What is it?
MG Motor hopes that its MG 3 hatchback will change the company's fortunes, despite the fact that the formula underpinning its creation is much the same as the MG6’s.
The MG 6 has admittedly missed by a mile, selling in numbers small enough to shock even MG Rover in its dying days, and its price-to-desirability ratio isn’t remotely strong enough to tempt — despite its roomy cabin and sharp handling. Its impact has been so minor that many buyers have no idea that MG is still alive, but the new MG 3 may change that.
The new hatch is a little bigger than average for the segment, however it's as conceptually and mechanically conventional as a 9-5 job. It presents a mildly sporting overlay with its MG badging and a chassis lightly tuned to suit. And many might be surprised to hear that it has been designed and engineered in Britain for MG’s Chinese owner, and is even part-assembled here.
But there’s one big difference, and it’s a change that might just shift MG’s bruised British fortunes - its price. This five-door, five-seat, five-speed, 1.5 litre supermini starts at £8399.
More impressively, it finishes at £9999 for the top-of-the-range MG 3 Style. Even if you order every option, roof-box included, it’s not possible to spend more than £12,000 on this car. And in three out of its four trim levels it comes pretty decently equipped, and with appealing detail features like a coverable dashtop sat-nav mount.
Apart from competing in the market’s biggest segment, MG Motor is hoping that its MG 3 might divert some buyers from doing their Dacia maths to take an inquiring look. MG is also targeting Skoda Fabia owners, and those who like dressing up Citroën DS3s and Fiat 500s. Which may be a taller order.
What's it like?
What the curious will find is a surprisingly spacious hatch that in the right colours and with the right decal kit – yours for £199-£225 depending on kookiness – can look more modern than its quite basic silhouette would suggest, and with a neatly finished, quietly contemporary interior that’s unexpectedly pleasant.
Yes, the dashboard is hard-feel, but it’s pleasingly grained, the seat trim is subtly imaginative and much of the detail design, such as the stereo and air-conditioning controls, is of modest surprise and delight calibre.
It also moves like an MG should. The ride is taut but well-damped, rarely turning uncomfortable despite over-audible bump-thump. The steering is fairly swift, turn-in obedient, it’s grippy and at moderate-to-ambitious speeds it corners as flat as a flounder.
Push it hard, and throttle lift-off will quell the understeer and usefully move the tail. True, the hydraulically assisted and moderately feelsome steering occasionally feels odd, the ride gets busy over challenging roads and speed turns tyre and wind noise assertive, but this car is quite amusing when pressed.
That’s less true of the of the 105bhp engine, whose unfashionably vertiginous torque peak arrives after some toeboard-thrumming boom to deliver performance as scintillating as a second cup of tea. But it gets about.
The MG’s controls are well-matched, its driving position is good and so is forward visibility. All models get six airbags, a hill-holder and LED running lights, all-bar-one get (impressively hassle-free) Bluetooth, air-con and a DAB radio, and top models are pretty generously kitted.
Should I buy one?
It’s taken MG two years to prepare the MG 3 for Europe, but the polishing has paid off. It's no challenger to the Ford Fiesta, and a few of its rough edges are sharp enough to be instantly off-putting, but there is merit to it.
Consequently this lightly sporting, exceptionally roomy, pleasingly insurable, low-cost supermini is worth more than the sceptically quizzical inspection that its decals might inspire.
MG 3 Form Sport
Price £9549; 0-62mph 10.9sec; Top speed 108mph; Economy 48.7mpg (combined); CO2 136g/km; Kerb weight 1150kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1498cc, petrol; Power 105bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 101lb ft at 4750rpm; Gearbox 5-spd manual