MG’S first attempt at winning its way back into the hearts of the British motorist didn’t really go according to plan.
The MG6 should have heralded a welcome revival of the once prestigious brand, which disappeared amid the demise of MG Rover all those years ago.
The MG badge was snapped up by the Chinese and it was hoped that their first all-new car, which was a Ford Focus-sized hatchback followed later by a saloon, never really sold in big numbers.
To be fair, MG confess they never expected huge numbers from their first attempt which, it has to be said, was better than many gave it credit for - but it did at least show that the firm, much of which is based at part of MG Rover’s former home in the Midlands, could produce a car from scratch rather than simply recycle an old design as it had done previously with the TF sports car.
The arrival of the MG3 on our roads has happened in much the same way as the MG6. There’s a surprisingly large team of designers and developers working away at the Longbridge HQ and, although the car is largely screwed together in China, final assembly, testing and all the research, design and development work is done in Birmingham.
Some would argue to the contrary but this is, in many ways, a British car. And that, in my book at least, gets it off to a pretty good start.
While the MG6 was aimed at an extremely difficult and competitive market, the MG3 has been catapulted in to a booming sector with plenty of buyers. It’s not short on competition, but it has plenty of tricks up its sleeve.
Let’s start with the price. This is the big headline with this newcomer and, if nothing else sparks an interest in the MG3’s target market, then this should.
At its most very basic trim level, which MG calls 3Time, it comes with daytime running lights, a CD player with USB and MP3 player input, hill hold control and remote central locking, all bundled in for £8,399. Not bad.
What’s even more of a bargain, however, is the top-spec 3Style model which starts at a measly £9,999 but packs in things like a DAB radio with Bluetooth phone connectivity, reverse parking sensors, air conditioning and automatic headlights and windscreen wipers.
But is it cheap and cheerful or cheap and nasty? Well, let’s get one thing out of the way first of all. Its engine is a bit rubbish. The only unit on offer for the forseeable future is a 1.5 petrol unit that packs in 105bhp but never feels as sprightly as you’d hope. When it’s really screaming away it does wake up a bit, but it’s an unpleasant fly in an otherwise rather nice ointment.
Happily, there’s much to like in other aspects of the car. There’s loads of space, visibility is good, it looks very eye-catching from some angles and the stero fitted to my top-of-the-range test car was one of the best I’ve seen in any small car.
It’s when you have a thoroughly good poke around the MG3’s interior that you really begin to warm to it. Its design is individual and stylish, bordering on quirky but, at the same time, it’s very clever.
The gear change is short and positive and the clutch has a nice feel to it. There are hard plastics dotted about if you really look for them but, in other ways, there’s a premium feel to the 3 that belies its bargain sticker price.
One of the things I like most, however, is the driving experience. Around town the suspension can be a bit firm but not unforgivably so and it’s out on the open road where, more than most of its rivals, it has the ability to really put a smile on your face.
Economy and emissions are nothing special. I managed to get 40mpg on a few occasions during my week in the 3 but I was trying pretty hard and a C02 output of 136g/km means it fails to save its owner on road tax unlike some of its rivals. Although they are, admittedly, more expensive in the first place.
There’s a huge array of personalisation options should you be the sort who likes stickers and patterns but it is possible to create a very sober and staid-looking car. Personally, though, I’m not sure that suits it.
I’m not a fan of ostentatious decals, but this is a car that shouts its individuality from the roof tops. Some of the details in the bodystyling are a tad predictable but, largely, it’s fresh and exciting to look at - especially up close.
It’s clear a lot of thought has gone into the MG3 and I admire that. Especially when I realise that this car was conceived here in Blighty.
I know it’s not really built here but we put in the leg-work and, call me a sad old patriot, but I’m proud of it.
Whether the new MG brand will ever make a success of itself remains to be seen but, should it fail to make its way back into the mainstream, it won’t be the fault of this great little car.