MG MG3 3Form Sport Review – Roomy, Cheap Hatch Is Quite Likeable

Low-cost, high-spec, loads of elec. driver aids, drives fairly well, decent fuel economy, good front & rear space, sporty looks

Weird quirky acceleration, petrol engine sounds tappety at idle

MG3?

MG MG3 3FORM SPORT

This could be it. This could just be the car to properly resurrect the MG brand. In 2005, MG Rover went under and left a sad state of affairs behind, with workers rightfully bitter at how it all ended. The last few car back then were awfully designed and made, being outdated even as they hit the showrooms.

2007 saw SAIC Motor, the largest automotive company in China, buy the brand, now renamed MG Motor UK. For those of you bemoaning the fact it’s ‘gone Chinese’, actually MG Motor UK is partly still based in Birmingham, currently employing 400 people in various area’s of SAIC’s European Technical Engineering Centre. So there.

2013 sees the MG3 come out, and it’s possibly the most pleasantly surprising (very) cheap car I’ve driven in a long time – an opinion apparently shared by many other car journo’s. We were sent the MG3 3Form Sport to review. Read on to find out why I like it so much…

Exterior. Butt-ugly or beauty?

Rear three quarter view of the MG MG3 3FORM SPORT

It’s not a bad looker at all, the MG3. When I heard MG were bring out this car, I truly expected some shapeless box about as attractive as a Proboscis monkey. But for their first supermini, they’ve done pretty good overall.

The MG3 comes as in 5-door guise only, and has about the same dimensions as the Honda Jazz, plus the same proportions too, in terms of bonnet length and metal-to-glass ratio in the doors. It’s possibly just slightly roomier than the Suzuki Swift, judging by the roomier boot of the MG. The front isn’t overly exciting, with a fairly simplistic design – the black lower grille and valance, plus the banana-shaped daytime LED running lights, and gloss-black A-pillars being about all that’s of interest.

Low side view of the MG MG3 3FORM SPORT

The MG3 3Form Sport version we had sported side skirts, something the two lower models ‘3Time’ and ‘3Form’ do not have, and they add a little more of a sporty look to the MG3. With the right wheel and colour combo though, the non-skirted versions still look fine if you don’t want to spend the extra for the higher models.

Around to the rear, and it’s positively looking like a little hot hatch. Decent rear light clusters flank the sides, a roof spoiler (but not on the 3Time spec) poking out above, while a rear unpainted black diffuser housing a single square exhaust exit sits low down. The rear three-quarter view is the MG3’s best angle, for sure.

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MG state the key attraction for buyers will be the ability to personalise their car, and I reckon they’re right about that. Go to the MG3 configurator, and there’s a large choice of exterior graphics packs for the bonnet, roof and sides. These can be interchanged for only around £195 – £250 at an MG dealer at any time, so if you get bored of the looks, or you’ve bought a second-hand MG3 with graphics you don’t like, it’s a simple and fairly inexpensive affair to get them changed. A good call on their part.

Front view of the MG MG3 3FORM SPORT

The tester I was sent was just in ‘Silver Fox’ paintwork with 16″ Carousel wheels, which looked quite smart actually. To make it more fun, I’d have optioned the MG3 in Newton Black, with the black Trophy Stripe graphic pack and Black Diamond wheels, to give it a mean look. Or Hello Yellow, with the stripe and wheel combo. Go have a play with the configurator though, as it’s good fun.

All said and done, the MG3 is a perfectly decent-looking little hatchback, and the design suits both older or younger drivers. I didn’t get a single negative comment about the styling in the time I had the MG3 on test, and actually, I rather like the looks myself. It’s way more interesting and sporty than the Honda Jazz, that’s for sure.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

MG MG3 3FORM SPORT 2013 review HDR drivers seat and steering wheel

Open a door to the MG, and your initial impression will be that it’s quite basic, and lacking in tech or comfort stuff. However, you’d be wrong about that, on any model apart from the starter 3Time. From there up, the MG3 has air conditioning, electrically-adjustable and heated wing mirrors, bluetooth for your music and phone calls, steering wheel controls for the stereo, integrated DAB (digital) radio, AUX and USB ports, all-electric windows, headrests in the rear, plus six airbags (front, side and curtain). Oh, the speakers unexpectedly give good sound levels too.

MG MG3 3FORM SPORT DAB radio with bluetooth

That’s aside from all the electronic driver aids which I’ll talk about in the next section. That’s a really, really good amount of kit on such a cheap car, and people are highly surprised when you reel off the list, even as they’re sat there. It’s just all quite hidden on the car. If you want more kit, the range-topping 3Style offers reverse sensors, cruise control, automatic headlights and wipers and optional leather seats.

