What is it?
The MG 3 supermini goes on sale in the UK this summer, billed by its makers as a Fiat 500 and Citroën DS3 rival off the back of its cute looks and talked up, but thus far unseen, styling packs that will be available for interior and exterior personalisation packages.
In particular, the interior customisations hold the most intrigue, since the car was unveiled at the recent Shanghai motor show without a visible interior in order to build anticipation.
As a result, we tested a Chinese spec car, powered by a version of the 1.5-litre petrol engine that will reach the UK, but in a different state of tune. Likewise, UK cars will get bespoke steering and suspension set-ups, honed during the car’s time under development in the UK.
This short run at MG’s test track in China was very much a familiarisation exercise, therefore, although it’s worth noting that the circuit was far from the billiard smooth venue favoured by some European manufacturers.
What's it like?
The overall impression is of a car with potential, much of which is currently unfulfilled in this Chinese spec.
The driving position is good, despite the steering wheel not adjusting for reach, and the cabin roomy. The seats are reasonably supportive, and the rear space generous for the class, as is the boot space. The dash and steering wheel do not feel cheap, but nor do they offer up anything beyond a rudimentary sense of workmanlike quality.
On the move the engine is refined at low revs, with disturbance only building up if you thrash it beyond 5000rpm. The performance is perky if not earth shattering, but comes at the cost of only poor economy and emissions figures for this size of car; stories of a new generation of impending three-cylinder Ecoboost-style engines can only be a good thing.
The five-speed gearbox is well-spaced, too, and the shift action decent. The test track’s two turns, both second gear sweepers, suggested that there was plenty of grip and little roll.
Overall stability was decent, and although the worst of the undulations did challenge the MG 3’s suspension, the set-up did allow for adequate control for what were large bumps at high speeds. Less convincing was the steering feel, which is too light and imprecise in this form.
Braking hard from around 70mph to 30mph suggested decent stopping power and good feel – a progression from when we first tested a Chinese-spec MG 3 around 18 months ago.
Should I buy one?
For now, it’s too early to say if you should buy one. In all likelihood the engine and chassis dynamics will look adequate against the opposition, with the key differentiator being how successful those personalisation options are, and how well priced the car is against its rivals.
Early indications suggest prices will start at around £10,000 and rise to £16,000.
MG promises three spec levels (named TS1, TS2 and TS3) with above-average levels of kit for the price.
If it gets that equation right – and its minor sales successes with the MG 6 thus far have largely been off the back of offering a compelling level of pricing - then MG could have a minor success story on its hands.