A week with the: MG3 3Style VTi-TECH

Mike Humble:

Three’s Company?

The MG3 3Style VTi-TECH - Is three the magic number for MG?
The MG3 3Style VTi-TECH – Is three the magic number for MG? – The snazzy alloy wheels look as good in reality as they do in the picture – stunning paint job too!

I have always tried to keep abreast of the developments of the last remaining piece of the soap opera that is MG. In the past, I have worked on and indeed sold the brand not to mention personally owning many of the marques that once sheltered under the great umbrella that was BL / Austin Rover / Rover Group and latterly MG Rover. The MG brand against all odds and past trauma remains with us staying true to the old tradition of affordable sporty orientated motoring at a cost that every-man, or woman for that matter can afford. MG6 has been developed into a fairly effective diesel and saloon – of which Autobritannia tested a short while ago and came away reasonably impressed. More recently, a very important model was launched after much media frenzy in the shape of a small 5 door hatchback – the all new MG3.

At the moment, the MG3 is offered in one body style with a solitary 105Ps 1.5 16v petrol engine and 5 speed gearbox. The new car had initiallycome into the UK fully assembled from China with only minor tweaks done by the Longbridge team in the form of personalisation kits. Owing to popularity increasing, MG has commenced UK production from kit form as per the MG6 which not only gives the MG3 a little more credibility, but a morale boost for the Longbridge plant staff. But getting down to brass tacks, the company is not what’s on test here… its all about the car. MG Motor UK kindly offered Autobritannia the use of an MG3 of which we gladly accepted having been quite pleased with the car after a brief test late last year. The model in question is the MG3 3Style VTi-Tech which sits at the top of the range with a quite remarkable price tag of just £9999.

The 1.5 engine revs freely and for most of the time is very smooth and well insulated from the occupants, but its worrying lack of bottom end torque is a let down.
The 1.5 engine revs freely and for most of the time is very smooth and well insulated from the occupants, but its worrying lack of bottom end torque is a let down. Service and DIY accessibility looks excellent – seasoned MG fans may have seen the oil cap before but powertrain similarities end there!

…the shut lines and panel gaps are well up to current standards with the overall shape looking neat and European

First impressions always count and when the car arrived I found myself quite pleased with the well applied “Newton Black” paint finish and go faster optional “Sebring Stripe” application to the roof and bonnet. The shut lines and panel gaps are well up to current standards with the overall shape looking neat and European. Even though the car has a fairly tall roofline, it sits low and squat on its 16 inch two tone alloy wheels that not only look brilliant, they seem to be very nice quality too. High rump styling with pillar mounted lamps adorns the rear while the chromed square section tailpipe looks snazzy and sporting – every inch in fitting with the cars sporting cache. Round at the front MG have treated the car to a decent looking chromed three dimensional octagon badge and discreet “MG” diffusers inside the headlamps.

The rising waist line in the bodywork goes a little way to neutralising the slightly slab sided profile and on the whole, the MG3 is a good looking little car that even when parked up has a naughty puppy look about it. Plipping the folding remote key allows access to the interior which features more bells and whistles for its sub ten grand ticket than a Mardi Gras street party. All round power windows, cruise control, iPod docking, Bluetooth music streaming, multi function trip computer and parking sensors are just some of the features MG offer as standard. Slipping into the height adjustable drivers seat gives you an excellent position and a sensibly sized leather trimmed steering wheel (height adjustable only) to hold onto. A brace of instruments that features an LED fuel gauge look a little fussy at first but work well and don’t dazzle or reflect at night.

A roomy and well functioning interior - Part leather seats are an inexpensive option.
A well functioning comfortable interior with near perfect driving position – Part leather seats are an inexpensive option but need more aggressive bolstering up front. Fit and finish is perfectly fine at this cost outlay and the level of standard kit is unrivalled!

Comfort wise, the MG3 is pretty good though I would like a little more bolstering in the seat and an option to adjust the lumbar – those issues aside, it’s easy to get snug in the MG. Oddment space comes from a good sized console mounted cubby hole with twin cup holder, door pockets and a dash top tray with MG logo and a sliding cover that not only looks neat but seems of good quality too. Staying with quality, it’s a mixed bag of acceptable and pretty good. The roof mounted grab handles are well made and well dampened and although the dash plastics are bone hard and cold to the initial touch, they don’t creak or squeak and seem reasonably well finished. At the asking price you would be mad to expect Germanic textures and quality but there really is nothing to cause worry or concern, it seems like it will go the distance.