MG MG3 3FORM SPORT review-0787

All the trim is made up of knock-hard plastics, but they don’t rattle or seem like they’d spring off joyfully at the first sign of a bump in the road. In fact, they’re all bolted together solidly. The switchgear was noiseless, soft-touch stuff for the most part, save for a couple of dials which were a bit clicky. My only real gripe is that the buttons for the air conditioning, fan speed etc are a little small and fiddly to push while you’re concentrating on driving. I’d make those bigger, but that’s about it. Oh, and the  hazard warning button situated between the front seats is a silly place to put it.

The dials are a simple affair – one for the rev counter, one for the speedo. No oil pressure gauge or water temperature shown. I like the simplistic layout though, and the sporty design yet again edges the MG3 away from being boring inside.

MG MG3 3FORM SPORT review-0801

It’s quite a funky, neatly designed cabin in all honesty. There’s red stitching on the steering wheel and gear gaiter, and you can spec red inserts to go around the air vents – something I’d option to liven the interior up a bit. The black and silver seats have some kind of red design running down the centre of them, but actually it suits the car, and it’s better than just plain ol’ grey or black at least.

MG MG3 3FORM SPORT 2013 review HDR front seats and console centre

The front seats are comfortable for the most part, but part you sit on is on the short side, so your legs hang over too much to be entirely comfy. On a journey longer than a couple of hours, I think you notice this more and more. The rear seating isn’t too bad, and the backrests are at a good-enough angle – better than some other small hatches I’ve been in.

MG MG3 3FORM SPORT 2013 review HDR front seats 1

MG MG3 3FORM SPORT 2013 review HDR rear seats 1

I was really surprised at the amount of leg room in the front and rear of the MG3. There’s easily enough for four adults, and the high roof makes it light and airy inside, and even if you’re on the taller side, you’ll still be fine. Boot space is adequate at 285 litres with the rear seats in place, and a respectable 1,262 litre with the rear 60/40 split seats down.

MG MG3 3FORM boot space

MG MG3 3FORM review HDR boot trunk space seats down

Overall, the MG3 is an incredibly well specced car for the price, once you get above the base model. There’s very little that I can complain about, and there’s certainly nothing that I hate or really, really dislike. A couple of small improvements could be made, but as a whole, the MG3 is comfortable, roomy and there’s enough tech and equipment to keep you happy – especially at the price it is.

Engine and gearbox

The MG3 has just one engine currently – a naturally-aspirated 1.5 litre DOHC VTi-Tech with 4 cylinder and 16 valves driving the front wheels, and mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox. Interestingly, MG have used a cam chain on the engine, instead of a belt, meaning less maintenance there at least. Power is quoted as 106 PS @ 6,000 rpm and 101 lb ft (137 NM) at 4,750 rpm.

MG MG3 3FORM SPORT review-0806

Because of the peak power and torque at the higher end of the rev counter, I found myself having to work the little MG hard to make it go anywhere even remotely quickly. From third gear upward, below around 2,500 rpm the MG3 is slow to respond to your right foot pushing that go pedal, and the ratio’s feel long, and around town I kept having to drop the car a gear to get going properly.

0 – 60 mph is done in 10.4 seconds, and it’ll reach 108 mph at the top end. The zero to sixty time is quicker than the Jazz 1.2 & 1.4 litre versions by one to two seconds. Not by a lot, then, but it beats it. UK miles-per-gallon figures are given as 37.7 urban, 57.6 extra urban and 48.7 combined, with CO2 emissions of 136 g/km – £125 per year car tax at the current rate (Dec. ’13). Real-world fuel economy? Around town in light traffic I was getting an indicated readout of about 35 mpg, a quick scurry down a few miles of motorway read about 42 mpg, and a 40 – 50 mph run in light traffic on flowing roads showed around 50 mpg. Not bad at all.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

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It’s a funny one, the MG3. I kind of like the way it drives, but there’s a few oddities about it too. First off, again, you probably think the MG3 is going to have very few electronic driver aids, with it being ludicrously cheap but you’d be mistake. It has (deep breath); ABS, stability control (SCS), brake force distribution (EBD), emergency brake assist (EBA), hill-hold control (HHC) and tyre pressure monitoring (iTPMS).  Yep, that’s much more tech than I though it’d have too.

The MG3 drive quite reminds me of the Fiat Panda I tested. Its got a degree of body roll in turns at speed, the same as the Fiat, but the MG grips determinedly through the corners, and the slight roll just makes it more fun to chuck about in the twisty stuff. It makes you as the driver more involved, should you want to hoon about a bit, and I’m all for that.

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The MG3 makes a great town car, as it’s easy to park, the clutch is light, and there’s good vision out of the car all-round. The turning circle is noticeably wide, though, which can make doing a quick U-turn into something more… involved. It’s not a quick car, as I’ve mentioned, but that’s perfectly acceptable for urban drives anyway.

