SEEING a line of MG3s in the flesh for the first time is something of an eye-opener. Colours, graphics and alloy wheel styles assault your eyes in a rather enjoyable sort of way, not that I admit it to myself at first.
I pop into the evening’s hotel to drop some bags off, and a decorator at work next to the lift pipes up. “You with the MG lot?” he says, and I reply with a brief explanation in the affirmative. “Nice little cars aren’t they,” he states matter-of-factly before turning back to the wall he’s painting fuchsia. He’s right – the MG3 really is a good-looking hatch.
And it needs to be. After all, this is the first B-segment effort from a brand reshaped and rejuvenated from the dark days of Rover-sourced drudgery, but even then there were clear rays of hope from the heavily MG-tweaked ZR, ZS and ZT models. The MG3, though, has got to be more than a spark in the dark – it really has to shine.
What you get is a supremely well-priced package in four trim levels priced from just under £8,400 to a pound shy of £10,000. At the top end in particular, where you can find Bluetooth, funky alloy wheels, leather trim details with red stitching and handy tech like parking sensors, the value for money is pretty incredible.
On top of the list prices you can add a wide choice of graphics for the bonnet, roof and sides, plus swapping out the interior air vent surrounds for different colours. You can choose a combination that suits you, and to be honest playing around with the look is a lot of fun. But even a top-spec MG3 with every option still weighs in at less than £11,500.
There’s just the one engine choice – for now at least. It’s a fizzy 1.5-litre petrol unit with a very healthy 105bhp on tap at just over 6,000rpm. Like any normally-aspirated petrol engine it needs lots of revs to pull you along with gusto, but extracting its modest performance is good fun – and not too hard on the pocket either, with my merciless treatment of the car over the first half of the route resulting in no less than 33mpg. Taking it easy later on brought up figures in the mid-to-high 40s, which, surprisingly, aligns with the official figures.
It’s a good chassis too, and but for a set of slightly budget-feeling dampers the MG3 handles well enough to entertain even a seasoned sports car driver. But the car has a humbler purpose than that, and the steering is set up more to dial out any unpleasant kick-back from bumps rather than deliver textural feel from the road surface.
The engine responds to pedal inputs very quickly, with the revs leaping away from idle at the first sign of accelerator pressure. It seems a little over-eager at first but the upshot is that it’s very difficult to stall the car. Drivers new to the game will love that, and thinking back to the hesitant response of my own first car it’s definitely better this way.
I’m surprised to discover just how likeable the interior is, too. As a five-door, the MG3 has a fairly typical boot for the B-segment, but it has good rear legroom and a neat centre console arrangement that emphasises style without going overboard. No, the plastics aren’t fancy but it’s a simple, effective arrangement with a couple of cool touches on this high-spec model, such as digital displays within the dials for air movement control – not to mention the optional red air vent surrounds.
Factor in insurance ratings no higher than 4E and the MG3 looks very tempting, especially for young buyers. I have to admit to being surprised by how much I like it, and maybe on this occasion I’d have been right to judge the book by its cover.
CAR MG3 1.5 VTi 3Style
PRICE £9,999 on the road.
PERFORMANCE Max speed 108mph; 0-62mph 10.9s
MPG (combined) 48.7mpg
CO2 EMISSIONS 136g/km