MG 3 hatchback
“The MG3 is a characterful and cheap supermini that is severely hampered by a lacklustre engine”
- Stylish looks
- Cheap to buy
- Lots of room inside
- Outdated engine
- Uncomfortable ride
- Poor residuals
The MG3 is a budget five-door supermini that’s designed to take on big hitters like the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and Vauxhall Corsa, along with cheaper alternatives like the Kia Rio, Suzuki Swift and Dacia Sandero.
In keeping with its MG badge, engineers tried to make the MG3 entertaining to drive, but in truth it has now fallen some way behind the alternatives since it was launched. The car benefited from a facelift in the summer of 2018, which extensively updated its appearance and upgraded the interior, but sadly didn’t improve its dynamics.
If you're looking at new cars that undercut most of their rivals on price, then the MG3 can be added to your shortlist. It now feels more modern inside thanks to a proper infotainment system with Apple CarPlay. In early 2020, MG added a range-topping Exclusive Nav trim to the range, which supplemented the list of standard equipment available on the existing Exclusive model with sat nav.
A huge problem with the car, however, is its old-fashioned 1.5-litre petrol engine, which is gutless, noisy and uneconomical. The facelift in mid-2018 did nothing to address the engine’s shortcomings, and as time ticks on it falls further and further behind the small, turbocharged engines available in rivals.
From the outside, the redesigned MG3 looks surprisingly striking, ticking almost all of the classic sporty supermini styling cues, with a wheel-at-each-corner stance, ‘floating’ roof, alloy wheels and optional decals and colour combinations offering personalisation. Fuel consumption of 47.1mpg is far from class-leading, but the MG3 is at least cheap to buy – costing less than many city cars – and insurance should also be cheap, with every version sitting in group 4 out of 50.
The MG3 was rated poorly for reliability in our 2017 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey of cars currently on sale in the UK. Of the owners who responded, 15.9% reported experiencing a problem with their car at least once. Drivers praised the handing, brakes and steering, along with the MG3’s design and interior space, but were less impressed with its thirsty petrol or build quality. Not enough results were received for it to feature in our 2019 survey.
A three-star Euro NCAP safety rating could also be off-putting, with a 69% score for adult occupant protection. Part of the reason for its low score was also down to the fact the MG3 lacks some of the latest safety features like autonomous emergency braking (AEB). In comparison, the SEAT Ibiza gets five stars, 95% for adult protection and AEB as standard.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Apart from the MG3's low purchase cost, the main draw for young drivers in particular is its cheap insurance. Its group 4 rating is lower than almost every Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa. And no SEAT Ibiza or Peugeot 208 can match it. You can get cars that are cheaper to insure, but they're mainly much smaller.
Just one engine is available, which has an official fuel economy rating of 47.1mpg. Look around and this figure is far from impressive; the most economical petrol SEAT Ibiza can return up to 67.3mpg, while the 1.0-litre EcoBoost Ford Fiesta can manage 65.7mpg. The MG3’s CO2 emissions of 140g/km are high for such a small car, too, but due to a 2017 change to the way road tax is calculated, all MG3s cost £145 a year to tax anyway.
There's also a five-year warranty, which is very impressive.
Engines, drive & performance
The hatchback's driving experience is let down largely by its rough engine, but a high seating position and firm ride don’t help either. All of the trim levels use the same 1.5-litre petrol, which produces 105bhp. The way the engine delivers its power makes the car feel slower than even its 10.4-second 0-62mph time suggests.
Accelerating takes patience and the engine makes a lot of noise when doing so – more so than a Skoda Citigo or Dacia Sandero. Once you're there, the MG3 is capable of a long-distance motorway cruise, although frequent gear changes will be required to overtake.
The relative lack of power is a shame, because the MG3 feels more competent in other areas. The steering has a nice weight and offers good feedback, plus there’s reasonable grip when cornering. The suspension helps in that regard because it's firm enough to reduce body lean, but it's a double-edged sword.
When you're not trying to drive the car quickly, you'll need to put up with a very firm, uncomfortable ride, which is a fairly major drawback given the MG3 is destined to spend much of its time completing humdrum journeys around town.
Interior & comfort
That firm ride is the biggest barrier to comfort in the MG3, because otherwise it's a perfectly acceptable car to travel in. Many small cars simply don't offer enough support to avoid backaches on long journeys, but the seats in the MG3 are supportive enough to leave you feeling refreshed after several hundred miles.
The redesign of the interior for the facelifted model included massive improvements in layout and material quality. New dials feel and look better, and the inside of the MG3 feels a lot more modern as a result.
Every model in the MG3 range comes well equipped and offers good value. The entry-level Explore model features 14-inch steel wheels, LED daytime running lights, a radio with USB and Bluetooth.
The mid-range Excite trim levels adds 16-inch diamond cut alloy wheels, an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment display with Apple CarPlay, DAB radio, air conditioning, a leather steering wheel with remote audio controls, a rear spoiler and rear parking sensors.
The Exclusive trim adds a six-speaker stereo, a reversing camera, cruise control and sports seats. The range-topping Exclusive Nav model was added in early 2020, adding MG’s iGO sat-nav system to the Exclusive model for around £200 extra.
Practicality & boot space
Given its city-car price tag, the MG3 is very practical. It has a huge amount of extra room inside compared to the similarly-priced Skoda Citigo or SEAT Mii, and matches the more expensive Fiesta and Corsa. But the Dacia Duster eclipses the lot with 320 litres of boot space.
Fold the MG's rear seats flat and luggage space stretches to 1,262 litres. There are also plenty of handy storage spaces and little cubbyholes dotted around the cabin.
The MG3 is only available as a five-door and the rear doors open widely, allowing excellent access to the back seats. Once inside, there's more than enough head and legroom for four adults, although as you'd expect with a car of this size, getting a fifth adult inside is a bit of a squeeze.
Reliability & safety
The MG3 was rated poorly for reliability in our 2017 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey of cars currently on sale in the UK. Of the owners who responded, 15.9% reported experiencing a problem with their car at least once.
The MG3 does, however, come with a standard seven-year warranty and breakdown recovery – both of which should provide peace of mind for those considering ownership.
When the MG3 was put through the latest Euro NCAP crash tests in 2014, it only managed to scrape a three out of five rating. It scored 69% for adult protection, 71% for child protection, 59% for pedestrian protection and 38% in the safety assistance category.
One aspect of its poor score comes down to the fact it doesn’t feature some of the latest safety technology. For instance, the SEAT Ibiza – with a five-star score – gets autonomous emergency braking (AEB) as standard, automatically performing an emergency stop if its computers think a collision is unavoidable.
However, it does come with six airbags, a tyre pressure monitoring system and a clever system that wipes the brake discs when they’re wet, but there’s a long list of cars which score higher on safety in this class.
Price, value for money & options
The MG’s low price is by far its most attractive quality. Next to similarly sized rivals like the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo, it does look like incredible value. The most expensive MG3, the Exclusive Nav, is cheaper than the most basic Polo and yet it comes with kit like 16-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, automatic headlights and wipers, air-conditioning, sat nav and LED daytime running lights.
Bluetooth connectivity, a leather steering wheel, front and rear electric windows and even DAB digital radio are thrown in, making the standard kit list far longer than those you get with similarly priced hatchbacks.
However, if you square the MG3 up against the likes of the Skoda Citigo and Dacia Sandero, it doesn't look like quite as much of a bargain. Both of these cars have similar top-spec models that offer generous equipment lists, too, and cost roughly the same. While the Skoda may be smaller than the MG, it has a better-built interior and is cheaper to run day-to-day.