A friend asked for advice on buying a new car for not too much money.
His son is heading towards giant size so something like a little Kia Picanto or Hyundai i10 would not fit the bill. I pointed him towards the MG 3 mainly because I have just been driving it and think it is outstanding value for money. It’s in a battle with the Dacia Sandero for the cheapest car of its size, losing out by £25, but the MG has a seven year warranty.
This is not the famed MG marque of old. That renowned British car maker was allowed to smolder and die until it rose phoenix like from the ashes thanks to a Chinese conglomerate which bought the name and did what the Chinese do best, churn out inexpensive goods.
Let’s not kid ourselves that the price tag makes this a wonder car. There is some good and some not so good bits, the not so good taking up more space than not so good on a Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Polo which are among the more expensive rivals.
Here we have a five door, five seat hatchback that falls into the supermini bracket like Fiesta and Polo etc. There are just two models, Excite and Exclusive, and one engine option, a 1.5 litre petrol. It does not look that quick on paper and is not that quick when driven although it gets to sixty quicker than a Dacia Sandero and does not sound stressed at motorway speed.
The downside is economy. Trying very hard on a 30 mile round trip I managed 44mpg but think yourself lucky if your weekly average reaches 40mpg which is some way adrift of most rivals. Would a six speed option rather than the standard five speed gearbox improve matters?
Another area that could be improved is the ride. I could tell it was twitchy before I reached the end of my cul-de-sac. My advice to the suspension experts is to take a ride in a Citroen C3 and copy it. That said no one can match the C3 for comfort so let’s not be too hard on this little fella. I have driven other MGs where the ride is more than acceptable.
With a budget price tag it is easy to expect an interior like a low rent bedsit. Well prepare to be pleasantly surprised. Yes there is a lot of scratchy black plastic but everything is well screwed together, and there are a few screwheads on show if you want to check!
There is nothing complicated about the layout with a central eight inch touchscreen and clear, separate switches for radio and heating, and even though this is a car for a low budget it does not feel drab. They have made an effort to jazz things up with a stylish bubble design on the door cards while the silver tartan dashboard inlay adds a nice touch of class.
Five adults will fit into the car as long as those in the back are not too tall but they will not be troubled by a lack of headroom.
Boot space does not come close to best in class and the 23cm drop to the boot floor will make lifting heavier items a strain. A two level floor, found on most cars, would be an inexpensive fix.
Equipment level on the Excite covers the basics with all round electric windows, air conditioning, DAB radio with Apple CarPlay, and parking sensors as the standouts. Going for Exclusive adds on board navigation, rear parking camera, cruise control and sports seats.
What is missing on both models is a telescopic adjustment for the steering wheel which has to make do with tilt only. It will stop drivers with shorter legs finding the ideal driving position because you have to sit too close to the steering wheel.
Something else that might put off potential customers is the three star Euro NCAP rating when the majority have five, although it is one more than Sandero. It is not something that bothers me as modern day cars are all pretty robust, but lower rated cars do not have the necessary safety aids to qualify.
So there we have it. A car that is hard to beat on price, particularly if you go for Excite which would be my choice. Who needs basic cruise control, or navigation when someone in the family will have a smart phone? But I would miss a reversing camera.
MG 3 Exclusive Nav
£16,040 (starts £13,820)
1.5 litre petrol; 104bhp
0-60mph 10.4secs; 108mph
147g/km. 1st VED £255
Boot: 285-1262 litres