MG 3 Review
The MG 3 is a budget supermini that’s spacious and backed up by a long warranty but spoiled by poor interior quality
Strengths & weaknesses
- Distinctive and attractively styled
- Spacious interior
- Fun to drive
- Low-rent trim and materials
- Expensive against some other budget rivals
- Engine has to be worked hard
The MG 3 brings a slice of the past to modern motoring. MG is owned by a huge Chinese car maker now but plays up to the original brand’s heritage.
That said, there’s no MG B-style two-seat sports car in the model range. Instead, this MG 3, for example, is a conventional five-door hatchback; a price-led model with a long warranty intended to help establish the revived marque as quickly as possible.
Accordingly it’s priced against smaller city cars such as the VW up! and Citroen C1, but it’s real competitor is the equally roomy Dacia Sandero, which, is actually a lot cheaper (around £2500) than it but just as well equipped. The Sandero can also be powered by more modern and efficient engines.
The MG 3 has its work cut out. It does look a lot more attractive than the Sandero, and is available in a range of bright, contrasting colour schemes.
It’s also backed up with an almost industry-leading seven-year warranty (only Kia beats it with 100,000 miles’ cover rather than the MG’s 80,000 miles).
The MG is also one of the most fun cars to drive in this price point. Find a twisty road and the car comes to life; the steering is well weighted and the handling is precise with very little body roll and lots of grip. The downside is firm suspension that crashes and thumps into potholes and makes the car feel unsettled.
Unfortunately, its 1.5-litre petrol engine lets it down. It’s an outdated motor that’s larger and less efficient than rivals’ smaller, turbocharged engines. You have to work it hard to get the decent performance that’s there, somewhere.
The MG 3 is an attractive and reasonably sporty-looking car but you can take it to the next level with optional styling packs and contrasting colour schemes. It’s good-looking inside, too, and more distinctive than rivals. It’s let down, though, by some low-rent trim, fiddly controls and inconsistent quality. At least Excite and Exclusive trimmed cars have an 8-inch touchscreen system with Apple CarPlay.
It’s a roomy place interior offering good head and legroom in the front and rear. There are lots of handy storage solutions, too, although bizarrely, if you want a map pocket, you’ll need to stretch to top-spec Exclusive trim.
|Warranty||7 years/80,000 miles|
|Boot size||285 litres|
|Tax||£210 in the first year; £145 from the second year|
Best MG MG3 for...
Best for Economy – MG3 Explore
All versions can do 42mpg so this one gets our vote for simply being the cheapest, at less than £9,500.
Best for Families – MG 3 Excite
All three versions have five doors, a spacious interior, split-fold rear seats and a large boot but mid-spec Excite brings just the right amount of additional comfort and convenience kit without making the model too expensive.
Best for Performance – MG 3 Exclusive
Again, all three versions have the same performance but top-spec Exclusive at least has sports seats and an uprated sound system.
2013 Model launched with all four versions costing less than £10,000.
2015 Revised MG 3 launched better economy and lower emissions.
2017 MG 3 Style+ with upgraded interior is launched.
January 2018 Five-year warranty introduced.
September 2018 Seven-year warranty introduced.
Understanding MG MG3 names
The MG 3’s trim names – Explore, Excite and Exclusive – are intended to convey a sense of their equipment level, positioning in the range and character.
Engine 1.5 VTI Tech
The first figure is the size of the engine in litres, and ‘VTI Tech’ the fuel injection and ignition system the engine uses.
MG MG3 Engines
While many manufacturers are moving over to small but powerful and efficient 1.0-litre turbocharged engines for their superminis, the MG 3 uses a larger, non-turbocharged 1.5-litre engine.
Clever fuel injection technology means it’s reasonably economical, with up to 42mpg possible but a Dacia Sandero powered by the car maker’s 0.9-litre TCe 90 engine can do almost 46mpg. The Dacia’s emissions are lower, too, so that in the first year it attracts a £170 road tax charge compared with the MG 3’s £210. From the second year both cars move to the standard £145 charge.
On the other hand, the MG 3 is slightly quicker from 0-62mph than the Sandero (10.2 seconds versus 11.1). The downside is that you have to put your foot hard to the floor and rev the engine to make decent progress. In comparison, a turbocharged motor, even a small one, produces the bulk of its power lower down in the rev range so is easier and more relaxing to drive.
MG MG3 Trims
Explore, Excite, Exclusive
Entry-level Explore trim establishes the MG 3’s standard equipment level. Highlights include Bluetooth, electric mirrors, a 60:40 split and fold rear seat, and front and rear electric windows. However, it’s £700 more expensive than a Dacia Sandero in Comfort trim, the model’s highest specification. This has Explore’s features plus air-con, a digital radio, rear parking sensors, a sat nav and a height-adjustable driver’s seat. However, only the front windows are powered.
The next trim in the MG 3 range is called Excite, with some justification. It has air con, 16in alloy wheels in place of Explore’s 14in steel ones, body-coloured trim, rear parking sensors and a digital radio. It’s more like Sandero Comfort trim but costs £2600 more. Meanwhile, it costs £1900 more than MG 3 Explore trim.
The MG 3’s third and final trim level is Exclusive. It costs a further £1400 but only offers sports seats, cruise control (which the Sandero Comfort has), a reversing camera, a modestly uprated sound system and map pockets. It’s poor value for money.
MG MG3 Reliability and warranty
The MG 3 is backed by a seven-year/80,000-mile warranty. Only one other car maker, Kia, offers similar protection (its seven-year warranty runs to 100,000 miles).
No MG models featured in the latest 2018 Auto Express Driver Power owner satisfaction survey but in 2015 the manufacturer ranked fourth, down from third place the year before.
However, worryingly, it had dropped out of the table by 2018.
Our feeling is that while the MG 3’s interior trims looks and feels low rent and quality is inconsistent, underneath it all, the car is probably well built and simple enough, technically, not to cause too many concerns.
Used MG MG3
Mid-spec Excite models are the best value, new and used.
Bright metallic colours give the model a helpful lift and there are some eye-catching optional paint and trim schemes that raise it above the mundane and these are worth seeking out.
Add the benefits of Excite trim and the balance of the seven-year warranty, and you’ve a used car which, at the right price, makes a lot of sense.
The seven-year warranty is only applicable for cars registered on or after 1 September 2018. Cars registered on or after 2 January 2018 have a five-year warranty. Cars older than this only have a three-year warranty.