We review the MG3 supermini, a smart-looking small car with a very low starting price
The MG3 will be a big factor in the success of the relaunched MG brand in the UK. The MG6, a larger family car, has seen fairly slow sales since it was introduced, so the MG3 is a make-or-break car for the resurrected British brand that's now owned by Chinese company SAIC. The smart styling, spacious interior and customisation options (similar to the Fiat 500 and MINI hatch) for new buyers make a great first impression. However it's the low starting price that will attract the most new customers: the entry-level MG3 Time model starts at £8,399, 3 Form trim is priced at £9,299 (£9,549 for the 3 Form Sport) and even the range-topping 3 Style costs just £9,999. That means potential Dacia Sandero buyers might be tempted - it offers the advantages of a new car with the price of a second-hand model. All MG3 models get the same 105bhp 1.5-litre petrol engine with a five-speed manual gearbox, so speccing your car is all about how it looks - and the wide range of decals will attract lots of young buyers, too.
Our choice: MG3 Form
MG has done a good job ensuring the MG3 doesn't look like a cut-price offering. It's not as eye-catching as a Ford Fiesta or as classy as a VW Polo, but it's still nicely proportioned and handsomely styled. You'll immediately notice the LED running lights, distinctive square-edged exhausts and modern kinked tail-lamps. Plus, unlike the Dacia Sandero, all MG3s get body-coloured bumpers as standard. Higher-spec Form Sport and Style models add 16-inch alloy wheels, as well as body-coloured door handles and sills. Yet the MG3's styling trump card is personalisation. With an array of decals, colourful door mirror finishes and wheel designs to choose from, you can really put your own stamp on your MG. Up to half a million different trim combinations are possible – although obviously some are more co-ordinated and appropriate than others. Design is equally stylish inside, although some low-quality materials let the cabin down when compared to rivals'. Hard, scratchy plastics, brittle switches and small, hard-to-use buttons for the ventilation system and radio don't help, either. A generous amount of standard equipment goes some way towards making up for this, however. All MG3s have standard central locking, electric windows and USB connectivity. The top-of-the-range Style adds big-car kit such as cruise control, parking sensors, air-conditioning and a DAB radio. In fact, equipment is so good that there are only two items on the options list: part-leather trim (£500) and metallic paint (£395).
An all-new chassis and suspension tuned with UK road surfaces in mind make the MG3 very satisfying to drive. The steering is responsive and well weighted, there's plenty of grip and body roll is kept in check. The downside of this hot-hatch-like handling is pretty harsh ride quality – the MG3 bounces over bumps and crashes into potholes that city-car rivals such as the VW up! would take in their stride. Motorway performance is better, but the MG still isn't as composed as its competitors. A lack of sixth gear hurts the car's cruising ability, while the 1.5-litre petrol engine makes a lot of harsh noise without ever feeling very fast. A 0-60mph time of 10.1 seconds sounds quick enough, but maximum torque of 137Nm is not delivered until 4,750rpm, so you have to work the engine and gearbox very hard to get any kind of pace out of the car. It's not all bad news, though: the gearshift action is slick and the cabin is well insulated from wind and road noise – if not the roaring engine. The driving position is comfortable, with plenty of seat and steering-wheel adjustment allowing most occupants to get comfortable. Standard sports seats give lots of support, too.
Both the resurrected MG company and the MG3 itself are too new to feature in our Driver Power car owner satisfaction survey, so long-term reliability can't be predicted just yet. But the brand says its UK engineering team has worked hard on the durability of the 1.5-litre petrol engine and most of the components used in the car are of the simple, tried-and-tested variety. Despite this, we don't think the MG3's fit and finish is a match for European, Korean or Japanese-built rivals – as mentioned above, much of the switchgear feels cheap and fragile. There's better news when it comes to your warranty, though: MG guarantees the car for three years or 60,000 miles, and offers free breakdown recovery for the same period. Plus, you get lots of safety kit for your money: six airbags, stability control, tyre-pressure monitoring and a system that keeps the brake discs dry in the wet are standard across the range. The top-spec Style also boasts automatic lights and wipers. Crash-testing body Euro NCAP hadn't yet rated the MG3 at the time of writing.
The MG3 does particularly well here. It's priced to compete with city cars, but offers five-door supermini space and ease of access. A tall roofline ensures plenty of headroom, both front and rear, plus there's 100mm more legroom available than in a Skoda Citigo. Useful storage spaces are dotted throughout the cabin: you get big door bins, several cup-holders, a large glovebox and a handy lidded container on top of the dash. The MG3's boot isn't as big as the Sandero's, coming in at 285 litres, it's still deep and well shaped. Plus, with the standard 60:40 split rear seat lowered, the MG can carry 1,262 litres of luggage.
The MG3 has a very low starting price, and even the top-spec model is less than £10,000. That makes the MG3 look like a very attractive financial proposition in the showroom. It's not quite as rock-bottom cheap as the Dacia Sandero, but it does sit in a lower insurance group, so will be cheaper to cover. Residual values are less impressive, however: experts predict an MG3 Style will be worth only 32.5 per cent of its new value after three years. Running costs are also hit by the outdated and inefficient petrol engine: 136g/km CO2 emissions mean a £125 annual tax disc, and we could only manage a poor 32.6mpg fuel economy in mixed driving, so you'll be making frequent trips to the petrol station.