The MG 3 is the best selling light car in Australia with almost one in every two city cars sold in the country being an MG. It outsells the Toyota Yaris, Kia Rio, Mazda 2 and Volkswagen Polo combined – so why is it so controversial to recommend one?
The MG 3 is a victim of its own success. Being the most popular city car on sale in Australia proves that the MG3 serves a need at a certain price point that other manufacturers are unable or unwilling to entertain.
At the same time, its lacklustre overseas safety rating (no local test) and recent price hikes should continue to weigh on the minds of potential buyers. So, should you buy an MG 3?
As was the case with our 2022 MG 3 review, MG Australia would not provide us with a car, so we had to do it the old fashioned way and borrow a brand new car from an external party.
Since the beginning of 2022, there has been two price increases that now affect the MG 3.
The first was a $500 price hike in February, followed by a further $500 price hike in June.
2023 MG 3 pricing:
- MG 3 Core: $18,990
- MG 3 Core with Nav: $19,490
- MG 3 Excite: $20,490
Prices are drive-away
The second-generation MG3 started life back in 2011 but the model we have here is the facelifted, facelifted version that last saw changes in 2018.
This current generation is set to replaced in 2024 with an all-new car which would be unlikely to maintain the same price point but will likely come with a more modern interior.
As for the 2023 MG 3, the interior is actually pretty decent given the price point.
Yes there are a lot of hard plastics and the steering wheel feels a bit cheap to touch (just put on a cover on it), but the actual ergonomics of the seats, the driving position, the 8.0-inch touchscreen with wired Apple CarPlay and the rear seat space is probably more than you will need as either a city car or a first car.
We drove the MG 3 around for a good little while and it’s fair to say the front seats are reasonably comfortable and while the car is best suited to short distance city driving, it’s definitely a viable option if you want to do the occasional drive from Sydney to Melbourne (given the insane cost of flights at the moment).
The four-speaker stereo in the base model is decent and it will get upgraded to six if you go up to the Excite we tested here. The reversing camera is also sharp and quick to turn on. The parking sensors also work well and given the size of the vehicle, parking is not issue.
Perhaps the little hidden gem in favour of the MG 3’s interior compared to its more expensive rivals is the rear seat space.
It might be classed as a ‘light’ car but realistically the back seats are significantly larger in terms of legroom than some of its rivals and you can most definitely fit four adults in the car without much complaint. Five if you must.
The 2023 MG3’s quoted luggage capacity is 307L, increasing to a maximum of 1081L with the rear seats folded down.
Our suggestion is to not bother buying any other spec than the base model MG 3 Core.
You really don’t need to pay the extra $500 for satellite navigation if you have an iPhone and use Apple CarPlay (which is far better for navigating anyway).
The extra equipment level for the Excite (listed further down) is really not worth it and you’d be better off spending that money on a stereo upgrade at your local car audio store and getting a far better result.
The 2023 MG 3 is powered by a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine that develops 82kW of power (6000 rpm) and 150Nm of torque (4500 rpm), transmitted to the front-wheels via a pretty old four-speed automatic transmission.
Given the MG 3 weighs only roughly 1200kg, the power to weight ratio is pretty decent.
MG claims the MG3 uses 6.7L/100km in the combined cycle while putting out 159g of CO2. It has a 45L fuel tank, meaning it should be able to travel 672km per full tank. Realistically you will get about 600km out of a tank.
The company says the MG 3 can run on 91 RON fuel, but ‘recommends’ you put in premium juice. We managed to get around 7.4-7.5L of fuel usage from it in the real world, mainly because of how often you have to plant the right pedal to get the MG 3 to show some pace.
Here is the funny thing about the MG 3, you would expect with just 82kW and 150 Nm it would be annoyingly slow.
The reality is that’s actually not the case. The power-to-weight ratio means the MG 3 has enough guts to get it up and going for inner-city driving, and perhaps only really suffers from the lack of torque when you’re attempting an overtake at 110km/h.
The main downside to the MG 3’s powertrain is not the engine, but the transmission. The four-speed automatic just doesn’t have enough gears to get the best out of the engine and you will find that it will consistently kick down to second gear to get going and there is a big discrepancy in power and torque in the higher gears.
