2024 MG3 Hybrid+ Review: The Sensiblest Of Sensible Cars

2024 MG3 Hybrid+ Review: The Sensiblest Of Sensible Cars

The new MG3 probably won’t excite many, but is about as effortless and unthreatening to drive as modern cars get

If you love driving, the new MG3 is probably not a car you’d consider. If you want luxurious surroundings or a badge that makes your neighbours go ‘oooh, they’re doing well’, it’s probably best avoided too. Have a big family? Run a minicab firm? Live at the end of a very rutted farm track? No chance.

But what if you just need… a car? What if driving, for you, is a necessity, not a pleasure? Well, while we’re not sure how you found yourself on a website called Car Throttle, we nevertheless may have your answer.

The little MG3 supermini was one of the first cars to really begin re-establishing the MG name in the UK under the stewardship of Chinese state-owned carmaker SAIC. The first one (in the UK, anyway – the China-only original was a rebadged Rover Streetwise, of all things) was launched here way back in 2013, and now, finally, it’s time for another crack.

MG3 - front, dynamic

MG3 – front, dynamic

The new 3 initially arrives as the electrified Hybrid+, although a petrol-only, manual version is due later this year. Notable rivals include hybrid versions of the Peugeot 208, Toyota Yaris and Suzuki Swift.

The MG does things a bit differently, though. In most rivals, the electric motor augments the petrol engine, but here, it’s the other way around. It’s set up to heavily favour the e-motor, with the 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine only kicking in under heavy load or when the battery is highly depleted.

This electric emphasis can be seen in the balance of power between the two sources. The petrol engine makes 101bhp, which the electric motor outdoes with 134bhp. The peak combined output is 192bhp, a chunk more than any rival. As a result, the 3 will hit 62mph in a spritely 8.0 seconds. Top speed is 106mph.

MG3 - rear

MG3 – rear

The biggest benefit here, though, is the ability to scoot around at urban speeds without ever awakening the engine. The fact that the 3 only rouses its four-pot at higher speeds is probably a good thing because in prioritising the electric motor, MG has seen fit to team the engine with a three-speed automatic gearbox.

Yes, automatics have improved a lot since your (grand)parents had a three-speed auto Ford Granada, but it’s still not really enough gears. At higher speeds, you really notice the sluggish changes and tiresome rev hang. That said, when the engine and electric motor decide to work in harmony – say, accelerating out of a village – the 3 whooshes forward with impressive urgency.

The engine itself slips into the background most of the time it’s in use, but gets a bit coarse and droney when worked hard. It’s no less refined than the likes of a Peugeot 208, though.

MG3 - interior

MG3 – interior

The 3 is pretty neutral in the corners. The steering is quick and accurate, but it’s not the most connected feeling – this is noticeable on motorways, too, where you’ll be making plenty of tiny adjustments. It’s nothing terrible, but it’s not as sharp as a Peugeot 208 or Suzuki Swift. Don’t bother with sport mode, either – it only adds a lot of very artificial gloop to proceedings.

Similarly, the chassis is good without being class-leading. You can chuck it around and it responds in kind, but it will push into understeer sooner than the Peugeot, and ultimately just doesn’t have the same giggle factor as that car. It does boast a composed and comfortable ride at pretty much any speed, though.

This serious driving stuff only really matters to you and me – most hybrid supermini buyers aren’t going to be playing the rally driver. They just want something practical, cheap to run and easy to drive, and the 3 is very good in these areas.

MG3 - front, dynamic

MG3 – front, dynamic

It’s an utterly effortless thing to thread around town, with ultra-light, twirly steering, a responsive motor and plenty of visibility. Its electric-first philosophy means it has stronger regen braking than most hybrids, so you’ll often only need to bother with the left pedal when coming to a complete halt. It’s only ever really taxing when manoeuvring, as the electric motor’s snappy responses can make everything happen a bit… suddenly.

It does the cheap-to-run thing extremely well. I was by no means hypermiling, but I never saw the 3 drop below an indicated 55mpg. Unless you’re thrashing it, you’ll easily crack 300 miles between refills. If you’re mostly nipping around town and rarely troubling the engine, this will only improve further.

It’s worth noting that MG regularly languishes near the bottom of various reliability surveys, but a transferable seven-year/80,000-mile warranty should assuage some of those concerns.

MG3 - interior

MG3 – interior

The interior is basically fine, quality-wise. There’s nothing that particularly wows, but nothing makes you go ‘eurgh!’ when you touch it either. A row of shortcut buttons to access various screen functions is highly welcome, although strangely some of them don’t seem to function with CarPlay running, and it’s still a fiddle having to change climate settings on a screen. The digital gauge cluster is clear and legible.

Oh, one word to the wise: make sure you dive into the sat nav settings and disable the ear-splitting speed camera warning beep. Any fines you rack up as a result are entirely worth it for your hearing’s sake.

The ergonomics need some work. The seats are perfectly comfy, but the steering wheel doesn’t adjust for reach, a pretty big omission in a modern car. Rear legroom is about average for the class, and headroom back there is better than some rivals.

MG3 - front

MG3 – front

The MG3’s biggest strength is its price, though. In hybrid form, it starts at £18,495, and the only real rival at similar money is the £18,699 Suzuki Swift Hybrid. Even in base SE spec, the 3 offers adaptive cruise control, four USB ports and auto lights. Spend an extra £2,000 on the Trophy version, and you get niceties like a 360-degree camera, keyless entry and heated front seats.

It’s that value that’s made MG in its new form such a success in the UK. The 3 isn’t the sweetest-driving car in its class, nor does it have the best interior, and its slightly dumpy styling certainly isn’t going to win any design awards. However, it’s incredibly easy to live with and packs a whole lot of kit into a price that undercuts any rivals. The new 3 is ultimately a car that does exactly what’s asked of it, and while that’s not going to particularly excite some people, it’ll be all that others want.

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