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Aggressively priced supermini steps up interior game, but lacks performance of major rivals

Our Verdict

MG 3

MG Motor’s first supermini has price on its side, but the segment is filled with quality offerings for little more money - does the MG3 have anything else to offer?

17 August 2018

What is it?

Examine the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders' sales figures for July compared with last year and you’ll discover MG’s rate of growth has been spectacular.

No less than 167%, in fact, at a time when most marques are experiencing a slight sales slump — not least value-proposition opposition Dacia.

MG, it seems, is flying, but that Bentley recorded 103% growth gives some indication of the underlying reasons for such a statistical surge. The truth is that it’s taken four long years for the Chinese-manufactured MG 3 to amass 10,000 sales in an out-and-out volume segment, and so the only way truly is up. Ford, for reference, sells the British public around 5000 examples of the Fiesta every month.

But if the 3 is some way off the pace in sales, the lightly revised version tested here also remains some way off the price. Even in top-spec Exclusive trim, it comes in at only £12,795; and if that’s not thrifty enough, consider that in entry-level Explore guise this car costs a mere £9495 — almost a match for the basic Volkswagen Up, which is a full segment below the 3.

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You’ll need mid-ranking Excite trim if you’re to enjoy 16in diamond-cut alloy wheels instead of 14in steelies, reverse parking sensors and a sharp new 8.0in touchscreen (without navigation, but with Apple CarPlay and a DAB radio), and only Exclusive comes with part-leather sports seats.

The infotainment display is sleekly integrated into the dashboard (although it still sits awkwardly below your eye line) and, in fact, the entire interior is more credible than you might expect both in terms of materials and fit. Along with exterior design tweaks, chief among them the adoption of a larger, chromed-rimmed grille, the 3 cuts an attractive figure.

What's it like?

Indeed, although the cars are now built entirely by SAIC Motor in China, the original design was British-conceived and remains handsome by the standards of the segment. The most noticeable tweak is the way the headlights (equipped with DRLs) are integrated into the grille, as you’ll also find in everything from a BMW 5 Series to the new Mazda 6.

Out on the road, it quickly becomes clear that MG’s naturally aspirated 1.5-litre DOHC engine, which retains its previous power and torque outputs, has a conspicuous lack of performance. It is, alas, the only engine in the range.

Not only is pick-up exasperatingly blunt, but the delivery is faintly uneven, and in a straight line progress often feels every bit as lethargic as the 10.4sec haul to 60mph suggests, if not more so. It drives through a five-speed manual gearbox that’s accurate enough but just a bit woolly.

Elsewhere, this is a surprisingly impressive package. The steering column lacks telescopic adjustment but there’s satisfactory weight and accuracy in the driving controls, the sports seats are well bolstered and this European-spec chassis — firmer than that for the domestic Chinese market — tackles a British B-road with pleasing relish.

With no major mechanical alterations, the 3 still uses MacPherson struts at the front with a torsion beam rear, and body control is tight and grip good. There’s a pervasive fidget largely absent from most of the established players, but the fact that a 3 will gently rotate through corners with a well-timed lift of the throttle shows its heart is in the right place — at least far as Autocar readers are likely to be concerned.

In the end, the chassis isn’t a dynamic match for that of a Fiesta, although there’s a likeable sparkle common to both. The Chinese car is also creditably capacious both in terms of passenger space and luggage capacity, but can’t quite compete with Dacia’s Sandero on the latter.

Along with an extremely low insurance rating, there’s also the matter of a seven-year (or 80,000-mile) warranty, with which MG is aiming to mimic Kia in order to placate reliability concerns. 

 

Should I buy one?

 

If MG could only find a more genial engine while maintaining the 3’s aggressive pricing, it might give those on the hunt for more established (and expensive) rivals serious pause for thought.

As it is, this supermini is still worthy of your consideration, because it does so much of the basic stuff well. We’d go for the range-topping Exclusive model, which offers the best value for money by virtue of its cabin technology and higher-rate exterior trim. 

MG 3 Exclusive specification

Tested Coventry Price £12,975 On sale Now Engine 4cyls, 1498cc, petrol Power 105bhp at 6000rpm Torque 101lb ft at 4750rpm Gearbox 5-spd manual Kerb weight 1200kg Top speed 108mph 0-62mph 10.4sec Fuel economy tbc CO2 tbc Rivals Suzuki SwiftDacia Sandero

 

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Comments
12

17 August 2018

I wonder how many SAIC would sell out if they’d have bailed the company out when they had the chance? As it is they are looking for scraps despite producing a very credible car. 