On the motorway the MG3 behaves better than I thought it would, and it will sit comfortably, and fairly quietly, at 80 mph without the car struggling, should you want to do that speed. Should you need to overtake some middle-lane hogger, you’ll have to drop it a cog into 4th and make rev counter needle climb high, to get past at anywhere near a decent pace, but it’ll do it okay. Long uphill sections of motorway will see the MG3 become breathless though, and you’ll have to stay in forth for those as the car quickly loses speed in its highest gear, due to the low power.

MG MG3 3FORM SPORT review-0928

Now to mention the quirky stuff. While the MG3’s suspension (independent front, torsion beam rear) soaks up bad roads surfaces fairly well at both low and high speeds, when I had passengers sat in the back, the lumps ‘n bumps in the road suddenly got more noticeable. Not badly, just more obvious.

Secondly, the accelerator does something strange. Whenever I went from first to second gear, the revs jumped high. Embarrassingly so, in fact, and it made me look like an old-man driver over-revving it each time I set off out a junction. The only way to combat it was to get to ram second home as fast as possible which isn’t exactly a relaxing way to drive. And thirdly, the accelerator again. I’d get up to speed, say 30 or 40 mph, and back off the gas pedal as I got to that point, but bizarrely, the MG would speed up slightly as I backed off. Not in a dangerous manner, but it was almost as if it it was a step behind my actions. This could likely be something to do with the electronic drive-by-wire system, but time will tell.

MG MG3 3FORM SPORT review-0917

Overall though, I quite like the way the MG3 drives and handles. It’s fun, and I got the same sense of honesty from it as I did from the Fiat Panda. A final point – as yet (Dec. ’13) the MG3 hasn’t been NCAP tested, but MG tell me it’s had the equivalent Chinese safety testing done, and it came out with top marks.

Price

MG MG3 3FORM SPORT in silver

The MG3 is a very, very cheap car. MG’s adverts for it are clever, stating it’s £9,999 for the top model. The base 3Time model is £8,399, then £9,299 for the 3Form, £5,549 for the 3Form Sport that I had, and the 3Style for the price above. Of course, there’s a few options that’ll push the price up a wee – i.e; a different paint colour £395, graphics packs £199 – £220, different alloy’s £449 – but even then it’s still a low-cost car.

My choice is the MG3 3Form Sport I had on test, as you get all the goodies on it as standard, cheaper than you can actually spec the 3Form up to the same level for.

A few rivals include the Honda Jazz, which starts at over £11,500 for the base 1.2 petrol model. Spec it an okay level, where it’s got similar gear on to the 3Form Sport, – say the SE version – and you’re looking at £13k+. The Suzuki Swift starts at over £11,200 for the base SZ2 1.2 litre 5-door, and goes to £14,900 once you spec it the same as the MG3 3Style. The Volkswagen Polo starts at £11,500 for the 5-door S, but again option it to the same level as the top MG3, and VW will be asking in excess of £15,300. The closest is the Fiat Panda Pop at £8,900, but with the extra’s like the 3Style has, £12,400.

The list could go on, but it proves even cars at the budget end of the market are more expensive than the MG. In short, the MG3 is an absolute bargain.

2013 MG MG3 verdict and score

MG MG3 3FORM SPORT review-0917-2

It’s an easy summary to do, this one. If you’re a driver of any age, and want a brand-new car that’s cheap to buy, cheap to run and cheap to insure, but is roomy, practical, and packed with loads of equipment as well as a high level of safety tech, the MG3 is probably the car for you. Don’t be put off that the MG is essentially Chinese owned and built either, because in doing that, you’re missing the real point, which is that the MG3 is a decent and rather inexpensive little hatchback.

Do you own an MG3? What are your views on it, and what are the best and worst points? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  6
Interior  6
Engine  5
Gearbox  5
Price  8.5
Drive & ride  6
Overall Score  6.0 / 10 

  Specs

Model (as tested)  2013 MG3 3Form Sport
Spec includes  3Form Sport spec as standard: Side sills, 16″ alloys, ABS, SCS, EBD, EBA, hill-hold control, tyre pressure monitoring, front, side & curtain airbags, DAB digital radio, bluetooth for music & phone, USB & AUX ports, electric heated wing mirrors etc See specs for more
Options you should spec  3Form Sport version for high standard spec
The Competition  Suzuki Swift, Honda Jazz, Fiat Panda, Volkswagen Polo etc
Price  (Dec. ’13) £8,399 – £9,999
Engine  1.5 litre DOHC VTi-Tech, 4 cylinder and 16 valves, naturally-aspirated
Power, Torque, CO2  106 PS @ 6,000 rpm, 101 lb ft (137 NM) at 4,750 rpm. | CO2: 136 g/km
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Front wheel drive | 5-speed manual
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed: 108 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 10.4 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: Not as yet tested. MG expected good results though due to Chinese tests already having been carried out.
Fuel economy (UK mpg)  Urban: 37.7 Extra urban: 57.6, Combined: 48.7
Weight (kerb)  1,125 – 1,155 kilograms (2,480 – 2,546 lbs), depending on spec
Websites  MG Motor UK, MG/SAIC global

