Time well spent: MG3 3-Style VTi-TECH

Mike Humble:

The MG3-3 Style. Pretty cheeky looks and a price tag that's just as attractive - Is is just a cost lead purchase or does it have the minerals too?
The MG3-3 Style. Pretty cheeky looks and a price tag that’s just as attractive – Is is just a cost lead purchase or does it have the minerals too?

MG – two initials that symbolise affordable fun, and has done for 90 years. Few other automotive brands have such an emotive and loyal following or captured so much media attention – rightly or wrongly. Whatever your thoughts or opinions may be concerning MGs incumbency, the brand seems to be here to stay and AUTOBRITANNIA.NET were offered the chance to spend a little time with a very important model in the current MG portfolio – the new MG3.

Final assembly in Birmingham comes from kits supplied via China , the MG3 comes in just one body shape of a compact 5 door hatchback. It looks very European in all honesty, of which it should do owing to the fact it was a British design team who engineered the car to suit the British palate. A fashionable high rump shape with pretty decent shut lines and panel gaps certainly meet the rivals for first impression external build quality.

The interior works well without any rattles or squeaks. It needs more colour to lift the dark ambiance. Some plastics feel bitterly cheap and hard - but its well built and beyond reproach for the price tag.
The interior works well without any rattle or squeaks. It needs more colour to lift the dark ambiance. Some plastics feel bitterly cheap and hard – but its well built and beyond reproach for the price tag.

The test model featured the optional “Newton Black” paintwork that looked very evenly applied with only a smidge of orange peel effect that’s common on certain painted plastic parts. The racy red “Sebring” stripe (part of an extensive optional graphic pack) looked good with the black paint without seeming like a DIY boy racer job from a kit from Halfords. The polished alloy wheels are simply awesome in appearance – they have certainly given the MG3 that all important kerb-side appeal.

Its head on view is great too with stylish headlamps that feature a tidy little MG octagon logo on the bulb diffuser and a snazzy looking grille featuring a bold 3D effect MG badge. Some rather bold looking daytime L.E.D lamps adorn the bottom corners of the bumpers, but oddly enough, there seems to be no provision for the fitting of front fog lamps. While round the rear, the tailgate tapers towards the top with ample sized pillar light clusters either side, all topped of visually with a neat chromed tailpipe finisher.

The dials perform a racing style sweep when the ignition is turned on. Bright blue lamp to advise of a cold engine is confusing at night and totally unnecessary.
The dials perform a racing style sweep when the ignition is turned on. Bright blue lamp to advise of a cold engine is confusing at night and totally unnecessary.

Jumping inside, it’s a little lacklustre compared to the spicy exterior and the colour scheme is of varying shades of black, grey, a little more grey and hints of silver. The part leather seats feel a little too soft and squidgy for a car with a sporting cache, but comfortable, adjust well and offer a good commanding view. The pedals are just where they need to be with no offset noticeable and the controls on the column are damped in action and work well.

Heating and radio controls work fine too though the buttons on the panel are a little small and fiddly. All in all, everything inside the MG3 works well and the stereo that features most of your usual media inputs and Bluetooth has a fairly good sound quality. Passengers won’t complain about space as there is ample head and legroom within the compact body shell, even the boot is well proportioned, deep and has the expected benefit of a split rear seat back.

As mentioned already, the interior colour plan is a touch drab and don’t expect BMW-like quality in the plastics – it’s all very hard to the touch with little padding on the facia. But its not the end of the world as nothing squeaks, creaks or rattles – its all about managing the expectations as the top the range model still gets you enough change for a newspaper and some sweets from £10.000. MG3 is very well appointed to, even air-con, cruise, parking sensors and bluetooth come standard with this model.

Now where have I seen that oil cap before? The 1.5 plant revs freely and is wonderfully quiet around town. It lacks some bottom end torque though but new engines are in the pipe line that can't come soon enough.
Now where have I seen that oil cap before? The 1.5 plant revs freely and is wonderfully quiet around town. It lacks some bottom end torque though but new engines are in the pipe line that can’t come soon enough.

Everything looks ship shape under the bonnet. The 16v 1.5 engine is well installed with easy to notice daily / weekly check items and seems to be workshop or DIY friendly. The engine has a smooth idle sound and is eager to rev. Again, it looks European under the bonnet with fixtures and fittings looking on a par with main rivals. The battery seems to be of decent capacity with power to spare and fans of heritage MG cars fitted with the K series will appreciate the bright yellow oil filler cap that adorns the cylinder head.

