The latest offering from MG desperately needs to boost the brands credibility, is the MG3 able to cut it or is it a blunt edge. Mike Humble grabs the wheel of the most important car the re-born company has launched.
Lets not try and kid ourselves, the MG6 has struggled the capture the hearts and souls of the British motoring public. Speaking as someone who has serviced and driven the ‘6’ in the past, the failure of the car has actually little to do with the vehicle itself – its actually quite a capable car with plenty of buttons, sublime road manners and it offers a nice environment for the driver and passengers. The main issue was quite simply – not enough people knew about it, in my honest opinion, the lack of media activity from MG was almost criminal.
I spoke to Laura Biss – MG’s new PR Manager who told me: ‘a lot has been learnt from MG6 we are addressing the critics but most of all we believe in the car.’ Laura as with the MG3 itself, are both new to MG and she seems confident with the way things are looking so far especially with the expressed interest in MG3 at dealer level. ‘We are getting to the point where demand is exceeding supply at the moment’ Laura quips with an infectious smile and we are to expect a ramped up marketing campaign from around October – lets hope so!
So here we are with another clean sheet of paper if you like with the all new MG3. This model has so much to prove to the public in terms of perception and confidence in the brand as a whole, not only that but it sits in an ever increasingly busier market sector. As with the ‘6’ the MG3 was engineered and styled with a huge involvement from the UK based engineering team that resides within the Longbridge assembly plant, the cars are assembled here in kit form from kits imported in from China.
Upon first contact, the car looks nicely proportioned and the ‘Smokey Blues’ metallic paint (£395 option) looked great and evenly applied. The car also came fitted with the snazzy ‘shards’ roof graphic pack that really does look different and bang up to date. MG claim the car is all about fun and to be fair, it genuinely made me smile as I studied the overall exterior – early impressions? its looking good. The rear aspect offers a cool looking square sectioned exhaust tailpipe and frontal highlights include neat hockey stick shaped L.E.D running lamps.
The 16 inch two tone ‘Cut Diamond’ alloy rims somehow manage to look both ornate and up to date yet still look the part to reflect the cars sporting accent. An MG3 decal adorns both wings which is subtle but again manages to look neat rather than cheap and aftermarket – the font style is great too. The glass area is just right as not to make the car appear too lofty in full broadside view and the overall look of the car doesn’t seem to blatantly copy or emulate anything else in its sector.
…getting snug and settled comes quickly thanks to a near perfect driving position
Size wise, the MG3 looks at first glance to be small, squat and compact but it is in fact larger than the MG ZR of old and there certainly seems to be more room to work around in once you have slipped into the drivers seat. The front seats look supportive and boasted the optional part leather trim which feels fine in quality and the leather itself seems a little more authentic in feel that what’s found in its bigger MG6 brother. The door closes with a reassuring clunk and getting snug and settled comes quickly thanks to a near perfect driving position.
Giving all the switches and buttons a good tug and pull confirms the fit / finish is okay for the money. The column stalks are clearly marked, well damped and operate with silent quality feel – no nasty loud ‘snappy clicky’ noises of those pre 2005 MG days. The steering wheel is leather trimmed, just the right diameter, has neat red stitching and features the usual buttons for the wireless and cruise control functions but they do feel a tad cheap. The folding ignition key is slotted into the barrel and the 1.5 VTi-TECH plant spins into life – lets have some fun!
As the ignition system activates, the needles on the small but perfectly legible dials sweep round the clocks in a check mode fashion and the rev counter features a snappy little ‘MG3’ logo. All the controls fall to hand fairly easily too which shows the considerable thought that’s gone into the car from the drawing board. Equally impressive are the four headlining mounted hinged grab handles which are also damped, feel robust and swing back to the flush position with all the action of something more expensive or German.
The stubby leather trimmed gearknob fits the palm nicely though I did find the shift action a little loose and clonky – something for the Longbridge lads to fettle with ease I’m sure. Cabin noise on idle is commendable, well muted with just a hint of sporting burble and going through the gears at average pace finds the car well insulated from mechanical intrusion. Driving in heavy traffic is good owing to well weighted disc / drum brakes and steering with good feel without over-assistance from traditional belt operated system.
The audio / CD unit blends well into the fascia, has a nice quality sound and the dash top cubby tray with sliding privacy cover is home to an MG branded anti slip mat. An iPod / MP3 docking port lives here too – another neat little design feature that will appeal to the younger driver MG are hoping to attract. No complaints about the way it drives in the urban chaos, so in the hope of taking in the action I take a back road to see if the MG3 can turn on the substance to match its funky style – lets see.
…overall, the cabin is well laid out, works well and featured no annoying squeaks or rattles
Throwing on some extra coal brings the 1.5 litre engine into life with an eager buzz, the cabin noise increases under heavy throttle loads but never sounds strained. I would have liked a bit more torque from an engine of this size and the gap between 2nd and 3rd cog really shows this if you change up a moment too soon. A six speed box would go some way to curing this but on the whole even when driving 10/10ths, the MG3 remains stable, able and agile. On the whole, it feels well engineered and very European.
High speed refinement brings average noise levels into the cabin, door seal fit seems excellent and the large door mirrors don’t seem to induce any extra wind noise. All round visibility is fine for a car of this size, the chunky door mirrors give a commendable view of incoming bandits but I found the interior rear view mirror a little too small for my liking. So overall the cabin is well laid out, works well and featured no annoying squeaks or rattles and I particularly liked the chunky well spaced pedals that seemed perfectly positioned.
Arriving at my destination, I take a look in the rear to find reasonable leg room, good headroom and a decent boot capacity offering 256 litres of space. The glovebox is generous and there is plenty of space for trinkets, nick nacks and other loose lying clutter. The Style model offers a commendable level of standard kit such as cruise, all round electrics, blue tooth integration, rain sensing wipers, dark sensing headlights (with neat MG logo in the bulb diffuser) and reverse parking sensors – very well appointed indeed!
…a very convincing and pleasing all round package… not perfect by any means but there are no fatal flaws either – it deserves to do well.
All in all its a very likeable car generally speaking. There are a few doubts relating to quality but its well fitted out and so cheap too – even the range topper gives you change from £10.000 which is amazing. Insurance groupings are very low which adds even more appeal to a very convincing and pleasing all round package – at this price it virtually has no direct rival. MG have a potential hit on their hands, all it needs to do is market the thing make up lost ground and generate that all important brand interest. Its not perfect by any means but there are no fatal flaws either – it deserves to do well!
The Highs: Superb value for money – Good styling cues – Low insurance grouping – Brilliant handling – Top model is well appointed – Interior space – Customising option packs look great.
The Lows: Some quality gripes – Hard non padded dashboard – Lacks low speed torque – Gearshift action not the best – Low number of dealers.
Our score? 7/10
1.5 transverse in-line four – 105Bhp
5 speed manual gearbox (no auto option)
5 door bodyshell with impact protection and six airbags
Ventilated front disc brakes with rear drums
All round coil springs and independent suspension with anti roll bars
MPG & CO2 – 48mpg combined & 136g/Km
Insurance group – 4E
Price: £9.999 excluding options and includes 3yr / 60.000mile warranty
Require more info? MG MOTOR UK