From £8,695
Shows signs of dynamic promise but lacks sophistication, especially in the cabin

What is it?

The MG 3 supermini is the next step in the regeneration of MG by its owner, SAIC. If all goes to plan, it will join the MG 6 in Longbridge’s cavernous assembly halls, where the last 20 per cent of the assembly process will be performed on semi-complete kits from China.

It’s a long way from turning rolls of sheet steel into motor cars, but this is a major step forward for what was a virtually dormant plant. And like the MG 6, the MG 3 has largely been designed, engineered and developed in the UK.

What we’re sampling here is a pre-production MG 3 built to Chinese specification; a European version is also under development.

As with the MG 6, that will mean tweaks to the suspension to provide a more sporting feel, weightier electric power steering, different interior upholstery and, it is hoped, significant upgrades to the cabin quality. But the car is essentially as you see it here, and in mechanical terms it’s entirely conventional.

What's it like?

Tested here is a 1.5-litre automated manual with optional two-tone paint – China’s top-of-the-range specification. The MG’s deep flanks, shallow glasshouse, back-swept grille and sizeable rear lamps make it quite distinctive, especially with the two-tone paint, but the end result looks close to a Skoda Fabia and threatens to date over the next 18 months.

The same applies inside, where you find an unfussy-looking dashboard whose neatly spare style is undermined by easily marked, hard-to-the-touch plastics that are well adrift of the standards set by Volkswagen, Ford and many others, and never mind the unusual ice-white finish of some interior components. But the driving position is good, despite the column’s lack of reach adjustment, and the cabin is generously scaled.

Another plus is the MG’s robust aura – a good thing, given China’s bold driving style – and its civility at speed. The chassis shows promise, too, although it clearly needs calibrating for European tastes.

Positives include plenty of grip, limited roll and good stability, but the electric power steering, although free of tactile artificiality, is overlight, feel-less and curiously short of precision, the MG’s trajectory quite often needing mid-bend corrections. Push it hard and a tightening of line can be achieved with the throttle, which is promising.

Ride quality was hard to determine on SAIC’s paper-smooth test track, although a solitary hard-hit ridge did provoke some steering kickback. The brakes could use more bite, too. So, more work needed here, then.

The MG’s automated manual is among the better of the breed for small cars, but the standards are low. There’s some hesitancy on take-off, full-throttle changes thump a bit and the ’box is slothful during manually triggered shifts under enthusiastic driving. At less frenetic speeds, it’s acceptably smooth.

So is the engine until you reach the high 5000s, but the lightly strained sounds heard here fade slightly towards 6000rpm and beyond. Work it hard and the engine is brisk, although impeded by leggy gearing.

Should I buy one?

The MG 3 needs a fair bit of refining to meet European standards, but there’s clearly a sound car here, and it has potential to play the modest entertainer like the MG 6. Two-tone paint and white cabin decor are far from enough to disguise the fact that this is a robust, budget supermini whose presentation falls well short of the class best.

Back to top

It will need clever upgrading and keen pricing to succeed, but it’s not without appeal.

MG 3 1.5L AMT

Price: £14,000 (est); Top speed: 112mph; 0-62mph: na; Economy: 55.4mpg (combined); CO2: na; Kerb weight: 1150kg; Engine: 4 cyls, 1498cc, petrol; Power: 107bhp at 4000rpm; Torque: 84lb ft at 4500rpm; Gearbox: 5-spd automated manual

Join the debate

Add a comment…
n50pap 25 April 2011

Re: MG 3 1.5L

I had a look at the MG website to check where my nearest dealer was, as well as seeing if they had any more information about this MG 3.

The MG 6 and TF feature, along with a few illustrations of interiors which, to be honest, use light-coloured plastics that may not be practical for the average owner.

I suppose everyone wants MG to succeed, because the name means a lot in the history of British motoring.

Looking through my Encyclopedia of Cars yesterday, I was struck by the range of models that MG produced over the years, all of which looked like they deserved to wear the MG badge.

Let's hope that SAIC get it right and produce MG's which are a pleasure to own and drive.

petrolheadinrussia 23 April 2011

Re: MG 3 1.5L

Yep - right on the button with the Mondeo and thats why I bought the cousin - the Mazda 6, which nocks the Mondeo into a cocked hat from every point of view including keeping its price better.

In the UK you dont see a 1/10th of the crap coming out of China. Such cars as the CHERY and the WILL and the BYD (would you believe that actually means Build Your Dreams yukk) Great Wall to name but a few that clutter our streets here in St Petersburg Russia. Being a petrolhead I try always to get a drive in anything new no matter where it comes from. I can assure you there is not a single Chinese car which could pass with 2 stars any NCAP test and all of them drive like drunken sailors on a Friday night binge (and come to think of it some even smell like that too) China WILL get to the Korean levels within the next 10 years comfortably, but by the the Koreans will have surpassed (if they havent already in many cases) the Japanese!

petrolheadinrussia 23 April 2011

Re: MG 3 1.5L

Living in Russia - which has borders with China, we get more than our fair share of Chinese jallopies. Sadly those I have witnessed in minor shunts are a total write-off because they really are build so cheaply and without sufficient safety measures to save the lives of occupants. Their interior and exterior plastics are an expensive joke. They crack and even shatter with the most light tap. Additionally they are noisey and prone to much dropping of fittings and terrible economy. However, their design architecture is coming on in leaps and bounds. Yes they crib and copy, but that can be said of a lot of Europeans too, never mind the Japanese! Seeing MG - is for me rather emotional ( I am 65) as my first (shared with my older brother) was an MG J model which we bought from a scrap heap and painstakingly rebuilt - allbeit with a Wolsley 444 engine because we couldnt find an MG ( before some bofin checks - yes we had to add a cross member on the chassis because the 444 was slightly shorter than the original). So after all those years of watching this marque decimated and destroyed through crap management and now seeing it re-emerge from China is weird. It also is very disappointing as it does honesly not deserve the MG badge on this load of junk