It’s MG launch... take 3!
- Credit: Nigel Harniman Photographer
One-time MG Metro owner Andy Russell has a soft spot for the new MG3 supermini.
I've always been a bit of a 'what if' person to the point of looking for problems that will probably never arise. I work on the theory that if you don't they will so look on the black side of life and if it's only dark grey that's a bonus!
But 'what if' MG had been able to launch the MG3 supermini in this country before the family-sized turbo petrol MG6 and then having to wait nearly two years for the much-needed diesel version.
The MG3 came another nine months later but had it been the starting point for the new-generation MGs I am convinced the once iconic British brand which is now owned by SAIC Motor – China's largest automotive company – would have made more impact.
Regardless of what you think about this once great marque being produced in China and assembled by MG Motor UK at Longbridge there's no disputing the MG3 is a car of the moment – a spacious supermini, with a sensible engine, low insurance and, most importantly, all four models coming in at under £10,000. Combine this with a huge range of bright colours, exterior graphics and interior colour packs and the stylish MG3 is fun and funky.
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It may have an MG badge and look quite dynamic but the MG3 is not the sportiest supermini to drive – and that helps it to achieve a low 4E insurance group rating.
It comes only with a 1.5-litre petrol engine which, despite producing 106PS, does not feel sporty even when you make use of the light, but slightly sloppy, five-speed gearbox. Rev it hard and it runs out of puff well before the red line so it's better to make use of the mid-range flexibility and get a respectable, if not remarkable, 40-42mpg overall.
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The MG3 is quite entertaining to drive with good body control through corners and plenty of grip but the steering, while accurate, lacks feel at speed. The ride also suffers when you push the MG3 hard – it's unsettled on poor surfaces and thumps over potholes with some suspension noise but at speed it's bouncy enough for passengers in the back to complain. Accept the MG3 as a 'cheap and cheerful' runaround and it's a more satisfying package.
No complaints about the packaging inside for, as superminis go, the MG3 is spacious enough to carry four large adults comfortably with loads of leg and headroom front and back although the rear seat backs are a bit slabby. Being a five-door supermini means getting in and out is straightforward.
The 285-litre boot – 256 with the optional spare tyre – is deep and well shaped and can carry two decent suitcases and soft bags. With the tyre inflation kit there is useful underfloor storage in the spare wheel well.
The fascia is logical with clear instruments and controls although some audio buttons are small. I liked the lidded locker housing a USB port and auxiliary jackpoint on top of the dash, making them easy to connect while also hiding away an MP3 device or phone. Forward visibility is good but chunky rear pillars and a small screen limit the view out of the back. Most drivers should have little trouble getting comfortable in the supportive sports seats but the wheel only tilts up and down and the entry model does not have a height-adjustable driver's seat.
It's not difficult to see how MG has kept the cost down with hard, scratchy placstic in the cabin but at least it feels durable and easy to clean. The only niggle was an electrical glitch which lit a couple of minor warning lights for tyre pressure monitoring and traction control but the car still ran sweetly.
All models get LED running lights, six airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control and electronic hill-hold. Step up to 3Form and it adds air-conditioning, DAB radio, Bluetooth and leather steering wheel with audio controls while 3Form Sport gets 16in alloy wheels and sports body styling kit. Range-topping 3Style adds premium 16in alloys, cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, reverse parking sensors and the sports body kit.
The MG3 has been built to a budget but it hasn't sacrificed style and that makes it even more appealing. Residuals won't be as strong as some rivals but it also costs considerably less than many to buy.