MG’s second car under Chinese ownership needs to overcome the dire reputation of the revived brand’s debut model, the MG 6 family saloon. This time, the company has created the small five-seater MG 3 to try and tempt buyers from the likes of the market-leading Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa. It’s a more affordable car in comparison, has cute looks and is solidly built.
With its bargain-basement prices, it’s also being marketed as a fun-time car for the younger, funkier buyer, so there are paint schemes called “Stuck on Blue” and “Hello Yellow”, as well as a number of graphics packs from go-faster stripes to Mod decals that allow personalisation. It’s not personalisation on the scale of the Vauxhall Adam, and not as genuinely cool as the options for the Mini Hatch, but the MG 3 is certainly not lacking in character.
The model comes in four trim levels: 3 Time, 3 Form, 3 Form Sport and 3 Style. Even the entry-level model has remote central locking, LED running lights, front and rear electric windows and electronic stability control but, unfortunately, there is only one engine available, and it isn’t much cop (see below).
Unlike its bargain-basement rival the Dacia Sandero, which suffers from excessive body roll and a lumpy ride, the MG 3 is both composed and confidence-inspiring through bends. Cruising is perfectly comfortable and refined, and wind noise levels are acceptable.
The feel through the steering wheel is fairly archaic, though. It’s like holding the wheel of an early Vauxhall Nova. Rattles pass from the wheels, through the steering column and into your hands. The wheel itself is made of fairly cheap plastic, too. The gear stick also feels loose and vague.
However, it’s under the bonnet that the car really disappoints. If you thought the 3 Form Sport was a sporty version, think again. There’s only one choice of engine across the MG 3 model range, and it’s a stinker. It’s sluggish throughout the rev range, with no discernible spike in power. Dropping down a gear for an overtake doesn’t produce a surge of power, making the manoeuvre more difficult. The car will keep up with the flow of traffic, but you have to work it far harder than rivals to do so.
It’s not as if the MG 3’s engine sacrifices power for efficiency, either. We averaged under 30mpg around town. The CO2 output also puts the car in tax band E (currently £125 per year), which is unnecessarily high for a new car of this size. MG will need to bring on the smaller, turbocharged engines to compete in this area – may we suggest a quick look at Ford’s EcoBoost powerplants, for example?
Things are much better inside the MG 3’s cabin. We especially like the LED surround on the DAB stereo fitted to the test car, while Bluetooth was easy to set up, too. True, the switchgear does have a cheap feel, but it’s at least smartly designed.
We also like the air-conditioning and ventilation system, the temperature settings for which are adjusted via a dial with red and blue strip lights within, indicating the chosen temperature. It’s a nice touch. Our only quibble is that, when following vehicles that pumped out more unpleasant exhaust fumes, the MG failed to filter the air coming into the cabin, necessitating driving around town with the system on recirculate.
The front and rear seats are comfortable, although of course, in a car as compact as the MG 3, the tallest passengers will always feel fairly cramped. The boot is of a reasonable size, too.
The one to buy
MG 3 Form Sport
- 1498cc, 4-cylinder petrol
- 106bhp @ 6000rpm
- 101lb ft @ 4750rpm
- 5-speed manual
- 0-60mph in 10.4sec
- Top speed:
- 48.7mpg (combined)
- Road tax band:
- 4018mm, 1729mm, 1507mm
- Ford Fiesta (click here for used prices on driving.co.uk)
- Vauxhall Corsa (click here for used prices on driving.co.uk)
- Mini Hatchback (click here for used prices on driving.co.uk)