2018 MG3 Soul Review : Quick Spin

MG’s light hatch scores an automatic transmission at last

What we liked:

• Powertrain efficiency and performance

• Attractive style

• Long warranty and service intervals

Not so much:

• Could do with more cogs

• Some road noise

• Pricing yet to be announced

What’s it all about?

China’s SAIC has made fitful progress re-establishing MG in Australia. But the iconic ‘octagon’ brand is finally making some headway.

The first green shoots of progress begin with the most affordable car in the range, the MG3.

Already an old design in real terms, and not known for hot-hatch performance, the smallest MG in the local range has been held back by an unimpressive ANCAP rating and the lack of an automatic transmission.

There’s a facelift on the way, however, and it will finally bring with it an automatic when it arrives in less than two months.

How much will it cost?

Until the updated MG3’s launch in August the distributor is not discussing numbers or any possible changes to trim and specification other than the upgrade model migrating to a standard automatic transmission, but that alone should result in a bump in the price.

Currently, RedBook lists the MG3 Core starting at $13,990, with the MG3 Soul costing $1000 more and the MG3 Essence more expensive again, at $15,990.

This segment of the market – light passenger cars – is famously price-sensitive and super-competitive, making it really hard for newcomers to crack. And MG is a newcomer… in this sector of the market in particular.

It wouldn’t surprise us if MG were to reduce the three current trim levels and bring in the automatic variant at a starting price below $15,000, but we won’t know for sure until August.

Why should I/shouldn’t I buy it?

Put off by the thought of shifting gears for oneself? That objection has now been taken off the table for the MG3. And there’s an extra helping of power and torque to seal the deal. Plus it looks better to our eyes and the interior has been restyled.

Just two laps of a racetrack outside Shanghai in China simply isn’t enough to assess the MG3 comprehensively, but the four-speed automatic served up a solid result.

Shifting sequentially, the transmission picked up the next gear very smoothly, even under full load. Naturally, an extra couple of gears would enhance performance, but it would also add expense – passed on to the consumer. And it’s very unlikely buyers necessarily need track-day performance from the MG3 anyway.

As it is, the four-speed automatic allows the engine to rev right through to redline when kicked down – and there’s a demonstrable lift in output at speeds upwards from 5000rpm.

The engine is a bit rowdy in that part of the rev range, but most of the time the MG3 won’t be driven that hard and noise suppression is on par with rivals in the segment. There was some tyre noise evident from the OE tyres (a brand named GiTiComfort, which is a new one on us).

That ANCAP rating will remain a stumbling block until an all-new model arrives. In the meantime, a more detailed analysis of the MG3 will need to wait for Australian-specification cars to reach our shores.

When is it available in Australia?

The media launch in Australia for the facelifted MG3 is mid-August, and local dealers are already taking orders.

Who will it appeal to?

The sort of person to buy an MG3 will be making a leap of faith. Maybe that person is a non-conformist who recognises the MG3’s inherent value. Perhaps it’s a daily driver to park alongside the MGB?

The MG3 is competitive on price and specification – and will likely remain so with the introduction of the facelifted model.

A six-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty and service intervals of 12 months or 15,000km are inducement enough to overcome any potential reliability qualms.

MG doesn’t currently provide fuel economy figures for the MG3 with automatic, but the manual’s fuel consumption is below 6.0L/100km, and the automatic transmission is likely to be in the same ballpark, despite the added power and torque.

Where does it fit?

According to VFACTS, the MG3 is a light-segment passenger car. Measuring just over four metres in length and riding on a wheelbase of 2520mm, the MG3 is slightly longer than both the Holden Barina and Toyota Yaris and as little as 5mm shorter than the Barina in the wheelbase.

So, what do we think?

To date, MG has sold as few as 47 examples of MG3 in this country. Multiply that number by 10 – the usual ratio of automatic sales to manuals in light cars – and the MG3 would outsell the Honda City, Renault Clio and Skoda Fabia. So maybe the MG3 has what it takes to draw in the buyers.

The Euro NCAP safety rating is a factor that needs to be considered if the MG3 is to be purchased for a younger, inexperienced driver.

And the resale value is an unknown quantity for those buyers who like to swap their cars over regularly.

But the warranty can’t be overlooked and the driving experience will suit most prospective buyers. Furthermore, the factory is distributing the car in Australia, so there’s commitment to the market in that.

At the very least, if the package suits, purchase price is a consideration and driving something a little different from the rest is important, the MG3 should be on the shopping list.

How much is the 2018 MG3?

Price: TBC
On sale: August
Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol
Output: 88kW/150Nm
Transmission: Four-speed automatic
Fuel: TBC
Safety rating: Three-star (Euro NCAP, 2014)

(motoring.com.au, http://bit.ly/2JenH2o)