The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.0
The MG 3 is a very affordable supermini; it costs several thousand pounds less than some of its rivals. The latest model handles better than you might expect from a car of this price, and it’s had some decent updates to the interior. But, the old 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine remains, and it lacks the necessary puff, especially when compared with the perky, small turbocharged engines of the 3’s rivals. With a vague gearchange and an uncomfortable ride as well, there are a few compromises to make if you’re swayed by the 3’s price tag.
Reasons to buy
- Great handling
- Smart styling
- Affordable price
At a glance
- How good does it look? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's the interior like? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How practical is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's it like to drive? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How powerful is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much will it cost me? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How reliable is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How safe is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much equipment do I get? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- Why buy? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
How good does it look?
The MG 3 is quite a sporty and modern looking car. There’s a big grille apparently inspired by MG's octagonal logo, and all models get LED daytime running lights and headlights.
Base-level Explore trim gets 14-inch steel wheels, while Excite and Exclusive trims get 16-inch diamond-cut wheels and larger side sills.
You can personalise your 3 quite a bit, by picking different coloured wing mirrors, or adding roof graphics. And there are six paint colours to go for, including the brighter Hello Yellow or metallic Spiced Orange, or the more muted metallic Laser Blue and Aspen Silver, or non-metallic Ruby Red and Arctic White.
What's the interior like?
The previous 3’s interior was very lacklustre, but it has been significantly updated for the 2018 model. The materials still feel cheap compared with those of rivals, but they're better than they were and they're acceptable given the low price.
There are some attempts at flair, with black and grey seats, red stitching and other red highlights. If you step up to the top Exclusive trim, you get a leather steering wheel and part-leather sports seats.
The driving position will be a little bit high up for some tastes, but the seats give decent support and the steering wheel also adjusts for reach and rake. Visibility is also pretty good.
Mid-range Excite trim brings an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system. It’s brightly-coloured, but quite complicated to use, with confusing menus. There’s no built-in sat-nav available on any trim, so unless you’ve got an iPhone and can use Google Maps through Apple CarPlay, you’ll need a separate sat-nav.
How practical is it?
There’s plenty of room in the cabin for four adults, more so than in many of the 3’s rivals.
Around the car, you get three well-sized door bins, a glovebox that will fit more than a pair of gloves, and there’s an extra lidded cubbyhole on top of the dash. There’s a huge bonus if you opt for the top Excellence trim: you get map pockets. Woo.
Boot space is 285 litres, which is quite a bit bigger than the Mitsubishi Mirage, but smaller than the Dacia Sandero. It's also a good square shape, although if you opt for the spare tyre, this goes down to 256 litres. With the 60/40 split-folding rear seats down, the space is 1262 litres.
What's it like to drive?
The 3 handles really, really well. It’s got great body control and loads of grip in the corners, and the steering is weighted nicely, with plenty of feedback. If it had an engine to match, it’d be up there in warm hatch territory.
However, the compromise for that great handling is the ride. Bigger lumps and bumps can really be felt crashing into the cabin, and at lower speeds, it’s also quite jittery. It’s noisy as well as firm, because you can hear the suspension knocking over bumps. If you're looking for a cut-price alternative to a hot hatch, then it might fit the bill, but if you're looking for comfort, look elsewhere.
How powerful is it?
The 3 is one of the only small cars on the market that’s powered by a naturally-aspirated engine. It's a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol with 107 horsepower that’s paired with a five-speed manual gearbox. It just feels very old, especially compared with all the small turbocharged engines found in the 3’s rivals.
You really have to will the engine on when you’re pulling away from standstill, and you just don’t get enough puff. The engine only really wakes up once you've hit around 4500rpm, but the urge quickly fades away again at 5500rpm, so you only feel the engine's full force for the briefest of moments. And, by the time you have the engine in its sweet spot, it's also making quite a lot of noise.
On top of that, the gearbox isn’t great to use. The changes feel a bit vague, and when you put the clutch down to change gear, there’s a weird dead spot at the top of the pedal travel, so you’re not sure if your foot’s fully come off or not.
How much will it cost me?
The 3 is a very affordable car. Even the top-of-the-range Excellence trim is a similar price to some of the base models of the 3’s rivals, and you do get a decent amount of kit for that money.
However, the naturally-aspirated petrol engine will cost more to run than the more sophisticated turbocharged units of the 3’s rivals. On the WLTP cycle, the official fuel consumption figure is 47mpg, with 140g/km CO2 emissions.
Depreciation rates aren’t likely to be all that great, either. However, it’s in a low insurance group, so young or new drivers might be drawn to it for that reason.
How reliable is it?
MG offers a generous seven-year/80,000-mile warranty on the 3, which almost matches Kia’s warranty. It can also be transferred to new owners if you decide to sell the car before it’s up.
As a brand, MG sits just in the top half of the Warranty Direct Reliability Index, which ranks manufacturers by taking into account all factors of a repair, the cost of the parts and the frequency of failures. There’s no specific data for the 3 available.
On our site, the Owner Reviews for the previous 3 are mixed: some people have reported recurring issues and problems with warranties, while others have had no faults whatsoever.
How safe is it?
Every model gets twin front, side and curtain airbags, along with electronic stability control, hill hold control and traction control as standard.
The base level trim only gets central locking, and you do have to upgrade to mid-range Excite trim to get remote central door locking with deadlocks. There are Isofix points in the rear seats, along with rear child locks.
The 3 was last tested by Euro NCAP in 2014, and it scored a disappointing three stars. This is partly due to the lack of driver assistance systems, such as autonomous emergency braking, which still isn’t available on the newer model.
How much equipment do I get?
All versions come with two speakers, Bluetooth and an AUX/USB as standard, as well as fully-electric windows in the front and rear.
Upgrading to Excite gets you alloy wheels, body-coloured door handles, rear spoiler and side sills, and electrically adjustable heated door mirrors.
Inside, Excite brings six-way adjustable seats, a leather-style steering wheel and front sun visors with driver and passenger mirrors. You also get an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay (but no Android Auto, oddly), DAB radio, steering wheel controls, and some extra speakers. You also get reverse parking sensors.
Top-of-the-range Exclusive models get even more speakers, as well as a reversing camera with dynamic guidelines, and cruise control.
It probably boils down to money: because you want a supermini that is very affordable. There are rivals with better interiors and more modern engines, and that ride better and are safer and more reliable. But the 3 does still have a charm to it, and it really does handle well. It'll be appealing to young drivers who want a cheaper alternative to a hot hatch, but not those buyers who are after comfort.