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MG heritage without the baggage
Published 22/04/14

NOW here’s a story that could be said to be a tale that mirrors the rise and fall of the British car industry.

It is a story that began in the Twenties in Abingdon and ends (or begins again, depending on which way you look at it) many thousands of miles away in China.

For although this week’s drive, the MG3 3Style, is assembled in Longbridge in Birmingham — a place steeped in the history of British car manufacture — all component parts for new MGs come from China.

This is because after a chequered history of ownership, which included the likes of Morris Motors, British Leyland, Rover Group and BMW, since 2005 the MG brand has been owned by the Nanjing Automobile Group, China’s oldest carmaker.

Of course it is good news that through Chinese ownership, the MG brand lives on and provides jobs in the Midlands.

And far be it for me in 2014 to get all misty-eyed about the past glory of MG: because it is manifestly in the past. However, my second car was an MGA convertible and a couple more cars along from there I owned a 1968 MGB GT. You cannot entirely erase the memories of such cars when faced with a 2014 model bearing the iconic MG badge. It’s got baggage, and so have I, at least in my mind.

The 2014 MG is, as one would expect, a far cry from what the marque came to symbolise for a lot of motorists. But in truth the new MG3 is as much a car of its time — the 21st Century — as my old ’58 MGA was a car of its time.

New young drivers will have none of the automotive emotional stuff to drag around and can enjoy the new MGs in all their high-tech glory.

But this super mini enters a market that is ferociously competitive. And there are many very good super minis out there vying for the attention — and cash — of young, new customers.

So how does the MG3 3Style — top spec of the range — shape up?

At first sight it certainly looks the part, though for my taste what we used to call “go-faster” stripes do not a great car make. However, this is a surprisingly comfortable car that on a 100-mile round trip on motorways and A-roads revealed itself.

The cabin is spacious without being over-fussy, and for a small car there was good legroom for rear passengers.

The ride is quite hard and may not suit all and there is quite a lot of road noise inside the cabin at higher speeds. If you want performance you have to crank up the 1.5-litre petrol engine to high revs through the gears. Yet again surprisingly the car cruises well on the motorway though lacks top-end acceleration for overtaking at speed.

You cannot however fault the price. At just under 10,000 (the model range starts just over 8,000) this is an economical buy and as long as you do not hammer the engine fuel consumption is good at an average of 48.7mpg.

If you are buying one, you cannot fault the method: an online shop and interactive e-brochure give the buyer multiple options.

Like other car makers, the idea is that you custom-make your car online when ordering. MG says that this puts the fun back into car buying: whether this is true or not at least you should be able to get the exact car you want.

All models have front LED daytime running lights and electronic hill hold as standard. Except for the entry model, all MG3s feature a DAB audio system. There are also six airbags, electronic stability control, corner brake control and traction control.

For some 56 years, the original MG marque was in continuous use (except during the Second World War) since it was created in the early part of the 20th century. Will this born again marque last as long?

Looking at the new models MG is turning out it is already learning lessons. Who knows if the great name will see out another century?

Model tested: MG3 3Style — of the four models available:

– Top of the range is the MG3 3STYLE with premium 16in “Diamond” alloy wheels, and sports body styling pack. Standard tech features include cruise control, automatic lights and windscreen wipers and reverse parking sensors, for 9,999.

– The mid range MG3 3FORM costs 9,299

– There is also the MG3 3FORM SPORT at 9,549

– And the entry model MG3 3TIME costs 8,399

Published 22/04/14

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