Check out our other car reviews

Words: Chris Davies | Tested by: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

9 responses to “MG MG3 3Form Sport Review – Roomy, Cheap Hatch Is Quite Likeable”

  1. Kyle

    It looks like a nice little car, but I prefer something bigger.

  2. brian Hall

    I have just taken delivery of the top model mg 3style which for me has put new life back into my driving, you may laugh, but I exchange a Mercades estate c class 30 month old for it .Which gave me quite a few pounds back into my bank account and a new car, so far I find it a joy to drive and was very easy to ajust, its not that small, which is what I was thinking, it sounds solid, when closing doors and boot, easy to get into, and feels well built, where I live is mostly A roads, and I find it holds the road very well , it puts the fun back into driving, changing from an automatic to manual had its a justments , but the lever and gearbox are fine, and work well, I find the engine fine, not slow by any means but not formula 1. I would have liked more MPG , BUT 48/9 MPG is not that bad, has everything else except sat nav, but I am working on that. all in all, a nice car, I hope they do well, its nice to get value for money for a change.

  3. Stuart Rogers

    A great and intuitive test review and drive thank you, honest, sensible/ and fair.
    I have been keeping an eye on MG over the last few years and they are surely
    back for keeps now. They have taken a slating over the MG 6, which is a good car,
    the price a bit high, but it is turning it round now. MG just need more engine choice
    a nice 1.3 diesel (Fiats) would be good. I am tempted to buy but rather than having
    brand new, may just wait for a low mileage nearly new, like I usually do.
    MG is the new Kia, another few years new engines more models, 5 year warranty
    etc, they won’t take long to catch up. Prices must stay as they are to succeed tho
    to attract keep and steal customers from other marques. Tks again.
    Stuart Rogers Ammanford South Wales

  4. Stuart Rogers

    Hi again Chris, once again brill review, I will be visiting Longbridge next week to have a good
    look at the MG3, maybe a test drive if possible. Give the engine a good thrash up and around the Lickey Hills to check out it’s pulling power. Looking forward to it. There are definately some
    new engines in the pipeline, not quire sure what yet, 1.2 petrol? 1.3 Diesel or even a 1.1 Diesel
    like the one in the Kia Rio? I think it will be worth waiting a little while longer to see. Sales
    I believe are going along nicely for MG and long may it continue. I will definitely buy one to
    replace my Kia 2 Crdi 09 plate (a car I really enjoy) soon I feel, (I like different) but it will be a nearly new one, some good deals now if you look.
    Keep up the good work, You have the job I always dreamed of, am 60 and retired so not going
    to happen now,
    all the best
    Stuart Rogers

  5. Stuart Rogers

    At last I have seen one in the flesh, `Hello Yello`. and `Lady Grey`. Very impressed with it, good looks, good profile. Interior looks smart, good fit and finish, exterior paintwork is good finish as well. Very impressed all round. So for £9,999 its a steal. Engine tight showing very few miles, but that will soon loosen up..Headroom for me seemed a little low but after some playing around with my seat adjustment I got there, seats feel a bit narrow, but I would like a longer drive next time and maybe one with a few more miles on the clock.
    I luv the Hello Yello, and this will be the colour for me, will get the paint treated for protection and it will be the Style model for me.
    So I cannot recommend it high enough, I want one, now!!!!!!!
    Stuart Rogers

  6. Martin Elmes

    Took delivery of a MG 3 style in Black with the weave graphics pack and pink mirrors for my wife three weeks ago. She loves it, I must admit I’ve done moor miles than she at the moment trying to run it in. up to 455 of the 900 is says in the hand book. Trying to keep it below 3000 rpm is hard, as all it wants to do is rev and get going. 3000 rpm in 5th is around 70mph. The mpg figs ant that great yet, as the eng is tight and changing gear at 3000rpm its not working at peek efficiency. On the first full refuel we got around 39.68 mpg.

    This is the first car she has had from new, and it replaced a 58 plate swift 1.5GLX that she had from 18mths old. At the moment we are both very impressed with the car as a hole. The ride is not as harsh, the chassis is as good if not better and the engine seems just as willing, so hears hopping we have a long and loving relationship with it.

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