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MG3 Form Sport 5-dr

Click to view picture galleryIt is 90 years since the first MG
  went on sale in 1924. While now
  owned and revived by the Chinese
  carmaker MG Motor UK, today
s
  MGs are still designed, engineered
  and undergo final assembly at the
  iconic British brand
s historic home
  in Longbridge
...


LAST YEAR IN THE UK the MG brand sold just 504 cars. But with ten new UK dealerships added to their network already this year they have boosted sales by over 360%
with 185 registrations in just two months. To sell more cars the brand needed more dealers now they just need more models.

MG says their aim for the brand is to make stylish cars that are fun to drive and own at affordable prices. The latest offering launched last November the five-door MG3 1.5-litre petrol-powered 'supermini' hatchback is no exception, with prices starting at a very competitive 8,399.

And none of them are exactly short on specification and, of course, all carry the well-known MG badge. And to enhance their appeal there's a wide range of extra-cost personalisation options, including body graphics, for customers to choose from.

“MG says their aim for
the brand is to make
stylish cars that are fun
to drive and own
at affordable prices.
The latest offering
launched last November
— the five-door MG3
1.5-litre petrol-powered
‘supermini’ hatchback —
is no exception,
with prices starting at
a very competitive
8,399.
..”
The MG3 has to compete both performance and price-wise with the best-selling Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa, VW Polo, Suzuki Swift, Toyota Yaris, Peugeot 208, Citroen DS3, plus more supermini models from Hyundai, Kia and now from the budget Dacia brand with its Sandero.

Whilst it can certainly compete on price it needs to be desirable and the MG branding is its strongest appeal, certainly for older buyers who remember the MG heritage. To raise the brand's profile, MG has also started to compete in the British Touring Car Championship with the MG6 GT hatchback.

Whereasthe larger but aged MG6 offers no real price advantage over discounted Focus and Astra models, the MG3 is a vastly different proposition. There are Time, Form, Form Sport and Style levels of specification and all use the high-revving 105bhp 1.5-litre petrol engine.

This unit is certainly not the latest word in technical sophistication: there's no direct injection, no turbo boost, and its 136g/km is not especially clean in CO2 terms. It's mated to a five-speed manual 'box with well spaced ratios that suit the engine's power output characteristics.

The new MG3 hatch has an elongated wheelbase and with its chunky but curvaceous exterior styling it looks quite good in the metal. The Sport version I drive has 16-inch alloy wheels, sports front grille, bulbous front bumper, sculptured lower door panel sections, rear tailgate roof spoiler, square exhaust tailpipe and, naturally, there's 'MG' badging showing off its heritage.

Inside it offers better space in the rear (and also in the boot) compared to most other superminis. The dashboard is neat; the seats are comfortable and it has a very good driving position enhanced by good visibility all round.

The deep boot offers 256 litres of space which can be extended to 1,262 litres with the rear seats folded down and, unlike some, it comes with a real spare wheel.

The 9,549 Form Sport version reviewed here has all the previous MG hallmarks: grey seats with red stitching and red fascia highlights. The instruments are 'tunnel' design and overall the cabin looks quite sporty in terms of design it lives up to its 'Sport' classification. The kit includes front and rear electric windows, electrically-operated heated door mirrors, AirCon, DAB radio, Bluetooth, six speakers/tweeters and central door locking.

“The new MG3 hatch
has an elongated
wheelbase and with its
chunky but curvaceous
exterior styling
it looks quite good in
the metal.
And inside it offers better
space in the rear
(and also in the boot)
compared to most other
superminis.
..”
On the tech side this model also has LED daytime running lights, electronic stability control, hill hold and tyre pressure monitoring. However, some of the electric functions such as wipers, heater fan, and central door locking are a bit noisy in operation. Otherwise, equipment-wise and for the money, the MG3 sees off the competition.

In terms of driving performance it's less convincing. While the handling, agility, sharp steering and relatively comfortable ride are its strong points, there's considerable noise intrusion from the suspension when potholes are encountered, and tyre noise was also high. And the normally-aspirated engine is nowhere near as refined or as responsive compared to the latest Ford, Renault, Nissan, Dacia or VW Group turbocharged units.

When cold the 1.5-litre MG unit is hesitant and doesn't run that smoothly until warm. The engine performed best when revved, but I got the feeling it was being strangled of performance to keep it as fuel- and CO2-efficient as possible. Though the power and maximum torque (101lb ft) are developed quite high up the rev-range, the ratios of its five-speed manual gearbox are well spaced and so serve up relatively responsive driveability on the open road or in town traffic.

Top speed is 108mph and zero to 62mph takes 10.9 seconds; so it's workmanlike rather than sporty. Although the recent horrendous weather and flooding in my area curtailed my driving opportunities, on rural A and B roads the car returned 37.5mpg.

The MG3 certainly has space and affordability; the Form Sport version also has a high specification, smart looks, comes at a keen price and benefits from low insurance costs = it's also backed up by low cost finance options, so it should definitely be considered by customers wanting a new car. And although it has no official Euro NCAP rating as yet, it does have good safety equipment.

That said, it lags behind the technical abilities offered by models such as the Suzuki Swift Sport but then the Suzuki is a third more expensive. So customers face the usual personal decision do they buy a well equipped new budget car or do they buy a used one such as the latest Ford Fiesta with its far more efficient drivetrain? A tough choice. — David Miles


MG3 Form Sport 5-dr | 9,549
Maximum speed: 108mph | 0-62mph: 10.9 seconds | Average Test MPG: 37.5mpg
Power: 105bhp | Torque: 101lb ft | CO2 136g/km