Cheap-as-chips supermini makes way for all-new hybrid aimed at bereft Ford Fiesta fans

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More than 4000 Brits bought a new MG 3 last year. That’s admirable, considering that this supermini was launched over a decade ago and, with its somewhat crude dynamics and especially its rough petrol engine, it signalled that fact pretty clearly – although MG executives admit that this car, one of the very cheapest on the UK market, was aimed at people who just wanted something new with a warranty, and better yet a seven-year one.

The second-generation 3, just arrived, is all-new and an entirely different proposition: a thoroughly modern-looking design, with new underpinnings, MG’s first full-hybrid powertrain and a higher-quality interior with a new touchscreen infotainment system and digital dash.

Indeed, MG says it has effectively skipped an entire model generation. So it’s 'see ya, Dacia Sandero' and 'how ya doin’, Renault Clio?', with the starting price jumping from £14k to £18k. Now the Ford Fiesta is dead and buried, there’s an enormous opportunity here.

As such, almost all of its buyers will be ‘conquests’ from other brands and MG expects there to be a lot of them: there are more 3s on the first boat over from the Nanjing factory in China than the brand sold in the whole of 2017.

Projected annual volume is 10,000 – just under half of what the omnipresent Toyota Yaris achieves.

MG claims volume is what enables it to undercut rivals by so much (the Clio and Yaris hybrids cost from £21k and £22k), but Toyota is by far the world’s biggest car maker, so the fact that MG is ultimately owned by the Chinese state might have more to do with it.

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mg3 review 2024 03 rear panning

MG isn’t a purely Chinese company, however: it has a design studio in London (whose latest effort looks smart enough to these eyes, if too busy and typically underwheeled) and an engineering centre in Birmingham, where work was done to tune this car for European tastes. Thanks to China’s relaxing of its Covid policies, Chinese engineers were able to fly out to tune the ADAS on our shoddy roads, so the 3 should avoid the issues the larger, electric 4 suffered at launch.

The 3 looks to all intents and purposes like a cut-price Clio E-Tech: the dimensions are similar, standard kit is comparable and the powertrain is an atmospheric 1.5 four-cylinder petrol engine collaborating with an electric motor and an automatic gearbox. However, the motor is twice as powerful here – 134bhp plays 48bhp – and the gearbox is a conventional three-speeder, whereas the Clio uniquely has a highly complicated multimodal creation.



mg3 review 2024 05 driving

‘Maturity’ is a word that sprung to mind when I surveyed the interior for the first time. 

Generally fine-feeling plastics combine with handsome patterned cloth on the seats and dashboard and a 10.3in touchscreen. MG deserves credit for its pleasing graphics, tiled home page, sensible menu layouts and standard smartphone mirroring.

There are no excuses for pranging or kerbing it if you go for the pricier Trophy trim because this brings an incredibly clever surround-view camera, which, if useful on the enormous Mifa 9 MPV from sibling brand Maxus, feels almost superfluous in a 4m-long hatchback. It’s also good to see that sat-nav is standard even on the cheaper SE, although concerningly the system in our test car still thought we were at Autocar HQ in Twickenham while we were photographing it down in Brighton.

I was pleased to see a row of physical buttons on the dashboard, but all isn’t quite as it seems: the air-con button doesn’t actually adjust the temperature or fan speed, instead being merely a shortcut to the climate menu on the touchscreen, and if you’ve got Apple CarPlay or Android Auto filling the touchscreen, said button won’t do anything unless you first press the home button to return to MG’s software. This means the simple act of cooling yourself down requires at least three prods and time not watching the road. In the Clio, the entire operation can be done almost subconsciously, thanks to twisty dials and buttons.

At least MG has made it easy to turn off the various EU-mandated safety systems and annoying bings and bongs: press the car icon on the right side of the screen and you’re presented with a list of on/off sliders, each with a helpful explainer paragraph next to it.

Actually, you might not even want to use it anyway: in its most ‘helpful’ modes, the MG Pilot system combines adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance pretty well, not being spooked by the ghost lines that haunt my commute, although as usual it leaves a gap to the vehicle in front large enough that someone is guaranteed to pull into it, and there can be a tendency for it to saw at the wheel through curves, rather than maintaining a gentle angle as a human driver should.

You don’t feel too close to your front passenger in the 3, taller drivers shouldn’t have too many complaints and there’s surely enough room in the back for two adults – although it’s disappointing that the rear bench isn’t split for more versatile loading. The boot, meanwhile, is a healthy 241 litres, as compared with 254 in the Clio, neither car suffering in terms of luggage capacity for its hybridisation.


mg3 review 2024 25 engine bay

Look at the specs and you would expect the 3 to be much livelier to drive than the Clio, because its combined totals are 192bhp and 313lb ft, compared with 143bhp and 184lb ft, but it doesn’t feel anything like that muscular on the road. The weight difference is only 60kg in favour of the Clio, yet the difference in 0-62mph times is 1.3sec in favour of the 3, so something doesn’t quite add up here.

No matter: both cars feel faster than they really need to be for the average supermini driver, both into junctions and when going for an overtake.

There are some key differences, however. Whereas the Clio's E-Tech powertrain gives seamless acceleration when you floor it, feeling like a CVT without the elastic-band effect, the 3 Hybrid+ has three distinct waves of power delivery as it goes through its broad gears. Whereas the Clio offers you regular ‘D’ and ‘B’ driving, the 3 offers three levels of regenerative braking, the highest of which is really very strong, such that it affords you near-one-pedal driving.


mg3 review 2024 27 front cornering

The chassis set-ups are quite different too. The 3 feels softer than the Clio, allowing itself to rise and fall in reaction to crests and bumps, rather than trying to push the road surface beneath it flat. That doesn’t mean it’s unpleasantly floaty, though: it still feels controlled, settling quickly, and it’s not so susceptible to the horrors of potholes and scruffy surface repairs.

It will still corner tenaciously if asked to do so, just with a bit more lean. Instead, the main thing that prevents you from ever feeling quite as confident as you do in the Clio is the steering, which isn’t the sharpest – and when you add weight to the rack by selecting Sport driving mode, there’s a curious feeling of elastic tension, so keen is it to ping back to centre. 

Whether you will like this less sporting dynamic character will come down to whether you’re more bothered about feeling relaxed while going shopping or indulging yourself on your way home from work. Either way, it’s an impressive set-up, certainly a real improvement over the old 3 and preferable to a number of other superminis.


mg3 review 2024 01 urban panning

Official fuel economy is an impressive 64.2mpg. However, over 190 miles of mixed driving with me – inner-city, B-road blasts and motorway runs –  the trip computer showed 44.8mpg, which is disappointing, as the Clio has averaged more than 50mpg in these hands, suggesting that this hybrid is more sensitive to your driving style, if not outright less efficient with its petrol.


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France still makes the best hybrid supermini, you will have gathered by now, but its rear-view mirror is now full of Chinese metal – metal that costs three grand less and, thanks to strong predicted residual values, should be competitive on finance as well. The 3 is an impressive product for the price, adeptly doing all that potential buyers will expect of it and really wanting for nothing. In a matter of only a few years, MG has scooped huge portions of market share onto its crossover, hatchback and EV plates – and now it’s licking its lips before gobbling up supermini sales too.