2023 MG MG3 Excite review (video)

Mitchell Jones

You’ve probably noticed a lot of these popping up in traffic. In fact, according to October 2022 VFACTS, 1823 MG3s were shifted last month. Add up the sales of every single one of MG3’s light car competitors and MG3 sold 301 more units than all of them combined during that month. During the first 11 months of this year, MG has sold a whopping 14,888 examples of the MG3, easily doubling its closest competitor, the Suzuki Baleno, which managed 6042 units.

In defiance of a contracting segment, MG3 managed to grow to a whopping 54.5 per cent market share in October 2022. Ford has deleted the Fiesta globally, citing not enough demand and profit. Toyota’s once-dominant Yaris is now a bit player thanks to significant price rises. Even the Kia Rio – still in its same generation as when the 2018 MG3 auto was launched – has shot up several thousand dollars, albeit with mild styling revisions and added wireless phone mirroring in that timeframe.

The MG3 has ostensibly been around since 2011 globally, but on sale in Australia since 2016. That earlier iteration was manual-only and not overly successful. A comprehensive mid-cycle update, bringing it into line with the then-new ZS in 2018 changed things dramatically. Now auto-only and sharply-styled inside and out, the sales figures have been on an upward trajectory ever since.

In the intervening years, updates have been limited to a few new colours, such as vibrant Skye Silver in 2021 and the new Surfing Blue colour, borrowed from the larger HS’s palette. The current MG3 is available in three models; the $18,990 Core, the $19,490 Core with navigation and the $20,490 Excite – as tested here. These prices are drive-away.

So what’s the secret to the MG3’s success? Is it just a sign-of-the-times inflation busting bargain? Is the success of this car purely down to its price advantage? Or could there be deeper reasons for its appeal? We felt compelled to examine this further

2023 MG MG3 Excite – THE SPECS

[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]Engine: 1.4-litre four-cylinder
Output: 82kW@6000rpm / 150Nm@450rpm
Transmission: Four-speed auto
Drive type: Front-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 16×6.5, 195/55
ANCAP: Not tested
Tare weight: 1170kg
Power-to-weight: 14.26:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 6.7L/100km
Economy during test: 7.0L/100km
Fuel capacity/Type: 45L/91 RON[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]Power efficiency: 12.23kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 5.74 seconds*
0-100km/h: 12.71 seconds*
60-110km/h: 9.76 seconds*
1/4 mile: 18.95 seconds at 120.9km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.481g
100-0km/h braking: 3.29 seconds at 43.17 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.114g
Decibel at idle: 47*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 85*
Priced from: $20,490 (drive-away)[/column][end_columns]

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different. Thanks to Central Coast MG for supplying the vehicle in this review. 

2023 MG MG3 Excite – THE PACKAGE

It measures 4055mm long, 1729mm wide and 1504mm tall, with a wheelbase of 2520mm. Boot space varies between 307L with the rear seats up and 1081L with them folded, but there is a small lip between the folded seats and the boot. Remarkably, this car also features a full-size (albeit steel) spare wheel/tyre, rather than a space-saver like most new cars these days.

The steering wheel adjusts for height only, but the driver’s seat is adjustable six ways, including height. The seats are bolstered and feature leather inserts on this Excite model. The $18,990 MG3 Core comes standard with an 8.0-inch touch-screen featuring Apple CarPlay (no Android Auto), reverse camera with sensors and dynamic guidelines, cruise control, six airbags and stability control.

For an additional $1500, the Excite adds a body kit, chrome detailing on the lower grille, rear spoiler, the aforementioned leather seat inserts, six-speaker stereo, wider tyres with 16-inch polished alloy wheels and an inbuilt satellite navigation system. If you want a Skye Silver example, like our test car, then that will add another $500 to the drive-away price.

Space is excellent for a car of this size, with four six-foot adults able to sit in the outboard seats with no problems. This is one of the drawcards when people first greet the MG3 in showrooms. While there are no rear vents, the two outboard vents at the front circulate air to the rear of the cabin. The interior is comprised of tartan patterns on the seats and dash, as well as a a smattering of faux carbon fibre. This adds a bit of colour to what would otherwise be a pretty dour environment.

We found the 8.0-inch touch-screen to be simple and user-friendly, with good integration of Apple CarPlay. While Android Auto is not available, there are aftermarket devices available to get this function working on the screen.

The in-built satellite navigation system works well and doesn’t lock out input when in motion, unlike some other vehicles. A volume knob with a central home button, with buttons below the screen are very easy to navigate without distraction.

