MG3, priced from £8,399
A quick look at the price list suggests it’s getting itself off to a very good start. The reborn brand, which is now owned by the Chinese, has capped the prices of even its top-spec models at a tempting £9,999.
For that, you’ll get a DAB radio with Bluetooth capability, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, air conditioning, reverse parking sensors and cruise control. Even the base model, at £8,399, will get you a decent stereo, LED daytime running lights, hill hold control and remote central locking.
MG needs this car to do well. It’s last attempt at the mainstream, the Ford Focus-rivaling MG6, never really hit the mark. It wasn’t a bad car, in fairness, but it was launched into an extremely difficult industry sector and only a few hundred were sold.
The MG3 is primed and ready to hit the bustling supermini sector and it’s a much easier market place to make waves in. Its keen pricing will attract more interest here, as will its eye-catching styling which was penned by the firm’s in-house design team in the West Midlands.
Although much of the car is screwed together in China its final assembly is done over here in Longbridge, Birmingham. Its development and design was also overseen by British people. Whether that will hold any sway with the buying public remains to be seen.
British car manufacturing has had a chequered history, it’s fair to say, but poke around the newcomer and you’d be hard-pressed to find any major build quality issues.
As a matter of fact, there’s some really clever design touches such as the sculpted rear diffuser, the striking daytime running lights and the natty LED heater controls. It doesn’t feel like a car that’s been thrown together quickly, on a budget.
There are some cheap materials if you really look for them but no more than in any of its rivals and, even down to the weighting of the indicator and wiper stalks, much of it feels very well put together.
Good design presents itself in other ways, too. There’s plenty of space inside. It’s a very tall car and that makes for a light and airy cabin with big comfy seats for the driver and passenger, ample room for those in the back and a decent boot.
It even drives well. The suspension is firm, but not in any way uncomfortable and the steering feels sharp, especially when you’re pressing on in the corners. The brakes are good, the gear change is positive and I couldn’t find any squeaks or rattles.
It does have its problems, however. The only engine on offer is a little disappointing. It’s a 1.5 petrol unit with 105bhp but it feels strained and even a bit old fashioned. There’s power to be had from it, but only when it’s screaming away beyond 4,000rpm – a point that takes an age to get to because of its leggy five-speed gearbox.
But, getting back to my original point, it’s dirt cheap. And because its overall package is so surprisingly well polished, it’s actually possible to forgive its lethargic engine and focus on the positives. Not least the fact that, Chinese influence aside, this is about as British as mass-produced cars come these days.
What’s more, it feels nothing like a thrown-together kit car with all the personality of a dishwasher. A lot of thought has gone in to it and it feels individual. It’s surprisingly unique and interesting, it’s built well and it looks different enough to stand out.
Could it be second time lucky for MG? If this car doesn’t finally make a success of the brand, I’ll be surprised.