MG3 Core review: would you really want to own New Zealand's cheapest new car?
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- Actually fun to drive
- Impressive quality
- Seven-year all-in warranty
- Thirsty for a city car
- Weird infotainment system
- Firm ride around town
If you like value for money (who doesn’t?), MG is ticking a lot of boxes at the moment. It caught the Clean Car Discount wave this year with the ZS EV compact-SUV, which was already New Zealand’s cheapest Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV). There’s also the excellent new medium-sized HS PHEV. Both have made the Chinese brand big news here.
The focus on electricity and SUVs means MG’s passenger cars have been somewhat overshadowed to date. But the MG3 hatch is getting some of the spotlight now: with the demise of the Suzuki Celerio - star of a thousand Zooming with DRIVEN and office conversations – the little MG3 Core is now officially NZ’s least expensive new car.
MG NZ also sweetened the deal last month with the announcement of a seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, Warrant of Fitness and roadside assistance package. That brought a $1500 price rise, but the new sticker still undercuts any budget-car rival (just) at $19,490.
Ask the accountant and the MG3 Core is impossible to ignore if you’re in the market for a supermini-size hatchback. But how will your car-keen brain feel about it?
Pretty good, actually. The 3 is a little different to mainstream Japanese and Korean superminis, but in a good way. The powertrain is modest, with a 1.5-litre petrol engine and four-speed automatic, and it rides on tiny 15-inch wheels. But it’s all quite entertaining in its own way; more about that in a minute.
The equipment list is worthy, as is the build quality. You get six airbags, camera-based autonomous braking technology and Cornering Brake Control (CBC): not the last word in driver assists, but ahead of the game in this segment.
There’s Apple and Android phone projection, which allows you to circumvent the slightly weird infotainment OS in the car. The audio has speed-related volume control and is apparently designed around “Front Yamaha Sound Field” technology, whatever that is. It sounds pretty good, anyway.
The cabin also looks genuinely appealing, with quality build and an interesting range of textures and colours; love the faux-tartan pattern on the dashboard insert and seat fabric. None of it feels bargain basement.
Nor does the driving experience. The mid-range of the 82kW/150Nm is hampered by the four-speed automatic, meaning rolling acceleration isn’t exactly electric (no pun intended) in second and third gears. But the little engine sounds throaty rather than tinny and if you’re prepared to work it enthusiastically, you will be rewarded. If you like driving, the MG’s four-speeder is still vastly preferable to the continuously variable transmission you get in the rival Mitsubishi Mirage or Suzuki Ignis. Even if it’s not as thrifty.
There’s a standard-issue MG steering wheel with a nice chunky rim. Perhaps it’s a sign of age, but the 3 has hydraulic (not electric) power steering, which means lots more feel than your average small car. However, that’s also a reason why it can’t offer tech like lane-keep assistance.
The chassis belies those skinny tyres by flowing quite nicely through bends. It certainly doesn’t understeer like you’d expect of a car on such humble footwear and it doesn’t feel out of its depth on the open road. The opportunity cost is a slightly busy ride on urban roads, but not to the point of discomfort.
The cost-conscious hardware does limit the MG3’s ability to wow you at the petrol pumps. The official Combined figure is 6.7l/100km, but you’d be hard pressed to match that in day-to-day driving. The City Cycle rating is 9.2l/100km and that’s an indicative average based on our week with the car (although in fairness, we did not spare the horses).
The big sales pitch around the MG3 is the warranty, making it a no-brainer over a same-price used vehicle. Fair enough, but that’s also underselling it a bit. It’s a practical, fun little car that’s built to a price but also stands up very well on its own merits.
You can step up to the MG3 Excite for $21,490, which has bigger wheels (well, 16in), a body kit, upgraded trim and full “Yamaha 3D Sound Field” audio. Whatever that is. Nice and it’s only $2k extra, but the Core has the same power and safety kit. It seems more honest.
We think of MG as a “challenger” brand in NZ at the moment, but it’s already the 12th largest by volume. It’s already cracked the top 10 in Australia. Look out in 2022.
ENGINE: 1.5-litre petrol four
GEARBOX: 4-speed automatic, FWD