A week with an MG3

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MG3_1Day 1: The MG3 has a nice key. This is important, it creates a good first impression. Its big brother, the never-popular MG6, has the most cacky, flimsy fob in history so it’s nice that MG has learned from this mistake and given its new small car a nice, substantial flick key. The good impression isn’t spoilt by the car itself which looks  nice, in a generic, last-generation Hyundai sort of way. The flappy door handles are old fashioned but the alloys on this car have a matt inner bit, a polished outer face and proper, intricate MG badge. They look expensive. You can have your 3 plastered in all sorts of stickers and contrasty bits if you like. I probably wouldn’t. The only bit of the outside I don’t like is the exhaust, which is too small and rectangular to work as the design feature it strives to be. It’s reminiscent of a robot’s anus.

Day 2: A trip to Warwickshire. The MG is noisy on the motorway but the stereo isn’t bad at distracting you from this. It’s a very neatly integrated bit of kit, it has standard DAB and Bluetooth streaming, and at night a little illuminated red line marks its perimeter. All in all, a neat job.  You’d say the same of most of the interior. Some of the plastics are hard but the design and texturing do their best to stop you noticing. The electronic temperature control display, based around a stack of blue and red bars, is groovy too. It’s different and it makes you feel like they’ve made an effort.

They’ve made an effort with the chassis too. This is a very amusing little car. The ride is firm but the damping feels grown up and expensive. The steering, which is needlessly heavy at parking speed and goes weirdly light in a straight line, gets better when you’re acting like a helmsmith. There’s even some sense of the grip and conditions being experienced by the front wheels. The MG3 has hydraulic rather than electric power steering which probably helps. The only weak link is the engine. It’s okay short shifting through town. It’s okay when you’re trying to burn off all its petrol in the countryside. But it feels tight chested and lazy in between those two extremes. It’s a car in which you need to change gear a lot. Fortunately, the gear change is pretty good. The MG website makes much of this car being ‘fun’. On this afternoon’s showing, they’re not lying.

MG3_2Day 3: I need to collect A Big Thing from a nearby shop. Often when you put the seats down in a small car you see all manner of half-arsed trimming, lazily stapled into place. Surprisingly, the MG3 seems to be properly put together in places you rarely see. It feels like they’ve spent a few quid to make it more satisfying. It has damped grab handles too, and the electric window switches are on the door when the cheap option is to bung them between the seats so they don’t need moving for left- and right-hand drive.  Even the cubby cover on the top of the dash has a nice texture and smooth action. It wouldn’t get kicked out of VW’s quality bed for badly designed farting. The only let down is the driver’s seat in this car which sometimes creaks.

Day 4: Britain is gripped by WIND CHAOS this morning. The MG3 seems to cope perfectly well with a firm breeze. Mind you, so do all the other cars on road.

Go over to my mate Gareth’s in evening. His 13 year old son has a look round the 3 and decides it would appeal to old people because the dashboard is simple. Later he decides it would actually be good for young people because you can have a phone dock on the dash and stickers all over it. He also points out that there’s loads of room in the back. He’s right on many counts.

Day 5: Queuing in traffic on the North Circular a dude in a beanie hat driving a new Audi A3 hoots at me from the next lane and signals for me to wind down my window. ‘I thought MG was gone?’ he shouts. ‘They’re back!’ I reply in a slightly-too-jaunty way. It feels like we’re stuck in the start of a very bad advert. ‘This is their new car,’ I continue, trying to bring my voice down an octave. The bloke cranes forward from his gangsta lean to have another look at the 3. ‘That’s looks a’ight,’ he says. ‘Yea, it’s a’ight.’ And with that, he is gone.

As it turns out, all is not a’ight with the MG3. The low tyre pressure warning light has come on. The cause turns out to be a ruddy great screw embedded in one of the front tyres. Damn.

MG3_3Day 6: I didn’t take the 3 home last night because I couldn’t be bothered farting about with the can of expanding foam in the boot. It’s only when a man comes to get the car I discover there is no can of expanding foam in the boot; the MG has a full size spare. I don’t know how they’ve crammed that in and left a decent boot. Actually, maybe I do. A lot of the engineering was done at Longbridge in Birmingham. Maybe they’ve still got the packaging manual they referred to for the Mini and the Metro. Unlike those cars, the 3 isn’t actually built at Longbridge though. MG was claiming part assembly in Britain but now says demand is such they’re bringing them in fully built from China. This isn’t a problem. In fact, it’s the future. Recognisable brand name + Western design and engineering + Chinese factory = profit. It’s a model that works in electronics and increasingly we’ll see it with cars. Knowingly or not, MG is ahead of the game here. And if the cars keep turning up feeling as simple but well made as the 3 then it’ll be fine.

