Fifty feet’s worth of interaction with the 3 is enough to find out where the car is most vulnerable to criticism.
Its 105bhp and 101lb ft are both a lot for a package priced from £4000 less than a 59bhp Ford Fiesta five-door, but they are maximum outputs delivered in such a way as to make this budget supermini feel ‘budget’. Decidedly 20th century, in fact.
The MG’s engine feels thin and slow to pick up from low revs, although it hauls from close to tickover cleanly enough. It also finds its feet in slightly uneven strides as the revs rise. By the time you’re getting the benefit of peak torque, at about 4500rpm, you’re also feeling quite a lot of buzzing vibration and harshness from the engine.
The ruckus is entirely bearable – and it’s far less noisy than a Sandero 1.2 in the same circumstances – but it wouldn’t make it past sign-off on anything from the big European brands.
It’s a pity that the angry buzz isn’t part of a more sporting crescendo. The engine pulls averagely well past 4000rpm but runs out of breath quickly after 5500rpm. It’s as if that 105bhp appears for the blink of an eye.
Below 4000rpm, you miss the likes of variable valve lift technology, light-pressure turbocharging and direct injection – advances that hit supermini engine bays long after SAIC acquired MG Rover’s assets – because the 3’s low-range performance is quite pedestrian. A 79bhp 1.2-litre Nissan Micra is faster from 30-70mph in fourth gear.
On top of that, the drivetrain feels underdeveloped in a tactile sense. The gearchange is a little limp and imprecise and the clutch has an unpleasant dead fraction of travel right at the top of the pedal. It’s enough to make you wonder, for the first few miles, if you’ve engaged the clutch fully every time you come off the pedal.