China Watch : MG3 to debut at December’s Guangzhou Auto Show

Keith Adams 

MG3: Chinese debut at next month's Guangzhou Auto Show

The promising new MG3 takes a step closer to introduction as this selection of pre-production cars is snapped in China undergoing dealer demonstrations. The attached images show that the 1.5-litre hatchback sports the pleasingly contemporary look which has just been so successfully previewed with the ZERO Concept car. 

MG Motor UK have yet to indicate when the MG3 will be introduced here but the car will be unveiled in China at December’s Guangzhou Auto Show, where it is expected to make a big splash – heading up the hugely successful MG range in China. However, it’s clear that the UK market is crying out for this car – the postive reaction to the ZERO Concept from potential customers at the MPH Show should provide MG Motor UK with sufficient evidence of that… 

Sadly, the BMW Group owns the rights to the Metro nameplate, so it will never be called the MG Metro in the UK, but using one of the marque’s well-loved names from the past would be preferable to the cold and rather dull ‘MG3’ tag. 

[Source: China Car Times

Keith Adams


  1. I love a lot of the details – the grille and the rear lights are contemporary – but not the shape of the rear window and the C-pillar. The former is probably what betrays its oriental origins and the Chinese preference for three-box saloons – one of which will emerge from this platform.

  2. Sorry, but as much as I would like to be positive, this car looks really dull. We are stepping into CityRover territory again. This might be exciting for the Chinese but it will get swamped in a sea of mediocrity in the UK.

    I feel that SAIC Motor needs to get more aggressive with the styling of the MG saloons, like the original ZR/ZS/ZT. Perhaps there will be a more dynamically styled version if/when the MG3 eventually hits the UK – I really do hope so.

  3. This is good … more contemporary looking than the MG ZR and ZS ever were. Let’s hope it is made well and drives well … and is built at Longbridge!

  4. @Ianto
    Apparently, there is no Fiat content in the MG3. This is a significant car as it could usher in a whole new 1500cc engine to the UK market – hopefully one which does not like popping head gaskets on a frequent basis! I quite like it, though, like all modern cars, colour choice will be key.

  5. A good effort – the front and rear profiles are good but I’m not sure about the side view. I think the wheel arches will need opening up and some larger alloys fitted before ZR drivers are likely to consider buying the car.

    However, it looks quite mainstream and should appeal to most small car buyers. I would consider one if MG offered a sports version with enhanced and more aggresive detailing. A turbo version of the 1.5 litre engine would also add to the car’s appeal. I am told this has been developed in the UK and has serious potential.

  6. I think that this resembles an old Fiesta, with smaller wheels. Looks like it’ll be second-hand MGR tin for me for a while yet. Is there really anyone who would rather be seen in this than a ZR or ZS? I fear not…

  7. This looks very Suzuki Splash-like from behind. Not bad actually, but not very MG. A worthy successor to the MG 1100 perhaps?

  8. I’m sure that, even in China, the MG3 will up against roadblocks from all over the place – it just lacks any pizazz, unique features or Britishness. Surely, if someone is to buy an MG, they would expect to pay a premium price and this doesn’t look worth it. However, if it sells for a cheap price, it will just undermine the MG marque.

    We all want the new MG to do well (and secretly hope for a British buy-out and MG Rover revival in the UK) but, as time goes on and goodwill towards the names evaporates, who is going to buy an MG at the price expected? A Chinese version of a manufacturer that went bust…

    At 41, I would think I’m in MG’s target market, but I doubt I would drop my own wedge on one. Think I’ll stick to the memories and try a P6B after my SD1 journey of a few years ago… at least an enthusiast of the marques like me won’t drop a bundle on depreciation.

  9. I agree with most of the comments here. The grille and headlamps look nice but the car is almost a copy of a Hyundai i10/i20/Fiat Punto? Can’t say I would dash out to buy one even if they were on UK shores.

  10. I wonder if all those who say that this or the MG6 don’t look like MGs would like anything that didn’t look old-fashioned.

    Four-seater MGs have never gone out to look expensive like, say, a Jaguar. They have always looked like a normal-priced car that been tuned up a bit. There’s no reason why this car can’t be an MG.

    British fashion dictates that the wheels should be bigger to be sporty, but that’s the work of 15 minutes and a jack.

    Why the thought that it’s based on a Punto? The tall rear lights? Come on, look more carefully than that.