In saying that, in our opinion it’s still a better option than a CVT for a car like this, and if all you’re doing is driving around the inner city and doing short trips here and there, you really wouldn’t notice that much.
What you will notice, though, is just how bloody noisy it is in the cabin. MG could really do with adding some sound deadening to the vehicle and reduce the amount of engine noise that finds its way into the cabin.
In terms of the ride, the MG 3 is pretty firm and if you frequent poorly surfaced roads, you will definitely feel every bump. This is yet again another reason not to go for the higher spec Excite that gets the bigger wheels – lower profile tyres means firmer ride.
There are certainly better riding cars out there in the form of the Volkswagen Polo and Mazda 2, but again if you spend most of your time on smooth inner-city roads, it’s not really a concern.
Otherwise, the handling aspect of the MG 3 is as you would expect from a light city car. It does what it’s meant to do and never feels unsafe or poorly balanced.
It’s a pretty decent little car around town, and so long as you’re willing to be a little assertive with your right foot (and use a bit more fuel in the process), it has enough go to get the job done.
MG 3 Core highlights:
- Reversing camera
- Rear parking sensors
- 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Wired Apple CarPlay
- Cruise control
- 4-speaker sound system
- Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
- 15-inch alloy wheels
- LED daytime running lights
- Tartan fabric trim
Satellite navigation is a $500 option on the MG 3 Core.
MG 3 Excite adds:
- Leatherette and tartan fabric trim
- 16-inch alloy wheels
- Six-speaker sound system
- Satellite navigation
There is no ANCAP safety rating for the MG 3, and it’s therefore unrated in our market.
We have found it strange that ANCAP has not tested what is Australia’s best-selling light car. Nonetheless, there is an Euro NCAP safety rating of the pre-facelift model from 2014, which rates the car at three stars – though this rating has now ‘expired’.
Not only that, it misses out on any form of modern autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane-keep assist, and driver attention monitoring.
A 2014 safety rating score is based on very different criteria than what you would expect in a 2023 rating. In other words, it would be unlikely the MG 3 would receive even a three-star safety rating if tested today.
The lack of a modern safety rating is the main question mark hanging over the MG 3’s roof, especially compared to cars like the Kia Picanto that managed a four-star ANCAP safety rating in 2017, or the now discontinued Mitsubishi Mirage and its five-star ANCAP rating from 2013.
If you’re a parent and thinking of buying the MG 3 as a first car for your child, this is definitely a point to seriously ponder on. The lack of active safety features is without doubt a concern for young and inattentive drivers.
In saying that, if the MG 3 is being put up against a 4- or 5-year-old Japanese car with high mileage and close to no warranty, then it’s a matter of weighing up the safety aspect versus the new car experience and the safety net of a long-term warranty should anything go wrong.
You can have a look at the European crash test safety rating of the current-generation by pre-facelifted model for yourself here.
The MG 3 is the cheapest new car to run in Australia when looked at from a total cost of ownership perspective.
Factored into that data are variables including purchase price, loan repayments, registration, insurance, fuel or charging costs, tyres, servicing and repairs and auto club membership – all averaged out over five years.
In terms of actual warranty; the 2023 MG 3 has a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
The brand also offers fixed-price servicing to the MG 3, with pricing details below:
|Service Interval||Advertised Price|
|12 months / 10,000km||$243|
|24 months / 20,000km||$285|
|36 months / 30,000km||$279|
|48 months / 40,000km||$330|
|60 months / 50,000km||$243|
|72 months / 60,000km||$321|
|84 months / 70,000km||$243|
At the end of the day, the MG 3 is popular for a reason. It brings features and warranty at a price point no other manufacturer can match at this point in time.
With a seven-year warranty, a pretty reasonable infotainment system, and affordable servicing costs, the MG 3 will remain popular amongst Australians looking for cheap, reliable motoring.
If the 2023 MG 3 had a five-star safety rating – or at the very least, some active safety features – we would have no hesitation to recommend the city car as a great cost-conscious offering.
Given the question mark over its safety, it really comes down to having a serious think about buying a significantly older vehicle, likely without warranty and with an older ANCAP rating versus a modern car with warranty but one which lacks that surety from a safety perspective.
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