Let’s get this out of the way first, so you know exactly where I stand – I like the MG3. There, I said it. It’s a statement that needs to be made after the recent pasting I gave the revised MG6 because of the large question marks over its viability, quality and long-term residuals. I concluded that it’s a difficult purchase to recommend… So the more positive message about the MG3 should bode well for its chances.
OK, it’s far from perfect but, for the cash, it’s great value. From the side it looks like a blurred Skoda Fabia vRS and from the rear it looks like a Fiat Punto, neither of which are bad things. I’m still impressed with the interior room, the overall comfort, the level of equipment, some of the design cues, and as for those alloy wheels… they look utterly sublime.
So what has MG done to keep the car fresh and competitive in the marketplace in the two years since its launch here? Apart from a few tempting finance offers, little has been altered with the car itself. They do seem better built, though – the one I’ve just driven was really tight and rattle free. There is still an odd power surge in first gear, where the revs give a little surge – it reminds me of the throttle mapping issue of the early 1.8-litre petrol MG6.
Its slightly high CO2 rating could be bettered with the adaption of a stop-start system and the fuel economy is still best described as only average. But what the MG3 really needs is a new heart and soul, the 1.5-litre 16v petrol doesn’t feel like it produces the power which is claimed to produce. The power band is reminiscent of a two-stroke Yamaha – all of about 1000rpm right at the top of the rev range.
As a driving tool, it really makes you smile. Communicative steering, an improved lovely quick gearshift, sharp handling and decent brakes make forget you are driving a sub-£10,000 car – and remember, this was designed and engineered mainly by British workers, it really does spool along rather well.
Sure, if you look hard enough there are one or two rough edges, like the parcel shelf for example (above). Where the hinges fit to the shelf, it looks like someone has used a red-hot butter knife to cauterize the plastic – it looks really nasty. Also, the heater buttons are way too small and fiddly on the move at night and the radio, while having a really good sound quality, is difficult to master and pair a phone to without a study period with the Owner’s Handbook.
The traditional hydraulic PAS (none of this modern -angled EPAS here folks) moans and groans like an angry cat when you reach full lock and the suspension thumps and clunks over rough roads in a very vocal manner. Low speed ride is very firm and unsettled but, as velocity increases, the ride becomes agreeable. However, on the whole, it’s a decent car to cruise the miles in, the front seats are fairly soft and seem to provide good comfort if a little lacking in bolster support. Plenty of room, plenty of equipment and good looks – there’s a lot to like with the MG3.
It was certainly a talking point, too. School kids yelled, ‘that looks cool Mister’ at my local newsagents and a few local residents stopped to ask about it. It’s here where MG is really missing the boat. I get a little offended by the way the brand purists seem to be doing the lion’s share of the sales and marketing. Apart from a sprinkling of TV commercials, I have seen little marketing in the press or on billboards.
The MG3 is a really likeable and honest little bundle of fun, and the press car came in a radiant red and, with a superbly-applied Union Jack roof decal, simply yelled style and fun. It’s just a shame the bloody awful marketing seems to be the only thing holding the product back from real feel-good sales success in the showrooms.
As much as I like the car – and I really do, the full package in terms of a solid back up, from head office level makes it tough in my opinion to recommend the MG3 wholeheartedly as a new car purchase. Annoyingly, MG Motor UK is part of a truly massive global corporation and none of the above brickbats would require heaven and earth to put right. Come on, MG! Do it!
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