The MG Rover story still leaves a bitter taste in the automotive industry’s mouth, but the brand is back in one form, MG is once again producing cars for the UK. Phil Curry drove its latest offering, the MG 3
Rover was never a budget brand, it always carried that sense of being Britain’s answer to BMW – even when the German manufacturer owned it. MG on the other hand was the sporty marque, the one you wanted to have fun in. However, now the company is owned by the Chinese its values have changed. Rover is gone, perhaps carrying too much symbolism of failure. MG has been repurposed as a ‘budget’ model, with a fun and sporty side. Looking at the MG3, this is very apparent. It is intended to rival the Fiesta and Corsa, with a price akin to a city car.
The MG6 looks like a decent family car, however the 3 looks as though it is what it is, budget. That is not to be demeaning, because as far as budget models go it still has a cute and characterising charm to it. In honesty with its grill sitting below the headlight line, the car could be mistaken in passing for a Vauxhall Adam. Our model came with the Sports pack which includes a stripe decal, and it certainly aids the looks.
When it comes with alloy wheels, the narrow bodywork and nimble looks work well together. It is still a budget vehicle but unlike some in its price range, it can be mistaken for having a higher air of quality about it.
MG have excelled themselves here. Other cars in the price range have very basic interiors, full of grey plastic and not much else. The MG3 however has colour and charisma, The dashboard features a central cubby with vents surrounded by coloured rings – even the vents themselves could have come from a high-spec model. The seats are comfortable, well bolstered and the stereo is surrounded by a thin light strip that just adds class.
It has to be remembered however that the MG is built to a budget. The switches are clunky and the plastics do still feel cheap, even if at first glance they don’t look it. However this is not a Ferrari, and still offers the best looking interior for a car in this price range. It is a very nice place to be.
There are plenty of cubbies and pockets within the cabin to swallow up any odd objects you happen to want to place in them. In addition, the 285-litre boot is large enough for some luggage let alone shopping, although with an optional spare wheel in place this drops to 256-litres, still enough. Rear seats offer a 60/40 split as well and fold flat, increasing rear load space if you are in need of it.
The MG3 only comes as a five door too, so rear passengers will not struggle to wrap around the front seats as they get in. There is good head room in the rear too thanks to the high roof-line. This is all on par with other cars in its class.
Oh dear, the car was doing so well. In first and second the engine pulls nicely, and then we come to third. Testing this on both flat and hill there was a noticeable issue with the engine power at low revs, you have to mash your foot down to get anywhere. This continues into fourth as well. If you want to gain any speed you need to do it in first and second.
Our car featured the 1.5-litre 105PS petrol engine which is standard across the range,, and left me asking where the power was actually going, as it couldn’t have been the wheels. In fact the car offers peak torque at 4,750rpm, so be prepared to use that heavy right foot a lot. For cruising the car will be fine, however if you want to do some motorway driving you are going to struggle. For long journeys, you’d be better off with a Dacia or Kia for the money.
Despite reservations about the power, the MG3 is as nimble as anything, in fact it is too good to be this price. The chassis handles the road well, with suspension keeping the car as level as possible through corners. Steering is tight and responsive with no hint of understeer, and over bumps the shocks absorb the impact with ease. Yes there is some roll but the car is not wobbly with the steering. MG state that the car has been tuned for British roads and this does show, on the course the car was driven on it gripped well at respectable speeds.
At around £10,000, if you want a well handling car with a fantastic look and modern interior on a budget then this is the car you should be considering. If you want something that adds a bit of performance to the mix, look elsewhere. It goes, and it will get you there, but you will find yourself getting frustrated with the lack of power. For shorter trips, or slower trips, the MG3 is comfortable, pleasant and above all else, a fair price for a car. If MG sort out the engine to perform better at lower RPM, this could well be one of the best small cars on the market.