What Car? says...
The MG3 is a reminder that not everything from the Chinese-owned brand these days is fully electric.
True, MG – formerly a British brand famous for its low-cost sports cars – is making plenty of headlines for building electric cars that massively undercut most rivals. However, while the MG4, MG5 and MG ZS EV are certainly cheap by electric car standards, the petrol-powered MG3 costs peanuts by comparison.
The MG3 is a Ford Fiesta sized small car and one of the most affordable new cars on sale today, undercutting the Honda Jazz, Seat Ibiza, Skoda Fabia and VW Polo. In fact, with a few notable exceptions including the Dacia Sandero, it undercuts pretty much everything.
Is there more to the MG3 than a bargain price tag, though? Well, it's fairly big for a small car and comes well-equipped, even in its cheapest form. Plus it has a relatively powerful petrol engine and you get an impressive seven-year (or 80,000-mile) warranty as standard.
There's plenty of competition in the small car class, though, so the MG3 will have its work cut out if it wants to steal buyers away from other, more established brands.
Over the next few pages of this review, we’ll tell you how the MG3 stacks up against its closest rivals, covering what it's like to drive, whether you and your passengers will be comfortable, how big the boot is, and how much it will cost you to run.
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Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Sadly, numbers don't tell the full story. You see, because the engine isn’t turbocharged like most rivals', it feels gutless and asthmatic at low revs. On quicker roads, it’s easier to make use of the engine’s maximum grunt, which arrives at 4500rpm – but once you’re that high up in the rev range, be prepared for quite a lot of vibration and harshness.
Indeed, that buzzy engine never quite fades into the background – you can hear it working away at a steady cruise and there's also plenty of road noise on the motorway. Factor in a gearbox that feels rubbery and imprecise, and a clutch pedal that's vague and hard to judge, and this isn't a small car that you’ll particularly relish throwing down your local B-road.
That said, the MG3 is better than the Sandero for grip and body control, but the steering is too heavy at parking speeds, and doesn't deliver a great sense of connection with the road when you're going quickly.
Then there's the ride. The suspension is firm and fairly unsophisticated, so it doesn't deal well at all with road scars around town and is positively jarring over potholes. Even on a smooth bit of road, you're jostled around in the interior – so much so that long journeys can be really quite tiring because of constant harsh vertical movements. The Sandero is softer and more agreeable.
The interior layout, fit and finish
There’s plenty of adjustment in the MG3's driving seat, which is mounted quite high, but the steering wheel doesn’t move in and out (only up and down) so some might find it hard to get perfectly comfortable.
While all the controls are within easy reach, the infotainment screen is mounted quite low on the dashboard, so you have to take your eyes quite far from the road to see it. There are physical dials to adjust the air-con, but the temperature and fan speed are shown on a very small and hard to see box at the bottom of the infotainment screen.
Visibility to the front and back is good, though. Rear parking sensors are standard, and a reversing camera is added to the top trim.
An 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system comes as standard in all trim levels. It's not brilliant, but it does respond reasonably promptly to prods, and allows you to sync up your iPhone using Apple CarPlay (there's no Android Auto). It’s not a particularly intuitive system, and some of the text is quite small and difficult to read. You get four speakers if you go for entry-level Excite trim, but six if you upgrade to Exclusive Nav.
As the name suggests, Exclusive Nav also brings built-in sat-nav – not that you really need one in the modern days of smartphone navigation apps.
The 3 had an overhaul in the second half of 2018, with a major redesign of the interior, which looks much better than you'd expect for the price. When you prod the dashboard and door linings, the cost-cutting becomes more apparent.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Despite its status as a small car the MG3 is not too cramped inside. It's not as roomy in the front or back as the Dacia Sandero and is roughly on a par with the Ford Fiesta. Not bad for a car with such a budget price tag.
There’s enough head and leg room to ensure four adults will stay comfortable, even on long journeys. The rear doors don’t open particularly wide, though, which might make it a little awkward if you’re fitting a child seat into the back.
A Sandero’s boot is bigger, but the load bay you get in the MG3 is at least a practical square shape and the rear seats can be folded down when you need to take longer loads (the seatback splits in a 60/40 configuration). It’s a deep boot, with a useful amount of underfloor storage, but does have quite a high loading lip at the front, which could make it difficult to get heavy items in to and out of the loadbay.
In terms of interior storage, the 3 has decent-sized door bins up front (but none in the back) and a generously sized glovebox. If you opt for the range-topping Exclusive Nav model, you get map pockets too.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The MG3 is very cheap to buy compared with virtually all small car alternatives. It undercuts even traditional value-focused options, including the Skoda Fabia and Suzuki Swift although if you're looking for the cheapest new car in Britain, the Dacia Sandero is still king.
It's not all good news, though, because depreciation is fairly heavy, and the 3 isn't very frugal by modern standards. CO2 emissions are high compared with most other small cars too. You do get front and rear electric windows, remote control locking, air-con and an infotainment screen across the range, though, and Exclusive Nav trim adds cruise control to the list.
MG gives you a seven-year/80,000-mile warranty, which it says demonstrates its faith in the reliability of its products. That's backed up by the brand's ninth place finish out of 32 brands in our 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey. For comparison, Dacia came 10th, while Ford finished in a poor 27th.
In terms of safety, every 3 has six airbags, stability control, an Isofix child-seat mount on each outer rear seat and a tyre-pressure monitoring system. Unfortunately, the model scored just three stars out of five in its Euro NCAP safety tests in 2014. Most modern cars will protect you far better in a crash, although the Sandero scored just two stars in its tougher 2021 test.
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The MG3 has a decent amount of grip and body control, but the steering is very numb and the bumpy ride is not very good at all.
|RRP price range||£13,820 - £15,520|
|Number of trims (see all)||2|
|Number of engines (see all)||1|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||43.3 - 43.3|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||7 years / 80000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£892 / £1,004|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£1,783 / £2,008|