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2013 MG3 Road Test

By raccars Published

MG springs a supermini surprise

Impressive new supermini offer from MG: it’s not a class leader but is well priced enough to help you forgive this…

Price: From £8399
Gearbox: Five-speed manual
0-62mph: 10.9 seconds
Top speed: 108 mph
Fuel economy: 48.7 mpg
CO2: 136 g/km
On sale: Now
Insurance group: 4E

Three UK MG3 facts

  • MG offers 10 colours, with 10 colour matched ‘collection’ graphics packs – the total combinations number ‘many thousands’
  • Five models are available: 3TIME, 3FORM, 3FORM Sport, 3STYLE and 3STYLE LUX PACK
  • The 3STYLE offers reverse parking sensors, cruise control, climate control, auto lights and wipers, LED running lights, DAB radio and Bluetooth – all for less than £10,000

What is it?

MG is a comeback brand in the UK. It is born from the remains of the former top-selling MG Rover firm, which sold a broad range of cars in the UK until its well-publicised collapse in 2005. Chinese firm SAIC eventually ended up with the rights to the MG company.

Since then, SAIC has been rebuilding the firm in the UK. Now called MG Motor, a well-equipped design studio has been created at the former Longbridge, Birmingham car plant, and low-volume car assembly has been running for a few years to build its comeback car, the MG6.

That’s not a particularly high volume model, though. What the firm needs to really make headway in the UK is a supermini. Now, it has one: welcome, MG3 – to all intents, the new Metro. Is it a case of watch out Ford Fiesta?

Well, MG has certainly fired an early salvo to Britain’s best-selling car: every single model in the five-door, 1.5-litre model range will come in at UNDER £10,000. Prices are thus extremely competitive for the modern, stylish car that has a contemporary appearance and MINI-like personalisation. The proof is in the driving, though – so RAC Cars took to the road in one of the first in the UK to find out…

Performance

MG currently offers just a single 1.5-litre petrol engine with the MG3. By class standards, this 106hp motor is on the large side, but it also has more power than its rivals too. It gives decent performance if you rev it, with the MG3 sprinting from 0-62mph in 10.9 seconds if you are prepared to rev it: that’s pace that wouldn’t disgrace a larger family hatch.

Trouble is, the engine is less flexible and responsive if you don’t rev it. Pulling power at low engine speeds is lacking, so you have to change gear more often than you’d expect – and while it’s OK, the gearchange isn’t super-smooth (an automatic is unavailable).

The engine is also vocal when it’s revved, with a growly engine note that some may like because it sounds sporty, but others will not because they’re used to smoother and more refined machines. MG3 does admit that newer engines will arrive in time and we expect them to be more balanced all-rounders.

Ride and handling

Complementing the enthusiastic engine is a handling balance that again is more warm and sporty hatchback that mundane supermini five-door. The MG3 is really rather engaging to drive, with sharp and precise steering that gives good feel, plus fine turn-in and chassis composure.

The suspension is a bit firm, though. It’s not an issue on smoother roads but encounter a bumpy surface and you might find it becomes rather choppy. Tyre noise is a bit intrusive as well. Again, it’s a setup some will find a very welcome surprise, but which others may prefer were a little less sports-biased.

Inside story

The MG3 complements its neat exterior styling with a very attractive and modern-looking dashboard. It’s solid, reasonably high quality and has a particularly well thought out iPhone clamp option on the top (costing just £30!). There’s even a power lead included, plus a sliding cover that hides it when not in use. A very clever piece of design.

MG also offers a DAB stereo as standard, while upper-range models have big car features such as climate control for an affordable price. However, while the seats themselves are well bolstered and look sporty, they offer no more than average support.

There’s lots of space inside though, with lounging room for four adults. The boot is a decent 285 litres (pity about the deep sill) and there are lots of stowage slots inside. Overall, an impressive and contemporary interior with a lot to like.

Marketplace

MG knows it is entering one of the most competitive sectors of the new car market with the MG3. That’s why prices are so keen: starting from just £8399 is real headline-grabbing stuff, as are the sheer amount of decals, colour options and other bespoke features available. It’s easy (and cheap) to create a one-off MG3.

The trouble is, the engine isn’t as economical as the best in this sector. An average of 48.7mpg is unimpressive when you consider the Ford Fiesta EcoBoost, with similar power, will average 65.7mpg. CO2 emissions are also high, with the MG3 emitting 136g/km: a Ford Fiesta emits just 99g/km and gets free road tax.

MG will be hoping those competitive list prices – and the fact this is a British-assembled car (even if most of the major bits are made in China) – will count in its favour. The firm even offers a five-year warranty for little cost, suggesting plenty of confidence in its build quality and reliability.

Verdict

The MG3 is a surprisingly strong new entrant into the British supermini sector from a reborn brand. It’s not cutting edge but the bits where it’s not so strong are more than offset by the competitive pricing and strong attributes in other areas.

It’s not the best all-rounder but is able enough in areas where it counts to still be worth at least a passing look. With confident styling, a smart and roomy interior, some engaging driving dynamics and a sporty-feeling engine all counting in its favour, it seems MG may well be back after all.

Five rivals

Ford Fiesta – the standard by which all others should be judged. None has yet beaten it
Renault Clio 4 – super-looking French-themed supermini is rightly gaining many fans
Volkswagen Polo – the quality benchmark: a mini-Golf in the finest sense.
Kia Rio – a value supermini but it doesn’t feel built down to a price.
MINI Hatch – the MINI and the MG were once related: with high prices and little practicality, today’s MINI is the exact opposite of the MG3…

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