  11. I love some of these comments – yes, it’s not as brash as the ZR but it is contempory in design and will probably sell well. OK, so if you put it up against the competition, it looks like all the rest but, in fact, none of the cars in this class are beautiful. It has got to drive well to compete against the Fiesta, which is the benchmark for handling, and match the build quality of the Polo or Hyundai i20.

  12. I find it interesting that people say that MG’s new models ‘don’t look like an MG’. Aside from the F and TF, what car has MG ever designed and built that hasn’t been just a warmly made over, badge-engineered car made by someone else? All the cars from the last 50 years or so are based on other people’s designs.

    Here we are with MG in China, designing and building cars from the ground up – so they’re 100% MG – but we say they don’t look right? I’m not having a moan, (I drive a ZT!) but it fascinates me all the same!

  13. Is it me or does it look like a Hyundai i10? Not a bad thing really – if it drives and is built well as well as the Hyundai, then it’ll do great. Remember the i10 got great reviews in the motoring press. Still, I wish the MG3 luck when it arrives in the UK.

  14. I don’t quite understand what SAIC Motor intends for this car as just I can’t see many Europeans buying one. The sales figures may prove me wrong of course but, in my opinion, if the Chinese owners of this marque were really serious about selling MG’s in the UK/EU, then they should do the following:

    • Set up a proper production line at Longbridge
    • To ensure Chinese jobs/labour rates, ship accross bodyshells and engines
    • Have the British Design Team work their magic on the basic shell and engine to move away from some of the generic design statements of the donor car and add in some proper MG pizazz, as one person above has referred to. Ditto with the interiors and nice fat tyres with decent MG alloy wheels. Good examples stated above, treatment of the Rover 75 into the MG ZT etc.
    • Do something special with the engines such as increase the BHP and then turbo/supercharge them, plus upgrading brakes and suspension to handle the increased power.
    • Finally, be prepared to sell initially at loss-leading prices in order to get into the market. This is the only way to make a presence as MG’s competition is going to be Alfa Romeo, Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and VW etc.

    Sadly, I don’t think that SAIC Motor understands this and they probably can’t afford it anyway, but it is a nice fantasy on a cold November afternoon!

  15. Hi Guys,

    The car was designed in Britain by the same team that created the MG6. Personally, I really like the car and when compared to the rubbish that pre-SAIC MG were churning out, this is a step in the right direction.

    I think it is worth noting that most cars in base spec look a little ordinary, even cars like the Fiesta and the Fabia. Once you move up the spec level, this car will look brilliant.

    I think we should be supporting this car as it has utilised British skill at its best including design, engineering and, most likely, manufacturing!

  16. This sort of car doesn’t appeal to me anyway, but this one even less so. The front is OK but the rest is just generic “small car” and has nothing special about it.

    I’m sure that in China it will sell well enough to it’s target market (young people in need of cheap transport) but I doubt that it has the “something extra” required to make a mark in the UK.

  17. I don’t know. This looks like an old model Fiesta from the back and like something from Korea at the front. Not fresh now, in three years time, when it finally goes on sale after its umpteenth “reveal,” it will be positively smelly.

  18. @James
    I know what you are getting at, James, but this doesn’t look like a made-over version of anything!

    There were always sporting connotations associated with the MG derivatives, even the old ADO16 1100/1300s, which had twin carbs rather than singles. The ZR, ZS and ZT looked like beefed up versions of the 25, 45 and 75 and were all the better for it.

    I feel, and possibly others do, that the current batch of ‘new’ MGs are pretty tame and that some work is going to have to be done to make them attractive to British buyers. How a car drives is great and practicality is great but, around here, the roads are not swarming with Fiat Multiplas – outward looks do count for something!

  19. Why, oh why, do people have to be so negative about anything MG? Nobody has even seen an MG3 in the metal yet, let alone driven one!

    Obviously, not all cars are to everyone’s taste but give MG a chance, eh? These cars, or others like it, could be produced in the UK at some point and so possibly create thousands of jobs for British workers across the country – not just at the Longbridge plant, but at Dealers and Suppliers all over the UK.

    Bloody typical – no wonder there isn’t any British car industry left. People here would rather buy foreign cars despite the fact that a lot of, for example, French and Italian cars are cheap rubbish, thrown together in between strikes and disputes.

    There, rant over!

