After a lengthy delay, the funky MG3 hatch has arrived in SA charged with bolstering sales for the Chinese owned British brand. Has it been worth the wait? A quick drive around the Cape Peninsula answered that. For starters, the top-line MG3 Style model we drove has sharp threads – a distinctive suit that’s eye-catching, cohesive and customisable. Pick from a range of colours, rim designs and decal kits to personalise your MG. Even if you keep it all basic, the well-defined exterior lines are neat and fetching. Inside, the cabin is yet more proof of a solid design department over at Longbridge in the UK.
The dash itself is a homogenous set of full-round rectangles rendered in par-for-the-segment unyielding black plastic. A colour palette of black, red illumination and sprayed silver is restrained, but could benefit from shinier, chromed highlights. Though they could be more supportive, the seats are pleasingly soft and the chunky steering wheel good to hold. General cabin quality is better than expected with no rough edges or unfinished trim but is no match for the class-leading (and far more expensive) Polo in ambience or perceived quality.
Initially available in range-topping Style spec for R179 900, mid-range MG3 Wired and entry-level MG3 models land in November priced around R165k and R145k respectively. Base models feature air-con, electric windows, a radio/CD with USB and AUX sockets, rear wiper, six airbags, ABS with EBD and EBA plus electronic stability control. A 3-year/100 000km warranty and 2-year/60 000km service plan are also standard.
Wired spec adds 16-inch alloy wheels, remote central locking, iPod and Bluetooth connectivity, leather steering wheel, heated door mirrors with electrical adjustment and a trip computer. Top-line Style spec includes rear parking sensors, rain sensor, cruise control, auto headlights and leather seats. Range options include a full-size spare wheel.
Not raucously uncouth
All three models use the same 78kW, 1.5-litre un-boosted four cylinder petrol that doesn’t come across as raucously uncouth at higher revs as some Chinese mills do. With just 137Nm of torque available at 4750rpm, you have to use the gear lever quite often on the freeway to keep it in the torque band, but that’s okay as the five-speeder has no obvious drawbacks. It’s short of throw, reasonably precise and firm in its mechanical linkages.
Clutch, brake and accelerator pedals all feel appropriately substantial, too, while the quick-geared steering is responsive if a little too eager to self-centre. The MG3 feels sportily sprung which, teamed with that sharp steering makes it unusually handy in the corners. The downside is a somewhat crashy ride though we’ll reserve final judgment on the ride quality as the tyres felt over-inflated.
A Chinese-owned, Thai-built, British MG that’s well-made, well-designed, stylish and fun-to-drive – still keen on that Polo Vivo?
By – WAYNE BATTY
MODEL | MG3 Style PRICE | R179900 ENGINE | 1498cc, 16v, 4-cyl petrol, 78kW @ 6000rpm, 137Nm @ 4750rpm TRANSMISSION | 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive SUSPENSION | MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear LENGTH/WIDTH/HEIGHT | 4018/1729/1507mm WEIGHT | 1155kg PERFORMANCE | 10.9sec 0-100kph, 174kph, 5.8ℓ/100km, 136g/km