16 Oct 2013

2013 MG3 first drive review

Matt Hubbard reviews the 2013 MG3 - a car that is of huge importance to the 'new' MG

2013 MG3

The MG3 is a pretty little car, from its Tusken Raider lower grille, its sharp lines and its well brought together rear end.  It sits quite tall and narrow, a bit like a Polo.  The wheels are great too, although they do look quite a lot like an Astra VXR's.

You can order one in lots of funky colours and with one one of many different graphics packs.  Sadly the test car's graphic was 'Shards' which is one of the worst.  The Union Flag (Hope & Glory) or Mod decals look great.

At £9,999 this top of the range Style model is good value, sits in a low insurance group and returns 48.7mpg, so potentially appeals to younger drivers.

And that's just about where the good stuff ends.

The interior is a riot of cheap plastic and overly simple design.  It attempts to look funky but comes over as too much of a budget car, without much in the way of classy touches.

The MG3 doesn't come with a touchscreen but does have digital radio.  The control unit for the radio and sound system is a nasty slice of 80s retro who's display resembles one of those digital watches you used to get free with a tank of fuel.
2013 MG3 interior

The seats are OK and the driving position fine, although the brake pedal sits too close to the driver.

You pull away sounding like someone who's not driven in years.  The throttle response is all in the first inch or so of travel, and it has a light action so you rev the nuts off the thing whilst finding the clutch's bite point.

The 1.5 litre petrol engine is thrashy and needs working to find its 104bhp and 101 lb ft of torque.  Its sound is intrusive into the cabin too.  The 5-speed gearbox is merely OK and nothing to write home about.

This is an MG so its USP will be a dynamic and fine handling chassis, right?

Erm.  Not really.

The steering has a dead zone in the centre and when you do make a turn the body has too much roll.  I tested several cars on the same day.  I took all of them along a 1 mile stretch, at the end of which was a roundabout.  I tested every car's understeer round that roundabout.

The MG understeered more than any.  Go too fast into a corner and it understeers, apply power coming out of a corner and it understeers.  You can't even induce mid-corner throttle-off oversteer.

I don't know whether this understeer is engineered into the car or just a by-product of a lazy chassis and cheap suspension design and components.  Whatever, an MG isn't an MG with this amount of front wheel scrub through corners.
2013 MG3

I expected a lot from the MG3.  It's manufactured in China but assembled in the UK.  It should be a lot better than this, even though the price is low.

A Clio is much more classy and only costs £600 more, but with higher residuals its monthly finance payments will be lower than the MG3's.  A Dacia Sandero is a full £4k cheaper, and is bigger and has a more refined ride.  A Skoda Fabia is a similar price, a lot slower but a lot classier.

Basically the MG3 does not stand out as a good car, and isn't good value compared to the competition.  If MG can someone tidy up the chassis to stop it being so soft and understeery then that, combined with its good looks, would make it a much more appealing proposition.  But, for now, I can't recommend the MG3.
2013 MG3

2013 MG3

2013 MG3

Review based on a 30 minute drive at an SMMT test day.  Based on this I probably won't get a fuller test!

Article by Matt Hubbard