Review: MG3 (Overall score = 3.5/5)

MG has a strong heritage in the UK, but its best days seem to be in the past. The Chinese-owned brand has had a rough ride in the UK in recent years, thanks to a limited dealer network and products which have struggled to compete with newer, more sophisticated superminis. The MG3 was launched in the UK four years ago and it wasn’t the most cutting-edge car in its class then. As newer cars have come along the MG has been left ever further behind in terms of technology, but some keen prices, an enjoyable driving experience and a healthy dose of practicality go some way for making up this lost ground. So if value and practicality matter more than having the latest driver assistance systems, the MG might just be worth a closer look.

Cabin (3/5)

The MG’s interior might be unsophisticated, but it’s pretty good with the basics. The seats are comfortable and supportive, the dash has a simple design and cubby hole space is pretty good. Access is easy thanks to the five-door layout (there’s no three-door option) and the rear seats have decent head and leg room. But delve deeper and things aren’t so polished as the instrumentation is confusing while the heating and ventilation controls aren’t intuitive enough; air-con is standard on all but base models.

The steering wheel adjusts only for rake, not reach, and the radio display looks like something from 1995; there’s no touch-screen display or navigation option, although a DAB radio and Bluetooth come on all but entry-level cars. But despite the low price the MG doesn’t look or feel cheap or nasty inside thanks to splashes of colour and a decent level of fit and finish.

MG3 cabin

Driving (3.5/5)

There’s just one engine option; a normally aspirated 1.5-litre petrol unit, mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. The gearbox is slick enough and the engine is refined, but it’s frustratingly short of torque. A small-capacity turbo engine would feel so much perkier but instead you’re left having to explore the upper reaches of the rev range if you need a sudden burst of acceleration. Around town and in general driving the engine works fine though, and the rest of the driving experience help to counter the lack of poke. The handling is excellent, the ride is comfortable and the controls are all light and easy to use, with the MG perfectly happy at motorway speeds. The engine is flexible too; you can sit at 30mph in fifth without grumble, although this is also partly down to relatively low gearing. All-round visibility is good and Hill Hold Control is standard across the range, along with stop/start. But you’ll search in vain for Auto Emergency Braking or Lane Departure Warning.

MG3 console

Costs (4/5)

The MG3 is tempting from a financial point of view thanks to keen list prices. The range kicks off at £8695 and runs to £11,695 and you get a reasonable amount of car for your money. While some of the more sophisticated, higher-profile rivals have better residuals, the MG’s low starting point means you shouldn’t lose your shirt if you buy one, and with all variations on the theme being in insurance group 4, cover shouldn’t be costly.

There are more modern, efficient engines available elsewhere, but there’s plenty to like about the MG – including the fact that a full-size spare wheel is included, which is now a rarity. One final caveat though: the MG dealer network is quite spartan. By the end of 2017 MG hopes to have 90 sites across the UK which is far less than for more mainstream rivals.