I know that I’ve been a little harsh on MG Motor UK recently – what with its disappointing sales (for the 6) and lacklustre (and budget) marketing – but I do genuinely believe that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. And that light is cast by the MG3.
Come on, admit it – the MG3 in the picture above does look rather good. And if it were nestling in your local MG dealer right now, and you had £9-11K burning a hole in your pocket for a new supermini, you’d most definitely be wanting a closer look. Of course, you can’t buy one now, and the word on the street is that UK buyers will have to wait up to a year from now before the 3 goes on sale. Which, if true is a little disappointing.
But it might well be worth the wait. Because I suspect that the company has been looking at cars such as the Suzuki Swift and Skoda Fabia for inspiration when developing the new baby – and having lived with a Swift for the past six months, I can say that if MG get on terms with this car, then it won’t have anything to worry about in the months following its launch. Admittedly, the Swift I’ve had on long term test is a DDiS, and in diesel form the cheeky hatchback isn’t perhaps at its best – but despite all that, it’s a great car to drive with quick, light steering, a nice high driving position, excellent forward visibility, and nice road manners.
In an era of belt-tightening and high fuel prices, superminis such as the Swift are becoming increasingly relevant, and I think that when properly resolved, they can be just as painless as a mid-sized car to live with. And in fact, the Suzuki Swift, with its pint-sized 1.2-litre diesel can effortlessly cover big distances, as well as perform well in town. MG needs to learn from cars like the Swift, and ensure that there is no pain at all in driving a new 3 in the sort of day an average company car driver will rack up in his Audi A4 or Vauxhall Insignia.
And it needs to be well-priced. Forget about trying to compete with the Ford Fiesta (or indeed the Swift) on cost, because MG just doesn’t have the marque kudos. Undercut the equivalent Swift by about £2K, and make sure that 5-4-3-2-1 deal is standard from the word go. Educated buyers know it’s Chinese, and will therefore expect to pay Chinese prices, while those who aren’t will just be attracted to the vaguely sporting image (make sure you fit red seatbelts!) and sharp styling. Oh, and advertise and market the bloody thing properly, of course!
But the MG6 has been nothing if not a learning exercise. I happen to like it still – and would happily live with one if someone threw the keys at me – but there are flaws in the plan, and everyone knows it. MG, please don’t make that series of mistakes again.
Living with the Swift has been an absolute pleasure – and if the MG performs as capably in the long term, and can hit this target, then its successful European adventure may well just be beginning.