After months – nay, years – of waiting and speculating about every aspect of its make-up, the MG3 has been revealed in European market form. Well, we say Euro-market form, but really that means the UK, as currently we’re the only EU market that you can buy a new, British-engineered MG in (yes, you can buy MGs in Belarus, but those are, of course, Chinese-spec cars).
And as correctly predicted on AROnline many times in the past, the MG3 goes on sale in lightly modified form over its Chinese (and RoW) counterpart, featuring a new bodykit and swanky new daytime running lights (DRLs). I had a good look at the MG3 in both China and Longbridge last year and have to say that I rather like the thing. The styling is a good effort for the company’s first attempt at a supermini while the interior is more integrated and tightly screwed together than the naysayers would have you believe. Looks are, of course, subjective and there are many who don’t like the way it’s styled.
In terms of overall appeal, think Skoda Fabia or Suzuki Swift, rather than the brilliant Ford Fiesta, and you’ll not be a million miles away. In short, it’s a British-designed and assembled supermini with showroom appeal which, in line with current market thinking, MG Motor UK promises to be highly configurable. Interestingly, both of the cars I mentioned sit at the lower end of the B-segment price range – the Swift starts at £10,799 (with dealers punting the 1.2 SZ3 from £9200) and the Fabia comes in at £9130, with not much room for negotiation. Both have been around for a while now.
Clearly, the MG3 has a bit of a power advantage over these entry-level cars, sporting a claimed 105bhp from its 1.5-litre engine. However, with no smaller option – or diesel – on the cards for at least the next couple of years, MG will need to price at this level for its basic ‘3 if it’s hoping for any kind of volume. Word on the street from those who really know about the UK model’s driving and dynamics is that it’s tidy on the road (thanks Andy Kitson), but the 1.5-litre engine still needs work. It’s clearly not going to be a sub-99g/km car or, indeed, particularly economical, so showroom appeal is going to be ultra-important in order to win over less demanding customers in search of a stylish small car.
Will it sell? Yes, it will sell better than the MG6, but then that’s an easy prediction to make. I think it’s unlikely to set the market alight, but slowly, surely, the ‘3 will begin to establish some much-needed credibility for MG Motor UK in its home market. They need showroom footfall and this car will deliver that – assuming it comes in at a £9000ish start price (if it follows the unsuccessful MG6 business model, it’ll cost more than £10,000 to get one on your drive, which would be a shame), and the dealers (of which, we need more than 31) can throw in some good finance deals and perhaps free insurance (unlikely), the momentum should start to build up here in anticipation of the 4×4 arriving in or around 2015.
We know that SAIC Motor is a serious company, with 4,000,000 cars built globally last year, and it’s in strong financial shape, but MG Motor UK needs to butter its own bread in order to attract more juicy marketing budgets. And to do that, it needs to sell in reasonable numbers – maybe something in four figures per annum would be a nice start. The Sales and Marketing Team has recently been bolstered by the arrival of Sam Burton and we hear that the PR Department will also get an injection of talent soon. That will help raise awareness.
At the top of this blog, I asked if the ‘3 is a new beginning for MG Motor UK. My hunch is that it won’t radically change MG’s standing in enthusiast circles, such as ours (so many have already made their minds up), but it will represent an interesting new choice for supermini buyers. The company needs more visibilty and, to do that, it needs sales. It’s no MINI, DS3 or even Fiat 500 for that matter and we’ll keep our fingers crossed that MG Motor UK prices it accordingly – in a nutshell then, this won’t be a make-or-break product for MG Motor UK, but it does represent the point at which we hope it begins to turn the corner.
That’s because, whatever your opinions, one more company investing in the UK’s economy cannot be a bad thing right now.