MG3 (2013-2018)

Models Covered:

5-door Hatch [1.3 petrol, 1.5 petrol]

By Jonathan Crouch


The MG3 is a supermini you probably won’t have considered as a used small car buy. Yet it’s fun to drive, practical to own and vastly more affordable than the conventional choices in this segment from its era. If you don’t need class-leading efficiency and you’re prepared to forgive a few rough edges in return for the big savings on offer, then it could rank as a very clever choice.

The History

There’s something about the two letters ‘MG’ that strikes a chord in the British consciousness. The brand named after ‘Morris Garages’ way back in 1924 has been a part of our automotive heritage for nearly a century, with its cars rolling down the Longbridge production line since 1962. Back in 2013, Longbridge began assembling another one, this Chinese-derived MG supermini.

Of course, the modern-era MG brand is a very different car maker from the British company that filed for bankruptcy in 2005. As a manufacturer, MG looked down and out back then, but in fact, a new future was just beginning. The Chinese were looking for a foothold in the Western market and what was left of MG seemed tempting. In 2007, the country’s oldest car maker NAC snapped up the business, then two years later merged with China’s largest car producer SAIC, who build over four million cars a year, mostly European models from Volkswagen and General Motors under licence. They vowed to develop MG for the modern era with cars like this MG3, launched in 2013.

This supermini model was badged as being ‘British-built’, though in fact, all the Longbridge factory did was to bolt together kits sent from SAIC’s manufacturing plant in Lingang, China. It didn’t do that for long. After a few years of production, MG3 were assembled completely in China. Still, even if it wasn’t really British-made, it was true to say that this car had British development heritage, with its styling and drive dynamics created by many of the same talented folk who at the turn of the century brought us the surprisingly satisfying MG ZR, ZS and ZT family performance models. Chinese manufacturing clout also meant that the brand could bring this Fiesta-sized supermini to market for up to 30% less than obvious rivals. Which left MG able to claim what they saw as an unbeatable combination of fun and value for this car. It sold steadily to start with; the engine emissions were cleaned up in 2017 and the car was substantially facelifted and given a new cabin in 2018. It’s the pre-facelift 2013-2018 MG3 models we look at here as potential used car buys.

What To Look For

Budget brand models always tend to deliver a few more ownership faults than cars from pricier brands, so we weren’t surprised to find quite a few issues raised during our ownership survey. We found several reports of clutch problems – jerking and juddering from a standing start; look out for this. The paint finish on the body panels can be suspect too; it only takes a small piece of grit to chip the thin paint finish, so be warned. Other owners reported problems with the electrics, the radiator and the brakes. In one case, a radiator split at only 35,000 miles. Another owner reported noisy air conditioning. Otherwise, look for the usual things – rear seat child damage, scratched alloys etc.

On The Road

Scroll back through history and you’ll find that MG didn’t only make roadsters but also sporty saloons like the 1100 and 1300 models of the Sixties, the first of the brand’s cars to be built at the Longbridge plant that screwed together earlier versions of this MG3. Those old Sixties models sold to family people who wanted a little extra spice in their morning commute, exactly the customers the modern owners of this brand hoped would be interested here.

We mention those old MG saloons: even back in the Sixties, the A-Series engines that wheezed away beneath their bonnets weren’t exactly cutting edge in terms of technology. And so it is here. Forget modern advances like variable valve technology, light pressure turbocharging and direct injection, things now commonplace on cars in the supermini segment. Instead, the only engine option here is a old-tech chain-driven 1.5-litre petrol unit that MG owners SAIC bought in from GM, though a little compensation comes with the news that it develops a healthy 105bhp, substantially more than most direct rivals can offer. That unit initially sold alongside a base 1.3-litre petrol engine, but that was quickly deleted from the range.

The 1.5 offers a reasonable turn of speed, rest to sixty two achievable in 10.4s en route to a 108mph top speed. To give you something to benchmark this against, a base 60bhp Ford Fiesta from this period takes nearly 17 seconds to reach 62mph and can’t top 94mph. Believe it or not, an equally pricey 1.0-litre Vauxhall Corsa is even slower.

Overall, you can forgive this car much for its low price and chirpy driving dynamics. It’s a fun steer, exactly as an MG should be.


MG’s modern era may have begun with the Chinese takeover in 2007 but in real terms, its future as a credible manufacturer started with this car, the MG3. It may not be the very cheapest used supermini you can buy from this era, but it promises to be so much more of a satisfying ownership proposition than the car that is - Dacia’s Sandero - for not much more money. Cutting edge modern technology may be lacking beneath the bonnet but compensation comes with the sheer driving effervescence that continues the heritage of the MG brand. It’s this, more than anything else, that gives this car the right to wear its famous octagonal badge with justified pride.

True, it isn’t the most polished product – but then MGs never were. You’ll have to be very careful to avoid rogue examples – there were plenty. Nor is it as thoroughly British as its brand would like us to believe. But its attractions are significant, with space, practicality, a fashionable feel and high equipment levels joining driving dynamics and outstanding value for money in the plus column.

This was the first truly class-competitive modern era model the modern-era MG brand brought us and it proved to be a car that deserves to be taken seriously. And one that, rather surprisingly, in every way that really matters, is a proper MG.