making this feel like a sports hatch hewn from the same DNA as the carmaker’s classic performance cars.
This was never going to be a car which got the MG purists on side, but for the young buyers the brand wants to attract in the UK it’s got a lot going for it. Just as former blood relation the MINI has thrived on individuality, so it’s possible to make the MG3 as personal as you want. The basic car isn’t particularly daring in design, but four trim levels, 10 body colours, three sticker packs and a range of mirror and wheel highlighting options should grab the attention of extrovert user-choosers.
It’s not bad value, either. Insurance groups are low and the range-topping model costs £9,999 on the road, and it’d be difficult to feel short-changed in terms of specification. An LED-ringed Bluetooth-equipped audio system with USB and auxiliary inputs in a cubby hole on top of the dash, a full set of electric windows and rear parking sensors are all included as standard.
Where the value proposition falls down a little for business users is the engine choice. There’s only one, a 1.5-litre petrol engine with 104bhp and a desperate need to be revved hard to extract the performance on offer. The drawback, with no diesel engine, five gears and no stop-start system to speak of, is that the MG3’s range-lowest CO2 emissions are an embarrassingly high 136g/km.
However, it’s more fun than it sounds. There’s not enough power to upset the chassis and the engine note isn’t as whiney as low-powered petrols tend to be. The controls feel reassuringly mechanical, grip is plentiful and there’s very little body roll, but ride quality on rough roads is firmer than most even with small wheels. Although the claimed 48.7mpg is unambitious, it’s achievable.
For all its flambouyant graphic packs and lairy colours, the MG3 is a good practical shape with a lot of passenger space inside. Interior plastics are at the hard and scratchy end of the scale but feel solidly screwed together and the MG-branded dials, red-ringed audio controls and Tron-like seat patterns all help to stop it feeling boring.
So this really is a big step forward for MG. While it’s not up to segment benchmarks yet, the generation gap between MG3 and MG6 is huge and it bodes well for whatever model is next off of the Longbridge assembly line. All MG has to do is convince potential buyers that it’s here to stay.
High on value and surprisingly good to drive, the MG3 may be a predominantly retail-focused car but it’s got low-mileage perk car potential too. A diesel engine, or at least a more economical petrol, would help boost its appeal though.