MG aiming high with new MG3

The new MG3 will go on sale in September from less than £10,000

The new MG3 will promise MINI levels of personalisation for less than £10,000, when the car is launched in September.

The new five-door hatch, already on sale in China, is finally ready after undergoing a two-year redevelopment for demanding European buyers.

“You can’t take chances in Europe,” said MG chief Guy Jones, who admitted the car could have arrived sooner with fewer changes. Building up hopes, he said the firm is “in no hurry to make mistakes”.

MG director of EU programmes Alan Anderson revealed that all external trim has been changed and the chassis is “completely different. It has a faster steering rack, has been lowered, has new spring and damper rates and it’s all been tuned here in Britain.”

It’s the British aspects MG plans to concentrate on in marketing the MG3. Jones says the “British-inspired design is unique in the sector,” with the new baby MG offering a range of wacky roof graphics even more outlandish than those on a MINI.

Jones is targeting a “a new group of buyer, who want the most stylish car they can afford to show off their personality” – people who usually buy a Fiesta but aspire to the Audi A1 that’s beyond their price range.

To promote this, MG will drive buyers to an online car configurator, where they can mix and match all aspects of exterior and interior trim to create a bespoke MG3.

Inside the MG3

Unveiled during the opening of MG’s second British design studio on the old Longbridge site – the result of a further £1.5 million investment – the new MG3 is a distinctive, sporty motor with bold graphics and eye-catching ‘hockeystick’ LED running lights.

Auto Express was able to look around the first right-hand-drive MG3: what’s most striking is the sheer roominess of the Fiesta rival, particularly in the rear. The boot is a decent size, while the driving position seems good (although there’s no reach-adjust for the steering). Well-bolstered seats are comfortable, the design is modern and the sporty red-ringed dials are clear.

Quality seems good. The paint finish is smooth while the interior has a quality feel. The plastics are hard in places but don’t look cheap, and piano black trim on high-end models gives a premium look.

The single engine is a 104bhp 1.5-litre petrol motor: MG admits it is on the large side for the supermini sector but is hard at work in its on-site engine calibration lab to optimise economy and emissions. “We can tune it for torquey drivability which will give us more flexibility on CO2,” an MG engine guru told us.

He admitted the 135hp turbo version of the engine would fit but said there are currently no plans to do so. “But we could look at it if the market demanded,” he teased. A three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol turbo, jointly developed with GM, will also arrive later. There are no plans for a diesel.

Of course, the proof will be in the testing – and we won’t have long to wait, said product man Andrew Lowerson. First drives are expected in a few weeks’ time and every dealer will have a car in stock at the September launch.

With prices expected to start at under £10,000, MG is confident the new MG3 will cause a stir in Britain. After a stuttering start with the MG6 GT and Magnette, is it third time lucky with the MG3? In just a few weeks, we’ll find out.

MG dealers

Guy Jones, MG sales and marketing director, is in no doubt how important the MG3 is to the fledgling British division: “this is the car we have been waiting for.”

Much of the work MG has done to date has been preparing the ground for the MG3. This has, he revealed, focusing on dealers to ensure the current 40-strong network is strong enough. With this model on stream, Jones is targeting expansion to 65 dealers.

Explaining the firm’s poor performance to date, he admitted the MG6 is not the car most Brits want. “The D-sector is declining and people don’t associate a car of this size with MG.”

The firm is also not pushing sales at all costs: “we tested sales into rental but have now stopped. You can buy artificial sales boosts but we’re in this business to make money.”

Jones believes the firm’s past experience with the MG ZR – for a long time the UK’s best-selling hot hatch – will help it with the MG3. “Buyers aged from 25 to 75 bought that car, and threw was an equal male/female split, too.”

“The MG3 will raise brand awareness far faster and we’ll get it on the road far faster.”

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