17 August 2018

"progress often feels every bit as lethargic as the 10.4sec haul to 60mph suggests" yet the slower £16k Skoda Fabia 1.0 (95) 0-60 time of 10.8 reads "...MORE than enough pep on offer to get the Fabia moving".

And yes I know 'on paper' and 0-60 stats aren't everthing but the description sounds like the 2 are poles apart.

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

FMS

19 August 2018
xxxx wrote:

"progress often feels every bit as lethargic as the 10.4sec haul to 60mph suggests" yet the slower £16k Skoda Fabia 1.0 (95) 0-60 time of 10.8 reads "...MORE than enough pep on offer to get the Fabia moving".

And yes I know 'on paper' and 0-60 stats aren't everthing but the description sounds like the 2 are poles apart.

 

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20 August 2018
FMS wrote:

xxxx wrote:

"progress often feels every bit as lethargic as the 10.4sec haul to 60mph suggests" yet the slower £16k Skoda Fabia 1.0 (95) 0-60 time of 10.8 reads "...MORE than enough pep on offer to get the Fabia moving".

And yes I know 'on paper' and 0-60 stats aren't everthing but the description sounds like the 2 are poles apart.

 

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzTWIT

Good to see your not losing sleep over me.

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

20 August 2018
FMS wrote:

xxxx wrote:

"progress often feels every bit as lethargic as the 10.4sec haul to 60mph suggests" yet the slower £16k Skoda Fabia 1.0 (95) 0-60 time of 10.8 reads "...MORE than enough pep on offer to get the Fabia moving".

And yes I know 'on paper' and 0-60 stats aren't everthing but the description sounds like the 2 are poles apart.

 

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzTWIT

Unusually, that was a valid point from XXXX, dont discourage him from making them.

XXXX just went POP.

17 August 2018

The update to the MG3 was flagged up on India Autos Blog over a year ago, but presumably the old model had to sell out first in the UK before they introduced it here.  It's one 5 door car I would  buy, if only because it's good value and might make me a convert from 3 door only. It might even help me get over not buying an MG Metro in 1982.

17 August 2018

The new front looks good much more focused and purposeful than the outgoing model,  the dashbord in the old model I thought let the car down, but the revised dash is a great improvement. The interior looks a little plain and could maybe be improved with a touch of colour but then for the price, considering that the price of the MG3 Exclusive is roughly where the Skoda Fabia starts. When I drove the first generation MG3 I thought that the engine was quite peppy and now this new unit ups the ante somewhat to 115hp. For a budget car this power output is a considerable achievement,it's got forty horsepower more than the basic Skoda unit and is close to double the output of the previous Fabia entry level engine. I think that  the new MG3 is a pretty good update of the model and will keep it competitive for the next few years. I'd think that at last MG Motor are at last on the road to becoming an establihed model range,next up is the new HS which is to replace the GS, after all new entrants to the UK market have to start somewhere. Remember how far Kia have come,when they started out in 1991 all they had was the Pride hatchback,Das Autocar was rather sniffy about that as well, but now with the Stinger they're  knocking on the door of the "premium sector* aren't they?

20 August 2018
ianp55 wrote:

The new front looks good much more focused and purposeful than the outgoing model,  the dashbord in the old model I thought let the car down, but the revised dash is a great improvement. The interior looks a little plain and could maybe be improved with a touch of colour but then for the price, considering that the price of the MG3 Exclusive is roughly where the Skoda Fabia starts. When I drove the first generation MG3 I thought that the engine was quite peppy and now this new unit ups the ante somewhat to 115hp. For a budget car this power output is a considerable achievement,it's got forty horsepower more than the basic Skoda unit and is close to double the output of the previous Fabia entry level engine. I think that  the new MG3 is a pretty good update of the model and will keep it competitive for the next few years. I'd think that at last MG Motor are at last on the road to becoming an establihed model range,next up is the new HS which is to replace the GS, after all new entrants to the UK market have to start somewhere. Remember how far Kia have come,when they started out in 1991 all they had was the Pride hatchback,Das Autocar was rather sniffy about that as well, but now with the Stinger they're  knocking on the door of the "premium sector* aren't they?

Couldnt disagree more about the front end - the old front looked great - very individual, the new one looks entirely anonymous, boring and derivative. The new dash is better, though.

XXXX just went POP.

17 August 2018

I've always rather liked the MG 3 and all the updates seem worthwhile.  Although SAIC have retained the octagonal MG badge, I wish they would do a modern take on the rather nice grilles of the MGs of the 60s, it would make the front look less like a Mazda.

17 August 2018

I believe the MG designer claimed they set out to replicate the trapezium Grills of the MGA, MG Magnette, MG 1300 etc. Which I think they've done a good job of. However, I think they need to square it off a bit more to emphasise that its a different shape from the Mazda Grill 

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