MG3: First Drive
Posted on September 4, 2013 | By Editor | 11 responses
What is the MG3?
The MG3 is a five-door hatchback supermini. Similar in size to the MINI and Skoda Fabia, the new MG is powered by a chain-driven, 105bhp, 1498cc, petrol engine, mated to a five-speed, manual gearbox. The MG3 has quite a long wheelbase (2520mm) for a supermini, with an overall length of 4018mm – the upshot of this is that it’s roomy inside with space for four adults as well as a useful boot.
What’s it look like?
In a word? Smart. Upon first glance the 3 seems to share some visual similarity with the Skoda Fabia but MG’s Design Team in Birmingham have imbued the baby MG with some neat exterior touches that give it a sense of identity all its own. From the MG logo cleverly included in the headlamp reflector, to the squared off exhaust and racing-styled rear diffuser, the 3 has enough to it to stop it being bland but not so much that it becomes lairy or over the top.
Inside it’s a similar story. The clocks are clear and easy to understand as are the controls for heating and ventilation. A central storage bin on the dash-top (complete with embossed MG logo) houses the auxiliary audio point and a USB socket. The controls are easy to use and smooth in operation and while some of the plastics are on the hard side that’s the norm in this class and at this price.
MG offer a range of dash mounts that allow fitment of a wide variety of smartphones including the iPhone 4 and 5. The mid-price MG3 3Form offers Bluetooth streaming for both audio and ‘phone calls and the mount makes using your ‘phone on the go safe – simple and as importantly, legal.
What’s it like to drive?
On the road the 3 manages to combine a sporty feel while retaining a sense of comfort. It’s softer than previous MGs, but it is still more than capable of putting a smile on your face when you press on.
Overall the MG3 looks to strike a happy medium between ride comfort and handling prowess. The test route combined twisting A and B road with town centre and the 3 felt equally at home in both environments. Ruts and bumps in the road were ironed out and road noise was well damped.
The new 1.5 NSE engine is quite keen to rev and the gearshift is slick and precise, feeling noticeably better than the gearbox offered in the petrol MG6, for example. At tick-over the 3 has a nice exhaust burble to it and as you wind up through the rev-range the engine note has a great tune to it. It’s not perfect, however.
Most notably the gap between the ratios of 2nd and 3rd gear creates something of flat spot, robbing the MG3 of the pace built up in 2nd so that you feel as if you’re starting over again when going from 2nd to 3rd.
The steering is light and accurate, with plenty of grip. It’s the kind of car that seems to respond well to being eager drivers. That said, if you want to pootle through town, the 3 is equally as home doing just that.
What toys do you get?
One of the 3’s key strengths is its level of equipment. The range starts at £8,399 with MG3 3Time which comes with 14″ steel wheels and an FM/AM CD headunit. Move up to the 3Form at £9,299 and the level of kit increase significantly to include air conditioning, smartphone integration, bluetooth audio streaming, DAB radio and a multifunction steering wheel. It still wears 14″ steel wheels but does gain the rear spoiler absent from the 3Time. For an extra £250 the 3Form Sport adds 16″ alloy wheels and side skirts to the mix. MG see the 3Form Sport as being the main volume seller of the 3 range.
The range is topped off by the 3Style at £9,999. The Style gets 16″ ‘Diamond Cut’ alloy wheels, cruise control, auto wipers, automatic lights and rear parking sensors. Whether you opt for the opening 3Time or the range-topping 3Style all MG3s boast six airbags. There are ten colours, four of which are brand new for the MG3. Personalisation is a big deal for MG with the 3, with 10 graphics packs available, priced between £199 and £225. MG believe with the paint, wheel, mirror and graphics options that there are over 1,000,000 colour and trim combinations available on the MG3.
The only options are the £500 ‘Lux pack’ on the 3Style which adds part leather and metallic paint at £395.
Is it an MG?
Simply put, yes.
It’s fun, affordable and that little bit different. The wait for the 3’s arrival in Europe has been long and well-documented. It’s not perfect – the limited range of engines and gearboxes may limit the car’s appeal, as will its relatively high Co2 emissions. Despite those negatives the 3 has enough about it to merit its consideration in a fierce market sector.
The MG3 seems to have been worth the wait – it’s cool, it’s quirky and thoroughly affordable. MG have built a supermini that should appeal not only to those looking for a cost-effective alternative to more established boutique ‘minis but to MG fans alike.