The speedometer and tachometer feature large, easy-to-read numbers, but we can’t help but wish for a digital unit in the red LCD display – especially when you consider it can show cruise control speed. It will also show distance to empty and other trip computer functions.

Service intervals are every 10,000km or 12-months – capped between $243 and up to $330. In addition to an impressive seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, MG will also offer roadside assistance for the warranty period if you take them up on the capped-price offer.

2023 MG MG3 Excite – THE DRIVE

Set the (height-only) adjustable steering wheel and seats to your desired position and you’ll be surprised at the support the seats offer. Fire the 1.5-litre engine into life and it’s time to set off.

Hydraulic power assistance for the steering is overall a welcome feature in a world of inert, lifeless electronic power steering (EPS) systems. This offers better road feel and feedback, even if it can be a tad heavy at parking speeds.

The engine might lack sparkle, but it is an honest worker around town and surprisingly quiet on the freeway considering it only has four gears to work with. It copes fine with daily driving duties and only requires 91 octane unleaded to do so. An official fuel consumption average is listed at 6.7L/100km, and this is easily achievable in real world conditions.

The little MG3 is ticking over at 2800rpm at the 110km/h freeway limit, with very little drone emanating into the cabin for this market segment. It has a sure-footed feel here too, with 195/55 GitiComfort tyres offering better than expected lateral grip. Though, some Continentals or Michelins as on higher-priced MG’s would make a positive difference we think.

A firm suspension setup keeps the car neutral and borderline-entertaining in bends, but the trade-off is a sometimes terse ride. This is less pronounced on the base Core’s 185/65 higher-profile tyres, with more sidewall. It is fine in most situations and never intolerable. The body utilises high-tensile steel and you can feel the stiffness of the chassis during cornering. This combines with the aforementioned hydraulic steering to give a surprisingly good feeling through the nicely thick, stitched leather steering wheel.

The four-speed automatic can keep the 1.5-litre motor on the boil in fast switchbacks with enthusiastic usage of the +/- manual mode, once you learn the rhythm of the long-legged four speeder. Our Vbox testing revealed a best 0-100km/h time of 12.71 seconds, which is behind the standard for this class of around 10 seconds. UK-delivered MG3’s are manual-only, unlike our auto-only cars and we can’t help but wonder how this would go with a third pedal and stick shifter.

Our usual 100-0km/h braking test result of 43.17 metres is below the standard of other cars in this class, such as the ($1900 dearer, not including on-roads) Mazda2 Pure SP we tested recently (39.16m), and the Suzuki Swift GLX (40.60m) and current Toyota Yaris (40.16m) – all tested on the same piece of tarmac and using the same Vbox timing equipment. Nevertheless, with ABS, ESP, cornering brake control and electronic brake-force distribution, plus six airbags, the MG3 has a decent set of safety credentials, if you can live without ADAS systems such as autonomous emergency braking. ANCAP has not tested/provided a rating for the MG3.

2023 MG MG3 Excite – THE VIDEO

2023 MG MG3 Excite – THE VERDICT

It’s easy to see why the MG3 has been flying off the lots. For the price of a used car, you get seven years warranty and roadside, lots of features and good looks, and by all accounts mechanically reliable. It is easy to drive, has tons of showroom appeal and does everything you need without fuss.

While it might not appeal to our thrill-seeking performance-seeking sensibilities, that’s missing the point. All the ingredients are here to bring joy and comfortable transport to the everyday motorist. We do have some concerns regarding no AEB and no ANCAP rating, and the aged four-speed auto, but we’re sure MG will get on top of these things in the future.

Although MG is moving towards an electrified range, a successor is rumoured to be in the works – possibly with a hybrid drivetrain, though MG would undoubtedly want to stick to this simple formula if regulatory requirements allow it to.

So how about a performance-focused model, MG? The 1.3L turbo from the ZST would be right at home here with a close ratio six-speed manual or eight-speed paddle shift auto. The fundamentals are there. We think such a model could become a cult icon and make MG a household name in sporty hatches again, harking back to the days of the ZR and Metro Turbo.

[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]PROS:
– Well-proportioned and overall attractive design
– One of the most affordable cars on the new-car market
– 7-year warranty
– Big inside and boot for this class
[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]CONS:
– No Android Auto
– No AEB and no ANCAP rating
– 4-speed auto[/column][end_columns]

As always, if you’re thinking about buying a new car don’t forget to click here to speak with our car buying specialists.

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