  20. A lot of those popular French (and Japanese) cars are actually providing thousands of jobs for British workers by being built and sold through dealerships right here in the UK. Ford, Nissan and Peugeot are but three foreign car companies building in Britain.

    I honestly do admire your optimism, Darren, but the days of Longbridge supporting thousands of jobs either through manufacturing or a Dealer Network are long gone. Check out some of the threads/blogs in this site to see exactly what the staff at Longbridge have been doing for the past few months.

    There is a fear that SAIC Motor do not have sufficient financial clout to support a high-profile car through manufacture and marketing and Stuart’s hope of a British buy-out of the marque may be its best chance of a proper revival in the UK or anywhere else.

    Regardless of anyone’s views about the current cars, MGs have always been sports cars, either as modified versions of Morris (or Austin/Rover) cars or stand-alone racers/roadsters. You could not describe the MG3 as either and the 6 needs to get its act together to be exciting enough to create interest and draw custom away from the established market leaders.

    Brand loyalty is admirable and I am guilty of it, but I won’t be forking out for any of these new cars just because there is an octagon on the grille.

    Finally, in respect of your last paragraph, build quality was not always a high point of Longbridge’s output towards the end.

  21. Pleasant, if unexciting, but not an MG. I dare say that, in China, the MG badge will work very well but, in the rest of the world, people expect MGs to be sporty and this is an honest small hatch. There’s nothing wrong with that – indeed SAIC Motor could have just as easily created a decent global brand and used that instead. After all, the likes of Hyundai and Toyota are pretty awkward names which have become very familiar.

  22. Well, the front 3/4 view is great but the side and rear 3/4 are quite dull. I’m guessing that the car has been styled with some UK input – but where’s the flair! It’s not really an MG, more an Austin.

    Having said all of that, I would like to see the MG3 in the UK up against the Korean opposition (sorry MG, there’s no way, at the moment, you can compete with European or Japanese cars until you up your game) – at the right price, and by that I mean cheap, it could do very well. The quality, though, needs to surpass anything Korean to cut the mustard.

  23. @Darren
    Fair point – I am going to wait until I either see one or some half-decent journalists have a go in a European version before I comment. I didn’t like the MG6 until I saw one in the metal but I like it now.

    I agree with some on this site and reckon that the MG3 needs to be a bit snazzier for European tastes – it’s going to be up against some tough European competition such as the Alfa Romeo MiTo, Ford Fiesta and MINI etc. A few styling cues from the ZERO Concept and a top-end raw, hard ball, slightly mad turbo version should do the trick…

  24. @Jon
    Sad, but true – when Ryton went, with a loss of about 3500 jobs, it barely got a mention in the media. The sad thing about it is the plant was run very well producing 206s but the French uncharacteristically decided to close the plant down.

  25. Oh dear, not a good looking car. Have they borrowed some Fiesta tooling and nailed a Kia in there? This is not worthy of the MG badge…

  26. Two possible options would be:

    1) Tart the MG3 up a little and get the large Driving School fleets to run them

    2) Beef it up a bit to try and take some ground away from the MINI.

    Whatever the case, I hope the MG3 succeeds. I have a feeling that, this time round, the MG story will be very much a roller coaster (more so then it has been).

  27. I’m speechless! Do they really think that this could be remotely good enough?!

    I would dismiss it as price-led competition for the Hyundais and Kias of this world, but they’ve been getting rather better recently. This is a shockingly awful looking car and the parallel to the CityRover that’s already been mentioned is pretty fair!

  28. @Darren
    Before we get too carried away with the patriotism bit, let’s just remember that this is from a Chinese-owned company and manufactured in China.

    The fact that the final assembly is done in the UK in a leased factory (in a very small area of the Longbridge site) that could be shut at pretty much anytime means that this doesn’t contribute significantly to UK manufacturing. Other foreign companies like Ford, Honda, Vauxhall, Toyota and even BMW contribute much more significantly to the future of manufacturing in the UK.

    What disappoints me is when people buy an imported product while dismissing a well-designed and built, competitively priced, product from a UK manufacturer. What we have here is an essentially Chinese product with a small amount of UK input that can be judged entirely on merit and, from the photos seen so far, it doesn’t appear to have any.

    As a patriotic buyer, I would be looking to buy a UK-built car from a multi-national with a much greater commitment to manufacturing in the UK. My current car, a Focus RS, may well be built in Germany, but 1 in 3 engines used in Ford products worldwide are manufactured and largely designed in the UK.

