First drive: MG3

First drive: MG3

MG is wading into the B-segment with its very own Fiesta rival. Is it the car the brand has always needed? Jon Reay finds out.
What is it?

After years of getting by with just one car to sell, MG have finally introduced another model – sitting in the UK car market's fiercest segment, no less. Called the MG3, the Anglo-Chinese firm is hoping that it's got what it takes to give Fiesta and Corsa buyers something to think about.

What's under the bonnet?

There's just the one engine choice: a 1.5-litre, 104 bhp petrol. It's brand new – no Rover leftovers here – and was designed by MG's UK development centre. This is no Ford EcoBoost engine though, and MG knows it: admitting that it's designed more to be a durable, easy to maintain unit rather than a technological, fuel-sipping marvel. It pulls the 3 along relatively well, but a lack of low-down torque means that it really needs thrashing before you can make progress.

What's the spec like?

Considering the price, excellent. All models get electric windows all round, LED daytime running lights, stability control and hill hold assist, while all bar the base spec get electronic air conditioning, an iPod-compatible stereo with DAB and Bluetooth connectivity, and remote locking. Alloys appear on 3Form Sport upwards, while the top-of-the-range 3Style gets big-boy toys like cruise control and automatic lights and wipers. MG are most proud of the customisation available, though: touting a selection of bright paint colours and a wide range of vinyl graphics to match. Paint aside, they can all be applied either at the factory or at dealers themselves – meaning even used cars can be customised to buyers' wishes.

Any rivals?

Tricky. At the budget end of the spectrum, you've got the Dacia Sandero and Proton Satria Neo – neither of which are as attractive or, dare we say it, desirable as the MG. Pay a hefty chunk more and you can start eyeing up the Ford Fiesta and Peugeot 208, which are nicer on the inside and a bit cheaper to run, but come with far less kit.

What's it like to drive?

In many ways, it feels quite like a smaller version of the 6. It's by no means a bad car to drive, and certainly handles more tidily than some of its rivals – cornering very happily indeed. The steering is keen and well weighted most of the time, but has a habit of getting disconcertingly light at higher speeds. Similarly, the gearbox is light and easy to use, though can feel a little on the loose side.

The AOL Cars verdict

The 3 is a car MG has long needed: an eye-catching, up-to-the-minute supermini to cash in on the most potentially lucrative segment in the market. It's more desirable and better to drive than a Dacia Sandero, and while it's not up to the build quality, refinement or efficiency of rivals like the Ford Fiesta, it undercuts them on price so heartily that the 3 is a hard proposition to ignore.

The Knowledge

Model: MG3 1.5 3Style
Price: £9,999
Engine: 1.5-litre petrol
Power: 104bhp
Max speed: 108mph
0-60: 10.4 s
MPG (combined): 48.7
Emissions: 136g/km CO2
Residual values (three years): 42%

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MG3 first drive
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