The red octagon is back on the streets of Britain and wanting to make a name for itself once more with its new offering – a cheeky five-door city car bursting with technology and options to personalise, all for under £10,000 for the top spec model.
If you’ve seen the new TV or print adverts for the MG3, you’ll notice that, admirably, they have advertised the price for the top spec model rather than trying to snare you with a low on the road price only to disappoint you when you look into it more closely. As well as winning points for honesty, this strategy is likely to work in MG’s favour in attracting savvy buyers who want to know exactly what their money is going to buy them from the outset.
Design and Styling
There are four trim levels available, with on the road prices starting at £8,399 for the 3Time and rising to £9,999 for the 3Style. Given the difference in equipment levels the £1,600 price difference gets you, I can’t see many people opting for anything other than the top spec model. Most will agree that MG have made a decent job of the styling and produced something that looks like it should be fun to drive. As well as the usual paint colour choices, you can also add to the design with different alloy wheels, wing mirror covers and a range of graphic packs to personalise your car including racing stripes and a Union Jack for the roof. The great thing about these graphic options is that you can be fickle. Have one put on, then if you change your mind, or fashion changes it for you, then you can swap it for something else or remove it totally without ruining the car. Each pack is only a couple of hundred quid, meaning it can be used as an inexpensive way to keep your car looking fresh and interesting without breaking the bank.
The LED daytime running lights add to the modern and sporty look, as do other more discreet touches you may not notice at first glance, such as the chrome square tailpipe peeking out the back. A great place to start with deciding how you feel about the looks of the MG3 is to have a play with their online configurator and see what you can create. It’s pleasantly surprising to see how many weird and wonderful combinations actually look quite good, and, actually, it’s a struggle to make something that’s truly awful.
Behind the Wheel
It’s a light city car with a small engine, so most of the time it’ll pootle around the streets quite happily and dutifully perform what is asked of it. But if you want a bit more excitement, you can be a bit forceful with it and it won’t mind. You can throw it into corners and stretch the gear changes until your heart’s content, safe in the knowledge that if won’t put you in a ditch or shred its own tyres. The travel on the accelerator is incredibly short, meaning there is only one kind of way to treat it if you want to drive sportily – either foot firmly welded to the floor, or not on the pedal at all because you’re on the brake. The sporty feel continues with the speedo and rev counter, both of which have tunnel style surrounds, red detailing, bold numerals and needles that zero at the six o’clock position. Motorway driving doesn’t faze the MG3 either. I thought that although it performed well around town it might panic a bit at the sight of a national speed limit sign, but it actually cruises along quite nicely as long as you don’t load it up with too much weight. When you want to settle down on a long drive, cruise control is also included on the top spec model.
Rather than trying to use a whole load of different materials and colours, MG have kept the dashboard as simple black plastic but with the option to add coloured bevels dependent on your styling choices. On the test car the exterior was a dark red with black wheels and on the inside the theme continued with the black dashboard with red bevels, and black floor mats with red edging. The steering wheel matched in nicely too, presented in black leather with red stitching, and features buttons for stereo adjustment, and cruise control if specified, all within thumb reach. The seats are comfortable both front and back, and there is a decent amount of rear legroom for a car that is just over 4 metres long. As a £500 optional extra, you can get a part leather trim for the seats that finishes the cabin off nicely and gives it a bit more of a premium feel.
Engine, Gearbox and Performance
Engine choice is the easiest part of speccing your MG3, as it’s a choice of one – a 1.5 litre four cylinder petrol engine that’ll knock out a reasonable power of 106 ps and 101 ft lb of torque. I wouldn’t say it’s particularly under or over powered, more that there is simply enough. 0-62mph is reached in just over 10 seconds and it’ll top out at 108mph. The gearbox is a five speed manual with a short gearstick travel that makes short, snappy changes possible, which works well if you have an enthusiastic driving style.
Boot size relative to the overall compact dimensions of the car are perfectly reasonable at 285 litres with the rear seats up and a capacious 1262 litres with the seats down.
Suspension and Steering
My week with the MG3 was one of the wettest and stormiest for a long time, as you can tell from the photos. A 4×4, or even a canoe, might have been more appropriate at times, rather than a loveable little scamp of a front wheel drive city car. There would be times when I unduly panicked it would spin its wheels up on wet tarmac or slip and slide around on wet leaves but despite the conditions the lightweight MG, with a kerb weight of just 1155 kg, didn’t put a foot wrong whatever Mother Nature threw at it. If you feel like pushing the MG3, you can disengage the stability control in a jiffy by pressing a small round button to the right of the gearstick. It disengages straight away – none of the ‘hold for ten seconds to make sure you really want to turn it off’ nannying found on some marques, but whether on or off it doesn’t seem to upset it at all and it carries on much the same in either mode.
Safety and Security
The brakes feel substantial enough to give you confidence in them and come with electronic force distribution, emergency braking assist and disc wiping. If you were being picky you could argue that if would be better to have disc brakes all round rather than just on the front but the rear drums don’t ever make you worry they’re not up to the job. Driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags are all included and on the top spec model you’ll also find hill hold control and tyre pressure monitoring.
Equipment and Options
As you’re getting quite a lot thrown into the standard MG3 price, the options list isn’t all that long, and everything that is on it is sensibly priced. Fancying some different coloured wing mirrors for instance will only set you back £39. The majority of the items on the options list are for styling, which will of course be totally down to individual taste. In-car entertainment has also been well thought out – roll back the shutter style cover on the compartment in the centre of the dashboard to reveal a smartphone connector and cradle that is suitable for the device you specify at the time of ordering. Rather than having an expensive built-in touchscreen sat nav unit, MG have relied on the fact that most people now have a smartphone capable of running a sat nav app, as well as storing their music library. The air conditioning unit has a modern design with soft touch dials you spin round to adjust the temperature and direction of airflow. There is also a CD player with MP3 compatibility, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, USB and aux-in ports, and DAB digital radio, all of which is impressive on a car at this price point.
Cost of Ownership
Taking the attractive purchase price aside, on-going costs should also leave you better off in the wallet department. Insurance costs shouldn’t be a worry as the group rating across the MG3 range is just 4 out of 50. If for some reason you can’t stand the bloke that works in your local Esso garage then get yourself one of these and you’ll hardly have to see him. On paper, the combined cycle official fuel consumption is a respectable 48 mpg with 136 g/km of CO2, and I can vouch for its efficiency in the real world too as I don’t think I’ve ever before handed back a press car with so much fuel left in the tank at the end of the week. If you haven’t got ten grand lying around in cash then MG are also going to be offering some attractive personal contract purchase offers that could get you in an MG3 from £99 a month on a 36-month contract (plus deposit and final payment), but check with your dealer for full details. As well as private owners, I can see the MG3 appealing as a company car as well – it’s cheap to buy, you can make it look good with the styling options and maybe even have it matching your company colours, and it’s cheap to fuel and insure.
MG have done well to understand what the market wants and package it up at price that people will be happy to pay. They’ve done their homework and it deserves to do well. Whilst it may not quite cover absolutely everything you may ever want from a car, it does however give you everything you’ll ever need. You’ve got to admit, it’s a hell of a lot of car for ten grand, and however mad you go with the options list you’d probably struggle to end up spending much more than £11,500 in total. MG have been bold with the equipment levels and pricing and in doing so have proved a point to both customers and competitors alike. Expect to see more red octagons on a street near you soon.