  29. This car is not a niche product. It is part of a business plan and will sell in great numbers around the world – it is designed to, wait for it, make money! It will be profitable. Remember profit? It’s something that’s not been associated with the MG or Rover brands for many years!

    Profit is the stuff that let’s you spend on more development, more on new factories and equipment and grow your business with good technology and attractive products. It lets you produce all-new models every few years!

    Building the odd few thousand sporty hatchbacks is not of interest to any business. Maybe there will be sporty, upmarket versions of new MGs as time progresses, but these are not the bread and butter of a business, purely ‘halo’ or image models. Those top of the range models could not exist if they weren’t supported by the cars below in the range that sell in huge numbers.

    We should, when looking at these first new MG cars, remember that this is really just the start of something that will see success for MG here in Europe and has already been successful in China. However, that success has to founded upon a sustainable business plan, not just the desires of a few enthusiasts.

  30. @Jon
    I do not recall publishing any spyshots of partially dismantled Fiat Grande Puntos at Longbridge here on AROnline but believe that the story and images, in fact, emanated from China.

    Anyway, MG’s Design Director, Tony Williams-Kenny, has recently been reported as saying that the MG3’s platform has nothing in common with the Fiat Grande Punto’s platform.

  31. When will the so-called MG experts start to live in the real world? Everybody wants MG to succeed but no one challenges the marque’s owners on what the future holds.

    We have been shown several models at Motor Shows but SAIC Motor/MG have yet to give any clear indication about which models, other than the MG6, will be built here in the UK.

    I reckon that, if the media were allowed into the manufacturing side of Longbridge, they would be very worried by what they saw – for months now, the employees have done nothing but paint/man the security gates and generally strip CAB1 .

    We have MG employees who live locally and have told us in conversation of a lack of any training and the dereliction of many buildings including the original Paint Shops. The paint facility currently in operation is the top end of No. 3 Paint Shop.

    Why aren’t SAIC Motor putting the new models they so proudly display in to production at Longbridge asap? We all now know what is on offer and, bearing in mind that the MG6 has been on sale in China for some time, SAIC Motor should just get on with it – if not, then please don’t keep us hanging on for something we may never see built in the UK. MG FOREVER!

  32. I hope I won’t cause any shock-induced heart attacks here but I actually like this. It’s true that the MG3 a mix of styling BMW 1xx side profile + Ka rear bumper + Punto tail-lights + late model Fiesta front end but, for all that, it’s a mix and match which, I think, works well.

    The MG6 shape (there is a family resemblance) suits a smaller car much better (SD1 and SD2 in reverse) and the Punto-esque tail-lights look good. Again, as with the CityRover, it will be a matter of price and quality.

    I still think that the CityRover was a nice looking little car but it was the interior that let it down – not to mention the hammering it got from the press.

    I have a lot more hope for a revival (admittedly a Chinese one) of the MG marque if this car is done right. A hot version of this at a decent price, with well thought out bodywork addenda, could be a good seller..

    Hope springs Chinese…?

    However, this does make me wonder whether the MG3 and MG6 would sell any better because of the perceived British connection if the Chinese takeover hadn’t been so well-known and publicised…

  33. I’d have to agree that, in these photos, the MG3 does look a bit dull, but then you can say the same about all base model small cars. The entry-level Corsa is dull, but sells in huge numbers and is actually great to drive.

    The classic Mini was said by many to be ugly when it was launched, but then they drove one! A basic model classic Mini, either an early 850 or a mid ’80s City look dull, but then you have the Cooper at the other end that can look rather cool. They’re both the same car – it’s just that one has more poke and some nice bits bolted on.

    Once these the MG3 has a few more goodies added (which they undoubtedly will), in various “LEs” with free alloys, or sunroof etc, they will look much better.

    Just because a car looks dull doesn’t mean it will be a bad drive. I hired Vauxhall Combo van this week and it was actually great fun to drive – the handling and torque were amazing, but it was nothing to look at.

  34. Incidentally, something else I’ve noticed is that they always seem to show the first ones in black, probably the worst colour to show off a car’s detailing!

    Take, for example, the black detail of the rear bumper – that disappears on the all black cars, but shows up nicely on the red one! The grille disappears too – it does make a car look a lot more bland when it is in photos.

  35. @Jon
    I stand corrected, Jon.

