Re-Visited : MG3 – does it still cut the mustard?

Mike Humble :

From just over £8300 to a quid shy of £10,000 the MG3 offers a staggering fold of fun for your money... I have my reservations though!
From just over £8300 to a quid shy of £10,000 the MG3 still offers an impressive combination of fun and value for your money… I have my reservations though!

Someone accused me of being too harsh on the revised MG6 I recently experienced for a week. The person in question was in fact a brand “enthusiast” so maybe not the most ideal person to be throwing stones. I myself am an “enthusiast” but I have possibly had more exposure to the brand, the technology and the cars than most average consumers will have ever encountered, though I do take a very realistic view of cars despite my admiration for British engineering. I have very strong reservations about the MG6 in terms of viability, quality and long term residuals, its a difficult new car purchase to really recommend… but I like the MG3.

Its been a little while since I last sampled the cute little 5 door MG3 and yes okay its way off being perfect but for the bucks… there’s a hell of a lot of bangs. From the side it looks like a blurred Fabia VRS and from the rear it looks like a Punto, neither of which are bad things. I’m still impressed with the interior room, the overall comfort, the level of equipment, some of the design cues, and as for those alloy wheels… they look utterly sublime. Have a really good look around in the marketplace for an apples for apples rival in terms of the same cost and equipment — there aint one and its that simple.

So what have MG done to keep the car fresh and competitive in the marketplace? Well sadly… not much. Apart from a few tempting finance offers little has been altered with the car itself. The do seem to be building them better though, the one just recently driven was really tight and rattle free. There is still an odd power surge in 1st gear whereby the revs give a little surge when pressing the clutch that reminds me of the throttle mapping issue of the early 1.8 petrol MG6 – it needs curing and is quite pronounced and slightly worrying if you have never driven one before.

Its slightly high Co2 rating could be bettered with the adaption of a stop start system and the fuel economy is still best described as only average. But what the MG3 really needs is a new heart and soul, the 1.5 16v petrol doesn’t feel like the power it claims to possess. The power band is reminiscent of a two stroke Yamaha – all of about 1000rpm right at the top of the rev range. Bundle in a few passengers and try to plod a little lower down the rev range… its very disappointing. Wring its bloody neck though and it zips along quite happily with a nice raspy exhaust note – but at some expense of economy.

The 1.5 16v has a total lack of low end torque. MG and SIAC have access to a pool of decent engines. Throw in a jolly little light pressure turbo plant and you'll have laugh out loud fun as a result!
The 1.5 16v has a total lack of low end torque. MG and SIAC have access to a pool of decent engines so there really is little excuse. Throw in a jolly little light pressure turbo plant and you’ll have laugh out loud fun as a result!

As a driving tool, it really makes you smile. Communicative steering, an improved lovely quick gearshift, sharp handling and decent brakes make forget you are driving a sub £10K car – and remember… this was designed and engineered mainly by British workers, it really does spool along rather well. The lack of real grunt from the engine dilutes the fun factor on a bendy B road as it seems like you are rowing a boat in order to keep the performance brimmed. A nice low pressure turbo would turn this into a really good laugh out loud car to fool around in – Come on MG…. DO IT!

There’s not that much to tut and cuss about either. Sure, if you look hard enough there are one or two rough edges like the parcel shelf for example. Where the hinges fit to the shelf it looks like someone has used a red hot butter knife to cauterize the plastic – it looks really nasty in all honesty and a simple moulded cover would hide this. Also, the heater buttons are way too small and fiddly on the move at night and the radio while having a really good sound quality, is difficult to master and pair a phone without a study period with the owners manual.

Okay so the MG3 is a budget car. But there is a significant difference between value and cheap. This parcel shelf hinge is cheap - and dare I say it... downright nasty. Would a better design or even a moulded cover to hide it break the bank?
Okay so the MG3 is a budget car. But there is a significant difference between value and cheap. This parcel shelf hinge is cheap – and dare I say it… downright nasty. Would a better design or even a moulded cover to hide it break the bank?

The traditional hydraulic PAS (non of this modern fangled EPAS here folks) moans and groans like a angry Cat when you reach full lock and the suspension thumps and clunks over rough roads in a very vocal manner. Low speed ride is very firm and unsettled but as velocity increases the ride becomes agreeable – all in a sporting nature I guess. But on the whole its a decent car to cruise the miles in, the front seats are fairly soft and seem to provide good comfort if a little lacking in bolster support. Plenty of room, plenty of equipment and good looks – there’s a lot to like with the MG3.

It was certainly a talking point too. School kids yelled “that looks cool Mister” at my local newsagents and a few local residents stopped to ask about it – Its here where MG are really missing the boat. I get a little offended at the way the brand purists seem to be doing the Lions share of the sales and marketing. Apart from a sprinkling of TV commercials I have seen little marketing in the press or on bill boards. If you want to improve the car you have to make money from them and to do that you have to advertise them – I still cannot fathom out what game plan MG Motor UK are playing… that is… if they have an actual plan.

The steering wheel is chunky and the gearshift is vastly better than the one I drove. Lots of hard plastic but nothing rattled, broke or fell off. Heater buttons too small and fiddly and the wireless is a touch complicated but does have a decent sound quality
The steering wheel is chunky and the gearshift is vastly better than the last one I drove. Lots of hard plastic but nothing rattled, broke or fell off. Heater buttons too small and fiddly and the wireless is a touch complicated but does have a decent sound quality. Good use of internal space front and rear. The test car came with leather / AC / all round power windows / cruise – all standard too.

The MG3 is a really likeable and honest little bundle of fun and the press vehicle came in a radiant red with superbly applied Union Jack roof decal that simply yelled style and fun. Its just a shame the bloody awful marketing seems to be the only thing holding the product back from real feel good sales success in the showrooms. Apart from graphics to personalise your 3 with, there isn’t even any form of optional extras list to mix and match the specification but the low price and agreeable insurance ratings make it quite unique.

As much as I like the car – and I really do, the full package in terms of a solid back up from head office / global manufacturers level makes it tough in my opinion to wholeheartedly recommend as a new car purchase. Too many stories of owners waiting months for parts and dealers becoming disenchanted. You could maybe get away with this in a volume production world but in comparison MG build and sell their cars in the UK in penny numbers compared to the ilk of Ford and Co.

Annoyingly though, the company is part of a truly massive global outfit and none of the above brickbats would require heaven and earth to put right.

More info on the MG3 can be found by CLICKING HERE


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s