Slotting the stubby gearlever into go! The MG3 is very refined in urban mode, the brakes are well weighted as is the clutch – the only minor gripe was the slightly loose feeling gear change action with a rather cheap feeling knob. Away from the town mayhem the MG3 rides and handles rather well while the traditional hydraulic steering set up gives loads of feeling through the meaty leather clad steering wheel rim.

The octagon logo on the headlamp bulb diffuser is a really effective styling touch - Impressive!
The octagon logo on the headlamp bulb diffuser is a really effective styling touch – Impressive!

Quick steering movements bring little excess body roll considering its lofty profile and plenty of grip is underfoot – it really is quite an impressive chassis set up. All the aforementioned is sadly let down by what either feels like badly chosen gearing or a lack of bottom end torque. To get the best from the MG3 one has to really ring down to the engine room and long motorway hills can really show up this issue quite badly – especially when trying to regain speed after slowing down for heavy traffic.

What it really needs is a peppy light pressure turbo unit to boost up that void at the lower rev ranges, though new engines are in the pipeline to answer this matter that can spoil the driving enjoyment. Refinement overall is on spec for a car of this size with motorway legal cruising being no better or worse than any similar priced vehicle. Only when you give it some beans and hold onto the gears does it provide undue mechanical racket.

Packaging is pretty good. Plenty of interior space and a decent sized boot - shame the floor is not not flat when the backrests are folded.
Packaging is pretty good. Plenty of interior space and a decent sized boot – shame the floor is not not flat when the backrests are folded.

But where the trump card really plays is with its the price. Under £10.000 for a well equipped, well made and snappy looking five door hatch with every extra you normally have to pay for as standard kit. There’s a good warranty, an expanding network of dealers and an amazing amount of optional graphic packs to stamp your own identity onto the car. Yes it’s a cheap little car, but its actually quite good too with very little required to make this rough diamond shine bright – and yet it doesnt feel cheap.

One question I was asked more than once was “is it worth a punt?” well, I’d say yes. Nothing compares for value or cheeky puppy type looks, it’s well equipped and the dealer network is gathering pace too. The network seems to be a jolly gathering of established family businesses rather than the PLC corporate glass houses, selling on repute and that all important customer service. This can only do good for the brand which has had more than its share of brick-bats in recent times.

It has its shortcomings of course. The longer term residual is unproven and the current engine needs more oomph lower in the rev range, it also needs better Co2 figures too. New power units cannot come soon enough – its not currently way out of class, it just requires that competitive emission edge… after all, green IS the new black. As a car though, it’s cute, stunning value and talented through the twists – a very likeable little pocket rocket.

All MG need to do (and its not going to be an easy task) is to shrug off the negative image that some critics hold against the company. The dealer network needs to continue improving and more “in your face” confidence building adverts to hammer home the “back to stay message”. Address the poor bottom end power and add a splash of colour to the interior and you`ll have a car that’s really quite talented, superb value for money and damn good fun.

Performance: 7/10
Build Quality: 7/10
Styling: 8/10
Handling / Ride: 8/10
Space & Comfort: 8/10
Interior Presentation: 5/10
Refinement: 7/10
Value: 10/10
Economy: 6/10
Feel good factor: 8/10
Kerbside Appeal: 9/10

Our Overall Rating: 7/10

Points of commendation: Amazing value – Well equipped – Low Insurance grouping of 4E – Grin inducing chassis – Communicative steering feel – Spacious interior – Refined around town and when cruising – Good sized boot – Has no sporting rival anywhere near its price – Great looking alloys – Naughty puppy dog looks – Exterior fit / finish & paintwork very good for the price.

Reservations: Interior is lacking in pzazz – Some plastics and fittings could be more sympathetic to the touch – Noisy when pushed hard – Not as frugal as you would imagine – Feels breathless at lower revs – Heater & radio controls a little fiddly – Front seats could be a little firmer.

THE MAIN STATS:

Produced by: MG Motor UK SAIC
Engine / Gearbox: 1.5 16v in-line transverse with 5 speed geearbox
Power: 106Ps
Suspension / Steering: Coils with struts at front, twist beam at rear / Hydraulic P.A.S
Brakes: Vented discs front & Drums rear – lever type handbrake – ABS & EBD
Fuel Economy / Co2: 48.7mpg combined (42mpg on test) / 136g/Km

Price: £9.999.00 (£10.797 as tested with options)

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE MG3 CLICK HERE


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