    I remember, a few years ago, hearing that the 206 was one of the best-selling cars built in Britain but didn’t realise the factory had closed. Obviously, my knowledge of the car industry is rustier than I thought!

  36. @Alex Mathias
    A lot of sense spoken but, as another reader says, SAIC Motor could develop a stand-alone global brand to sell the ‘rubber-mat’ models and have the octagon on the sporty models.

    Just like the Metro, Maestro, Montego, ADO16, 25/ZR, 45/ZS, 75/ZT… MG has never had stand-alone mainstream cars – at least not in my lifetime.

  37. @Clive Goldthorp
    Here’s the link to the relevant thread on AROnline’s Forum:

    There was a picture here which showed a UK-registered Roewe 550 and some Puntos. However, I now see a red cross but the image appears on Google images if you search Punto Longbridge.

    I have no idea whether there is any connection with the new MG3, but this is where the speculation comes from. I think, though, that it would only be a good thing if the MG3 is underpinned by a competent Euro platform.


  38. @Clive Goldthorp
    Hey, let’s hope so.

    I had the misfortune to own a Panda Diesel a couple of years ago and, although I ended up despising the car, I have to say that the 1242cc Common Rail engine was a belter 🙂


  39. Jemma :

    I still think that the CityRover was a nice looking little car but it was the interior that let it down – not to mention the hammering it got from the press.

    I absolutely agree – if the money MGR wasted on uglyfying an obsolete Italian supercar or putting obscene power units into the 75/ZT had been spent on giving the Indica a decent interior and the reliable smaller versions of the K-Series, they may well have had a winner on their hands.

    The consequence of that may have been a Tata investment…


  40. @Jon
    AROnline understands that SAIC Motor will, in fact, use a new SMTC UK-developed diesel engine in the MG6 and, presumably, other forthcoming models – the diesel version of the MG6 should reach MG Dealers here in the UK towards the end of 2011.

  41. @Paul T
    Peugeot do make engines here though, through JVs. BMW/PSA build petrol engines at Hams Hall and PSA/Ford build diesels at Dagenham. You’ll find Dagenham-built Peugeot HDi/Ford TDCI diesels in all sorts of cars: Citroen, Jaguar, Land Rover, MINI, Peugeot, Fiat vans and, of course, all the Ford range etc.

    It’s possible SMTC UK were testing their own diesel engine in a Punto. They don’t really have any current models of their own to use as test mules, so it would make sense to just buy a car from somewhere else and butcher that. A Punto wouldn’t really draw attention to itself on the road like an MG6 or disguised prototype would.

    They might even use an old Punto as a platform for building a running prototype on – the running prototype of the new MINI, when first shown to the press, was built on a Punto.

  42. I can’t add anything to what’s already been said above about the MG3. However, what I would say is three cheers to AROnline for this article as neither this week’s Autocar nor Auto Express have covered the story – they both seem to be obsessed by Audi and BMW every week whereas they should be covering MG.

  43. Looks like a Ford Fiesta and a Skoda Fabia have been mating…

    The new MG company seems very slow with their introduction of the already outdated looking MG6, the TF is not selling at all and now this!

    I fear that the re-launch of MG in the UK might prove a step too far for our Chinese cousins…

    Maybe we should hang on for BMW to successfully re-introduce the Riley and Triumph brands back to the UK.

  44. @Alex Mathias
    You must have good inside knowledge and it was good of Guy Jones to tell us of the future plans and all the money that has been spent.

    However, talking to some employees yesterday, they told us that the only money that has been spent is on the Design and Engineering Centre to house the Engineers whereas, on the manufacturing side, they haven’t even got any heating in CAB1.

    The only money spent as been on painting everywhere. The guys told us they are building in the same conditions as when the MG TF LE500 was launched and that, if the media saw them, they would be totally shocked by what they saw – they are not the painted areas shown to the outside world.

  45. Interesting how a lot of the comments liken the MG to the Koreans and Japanese… Like me, many of you hate the side view.

    I think it’s that rear door. For some odd reason, some of the oriental car makers tend to make the rear end of the glasshouse and the rear edge of the rear door extend more over the rear wheels than occidental ones. An example of this is the Daewoo Tosca (Chevrolet Epica), which has always looked terrible to me.

    I’m sure a tarted-up version will happen – we Chinese love personalising a car as much as any other ethnic group.

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