One or two matters did make me tut. The steering wheel control buttons are finished in a brushed silver effect that emulate a remote control on a budget supermarket “own brand” DVD player, but all said and done, they work well enough and discretely illuminate at night. The glovebox is lacking some anti slip padding or a lamp for that matter but again, nothing really that detracts from enjoying the car. The lack of a temperature gauge is the norm on smaller cars and there is a red warning light to guard against your engine becoming a Burco tea urn. But when the engine is cold the lamp shines bright neon blue advising the pilot of a cold engine – why? What makes this a bit silly is the fact the light sits between the indicator arrows. Once or twice it caused me to think I had full beam on, it extinguishes after warming up though – just a test function during ignition would suffice.

Simple if slightly fussy looking dials work well and dont reflect at night. But why the bright blue engine cold warning light? - Its not needed and could be mistaken for full beam at night.
Simple if slightly fussy looking dials work well and don’t reflect at night. But why the bright blue engine cold warning light? – Its not needed and could be mistaken for full beam at night.

Roadholding is quite superb with tight body control and quick steering

One on the move, the MG3 is a likeable car to steer. The gearchange is very good indeed even when cold and not once was there a hint of baulk or struggle and the clutch is just right in weight and bite point. Brake and throttle pedals also present no difficulty either and there was no sign of an over eager throttle response that earlier petrol MG6 models suffered with. All the switches and twiddly bits work as you would expect with the column stalks having a nice defined on and off feel without the nasty snapping clicking noises that other cars in a similar price sector are known for. Same with the heating / ventilation, the controls work fine although the incidental buttons for the heated window and aircon are a touch too small for perfection. The aircon works well and the heater warms up quickly enough without feeling stuffy.

It doesn’t disappoint out on the road either. The drivetrain is very well insulated from the cabin and when sitting in stationary traffic you really struggle to feel any vibration, in fact, I`ll go as far to say that around town the MG3 is a real little gem of a car with accurate steering and effective brakes. Press on harder and the engine note takes on a buzzy nature which for most of the time doesn’t make you feel that she’s gonna blow Cap’n. Only if you really gun the engine does noise intrusion become unpleasant and once settled into a cruise the car remains happy and comfortable for its occupants. Ride and handling is a mixed bag of good and acceptable. Roadholding is quite superb with tidy body control and quick steering – full marks for the UK based engineering team who refined the car before launch.

If its good enough for VW... The neat MG font in the headlamp diffusers look cool and is a very credible styling cue.
If its good enough for VW… The neat MG octagon in the headlamp diffusers look cool and trendy – a neat and impressive design cue.

…providing you are happy to sling the needle round the dial, the 16v plant provides a smile. It has a jolly waspy kind of sound at the upper limits but off the boil it lacks some low end gutso

Around town, the ride can be a little restless with plenty of bump thump noise transmitted through the cabin over ruts and pot holes. It’s quite a firm set up generally and only an undulating road at speed will upset the damping and make the car become a little bouncy – I actually found this a great deal of fun to experience. To sum up the ride and handling – it’s a case of having the cake and eating it and any extra suppleness in the ride would compromise the handling which as mentioned before is quite superb. Performance wise does the MG3 cut the mustard? Well the 105Ps engine suggests a sparkling fizz and providing you are happy to sling the needle round the dial the 16v plant remains revvy and eager to provide a smile. It has a jolly waspy kind of sound at the upper limits but off the boil it does lack some low end gutso.

Change up too soon from 2nd to 3rd and it gets a bit frustrating if you want to press on. Maybe a tweak to the gearing might help this but at the moment, the lack of bottom end action especially with a passenger or two makes the car feel a little slothful. One only wonders what a light pressure turbo and a reduction to 2nd gear could do to the MG3 as there is so much potential in the handling. But don’t take the aforementioned as a reason not to consider the 3 I just think a little added pep would take this car from smile inducing to laugh out loud brilliant. Motorway driving brings a little cabin noise mainly from the tyres but the decent sounding stereo does a damn good job of drowning out the background noise. The low profile tyres don’t cause any tramlining symptoms that can effect smaller cars with wide rubber, its very stable at high speeds – even when its windy.

