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.