Goodbye: The MG3 is gone. Shame. It’s a amiable little car. The engine needs to be more zingy, and indeed less thirsty, but the rest of the car is perfectly decent and capable of being cheerily entertaining when the mood takes you. I’d have one over a Micra, a Corsa, a C3 and many other second division supermini also-rans. If it was competing head on with big hitters like the Fiesta and the Polo it might be found wanting but it’s not because even this, the top model, is less than 10 grand. And for that money, it’s a very likeable bargain.

The car talked about here is an MG3 3Style. It has a 1.5-litre engine making 105 horsepower, giving a top speed of 108mph and a 0-62 time of 10.8 seconds. In this trim it costs £9999. 


  1. A most sensible and informative review, Mr Porter.
    Can I ask though, what was the “big thing” you put in the back?

  2. Very good unbiased report,with good information.Unlike some of the motoring critics who will always slag off MG.

    Weel done

  3. Surprisingly upbeat compared to some MG3 reviews I’ve read. That makes a nice change. So, who has nailed it accurately. Only a drive will confirm. This comment also a surprise :~

    “MG was claiming part assembly in Britain but now say demand is such they’re bringing them in fully built from China. This isn’t a problem. In fact, it’s the future.”

  4. The “big thing” was a new shower Sam. More home improvement news as and when I have it.

  5. @Sam Mace
    They’re planning a 163bhp turbo at some point, if that helps. Not sure if they’re bringing it to the UK, though.

  6. Ahh, so it’s not the “The Sniff Petrol Shower” like old Top Gear had “The Top Gear Suitcases” when demonstrating the size of a boot?

    @ Keith…but will it have read seat belts?

  7. It looks like a vehicular simpleton… the Forrest Gump of car design. It should have permanently wet bottom lip.


  8. FNU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1!!!!

  9. Horse’s Head?

  10. So when do you go looking up Robots bum’s to know what it’s anus looks like?

  11. Hi Richard, does this review mean you can’t say silly things about MG now? 🙂

  12. What? Asymmetrical wheels again?
    The world has gone mad.

  13. So, MG have done a good job with the car. Shame that their advertising budget seems to amount to a few buttons, a safety pin and a bit of fluff – most people will never know it exists, and give it any consideration.

  14. MG was claiming part assembly in Britain but now say “demand is such they’re bringing them in fully built from China.”

    Only 36 new MG Motor registrations during October 2013, and that includes any sales of the MG6!

    Will November’s new registration figures be much better?

    It looks like we’re going to have to wait until March 2014 to see whether the MG3 is a success or a failure.

  15. I will never buy an MG without headgasket fail.

    Why dont’ make just cabriolet, spider and sportives car instead of this ugly chinese box?!?wtf!

  16. At least now, it’s cheap price. Instead of 10 years ago when you could have spent 20k for a TF, and the quality seems to be the same…spittle and tissue paper! Mg owner!

  17. Could be good! the 6 was never a Good car, but this, in 3 door, with a lot more poke, could be good fun!

    Take it to Hyundai and build a rally car?

  18. A robot’s anus – was that Kraftwerk?

  19. Valerie Singleton?

  20. This car seems to have much in its favour – a nice key – I too hate cacky flimsy fobs. if the exhaust looks like a robots anus that can only be a good thing, although it depends on the robot; Kryten, yes please, C3PO less so and Marvin – no thanks. The handles on the flappy doors are old fashioned, I’m not sure about that, I have never had a car with flappy doors and I suspect they may be troublesome in high winds.

    The badges look expensive and that is a plus, the only problem is they are MG badges. I only drive cars with Mercedes badges, purely for image you understand. If the car was available with Mercedes badges then I might consider it. My current car is a 1996 ‘S’ Class one, formerly owned by a Mr Al Fayed, although it has been in an accident Al has done an excellent job of having it repaired, it is hardly distinguishable from new – apart from one side being slightly longer than the other.

  21. The engine in the MG3 is actually the big brother of what’s in the new Vauxhall Adam: the GM “Small Gasoline Engine” which comes in 1.0 3-cyliner, 1.3 4-cylinder and 1.5 (longer stroke) 4-cylinder variants. I wouldn’t have bought one if it had a re-worked Rover K-Series in it like the MG6…

  22. Had mine since October 1013 and it is my first ever MG so I don’t come with all the baggage that old MGers come with. Yes built in China, what isn’t these days. Those of us who have bought one love it and enjoy all the driving experiences it gives us. Plenty of reviews seem to have been done in cars with less than a 1000 miles on the clock and us owners know that it doesn’t loosen up till you hit about 3000. Some of the comments on here would be laughable if they weren’t so bad, Jennifer and Simone if your English you need to go back to school and learn to write some thing that makes sense.

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