There’s plenty of room in the cabin and only the very tallest of back seat drivers would have any complaints. Even with the drivers seat at its highest my average height cleared the roof lining with room to spare and I had no problems with visibility either. The decent sized windscreen offers a commanding view with only the rear headrests and a slightly small interior mirror marring the backward view. Getting in and out is simple, the doors open wide and the sill is a sensible depth too. I found that the parking sensors worked quite well – so long as its dry, the test car seemed to be affected by heavy rain causing the bleep to sound constant when it was wet and there seems to be no option to switch the system off. There’s plenty of space under the bonnet as well, all the driver check items are clearly marked and the hood drops shut with a reassuring thunk.

No problems with space for passengers or clutter - Just a shame the seats don't fold flash to the floor.
No problems with space for passengers or clutter – Just a shame the seats don’t fold fully flush to the boot floor.

Fuel economy is a little below class average with a claimed combined figure of 48.7 mpg though my daily work commute to my Surrey office through some typically horrible local traffic saw the figure show around 40 mpg. Also, the CO2 rating of 136g/Km is bettered by most other class vehicles but bearing in mind the truly tempting price tag and an insurance rating of just 4E offsets the VED with money in reserve when whole life costs are added into the equation. As mentioned before, a light pressure turbo and addition of a stop start function is bound to pull down that all so talked about CO2 and MG are developing some new engines to address this but they can’t come soon enough. But in all fairness, there is so much going for the MG3 and I wasn’t expecting to be as surprised as I became over the week. It really wouldn’t take a great deal to turn it from not a bad little car into a damn fine little car.

The MG3 has been a joy to have for a week with some favourable comments and discussion coming from local neighbours and strangers. One such informed local and MGB owner described it being a 21st century MG Metro without the rust – I`m inclined to agree. They both have the same cheeky chappie character, keen road manners, that special ability to put a broad smile on your face and of course a strong bond with the UK Longbridge site. It’s a really likeable little car with very few major vices and when you wring its neck, the level of smile per mile pound for pound finds the MG3 unique in the market place. Yes… there are a few rough edges if you look hard enough but at this price I think it all adds to the character. Can MG Motor UK gain some much needed credibility in the industry and from its critics? – well.. with the promise of a better dealer network and upcoming greener engines I`d like to think so – over to you MG!

Many thanks to Laura Biss at MG Motor UK for the loan of the car.

OUR RATING? – 7/10

MAIN STATS:

Model: MG3 3Style VTi-TECH

Price: £9999 excluding options (£10843 as tested)

Back Up: 50 dealers & 3 year warranty with MG Assist

Engine / Transmission: 1.5 16v with 5 speed manual transmission (no auto option)

Power & Torque: 106Ps @ 6000rpm with 137Nm @ 4750rpm

Brakes / Suspension: Vented Disc & rear drums with ABS & T/C – Coils all round

Performance: 0 to 60 – 10.6 seconds 108mph (claimed)

Fuel Economy: Combined – 48.7mpg (Official figures) 40 mpg on test

Co2 & VED: 139g/Km Band E

Boot Space with seats up & down: 285 / 1262 litres with 60/40 backrest split

Insurance Rating: 4E

THE HIGHS:

Unrivalled value for money – Excellent equipment levels – Spacious, comfortable & practical – Impressive exterior fit & finish – Brilliant chassis – Solid feeling body engineering – Quick and precise gearchange – Good steering feedback – Good sounding stereo with Bluetooth & multi media capability – Easy & fun to drive – Very refined in urban circumstances – free revving engine – Gorgeous alloys – Cheap to insure.

THE LOWS:

Front seats need more bolster support – Needs a splash more colour inside – One or two minor quality doubts inside if you look hard enough – Lacks low end torque – Hard to the touch facia plastics – Residual values uncertain – Silly operation and positioning of coolant warning lamp – Fussy & small buttons on the heating controls – Economy & Co2 needs to be better.

 


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