By: IOL Motoring Staff
Johannesburg - Although the modern (read: Chinese owned) MG brand returned to South Africa almost three years ago with its MG6 hatch and sedan, the brand has until now lacked a more affordable model to give it a real shot at success.
Now MG is aiming at the mainstream market with its new (and long-delayed) MG3 hatch, which has just gone on sale in South Africa. The MG3 was designed in the UK and is built in Eastern Europe by Chinese-owned SAIC. Local sales take place through Mandarin Motors, which falls under the well-established Combined Motor Holdings banner. For now there are only 15 dealerships though, although Mandarin plans to build another ten in the coming year.
All models, for now at least, will be powered by a 78kW/135Nm 1.5-litre petrol engine and three model grades will eventually be offered although only the range-topping MG3 Style will be available from the outset.
Priced at R179 900, this one comes with leather seats, cruise control, park assist as well as automatic headlights and windscreen wipers. In two months from now the mid-spec MG3 Wired will hit the scene at an estimated R165 000 and then the entry-level MG3 is expected to follow in November costing around R145 000 - depending on exchange rate at the time.
Even this base model is not too badly equipped, with standard features including air conditioning, CD/USB/Aux sound system, electric windows, six airbags, ABS and stability control. After-market back-up comes in the form of a three-year/100 000km warranty and two-year/60 000km service plan.
Buyers can also have some fun with the thousands of exterior and interior personalisation options available, of which you’ll see some examples in the gallery above.
BUT IS THE CAR UP TO SCRATCH?
Denis Droppa spent some time with the MG3 on its Gauteng launch and found it to be “well built, with a solid feel and no obvious rattles.” That said, the cabin hardly has a quality feel as the dashboard is made of hard plastics and getting cosy behind the wheel can be a problem as the steering wheel is only adjustable for height, not reach.
On its road manners, Droppa said: “the suspension's on the firm side which gives the short-wheelbase car a choppy ride on bumpy roads. The handling's neat, with no excessive body roll, but there's not enough power to really exploit the chassis.
“The normally-aspirated engine suffers from some laziness in Gauteng's high-altitude where I drove it on the media launch, and some industrious revving and down-shifting is needed to motivate the MG3 up some steeper hills.”
A lack of sound-deadening also becomes apparent on the open road, as Droppa adds: “There's some road and wind noise that necessitates cranking up the sound system's volume as your speed increases.”