One of the first true classic cars I ever came into contact with was my grandfather's MGB GT. It wasn't an especially pleasant experience really, because it had been collecting dust in the back of his garage for decades before Nana decided he should sell it. This meant we had to scrub every single spoke of the wire wheels with a toothbrush. Whoever thinks wire wheels should make a comeback needs their head read. With an X-ray machine, repeatedly.
Anyway, by the end of the day and one wheel, I had decided that MG was one of my favourite British car companies. So good news - there's a new one.
1) What is it?
It’s an MG3.
And if you know MG, you’d know that it stands for Morris Garages and was started in a Morris garage in Oxford during the 1920’s, with the aim of making Morris cars that little bit faster and sportier. Sort of like what AMG is to Mercedes, or M is to BMW, except that MG was known for “affordable performance”.
Over the next few decades, the little company was thrown around all over Britain and rescued from death an impossible number of times, but MG stuck at it. We had the MGB GT, the Midget R-Type, the TC, the RV8, the ludicrous XPower SV, and of course the MGB GT, to name just a few.
MG cars earned a formidable reputation on the track too. They received 40 medals for winning various racy things, not least of which was the land speed record, twice.
But, all this still wasn’t making ends meet. By 2005, MG was becoming the student who's always getting into trouble for putting thumb tacks pointy end up on the teacher's chair, and the Poms had had enough. The rights were sold to the Chinese Nanjing Automobile Group, which was then sold to the Chinese SAIC Motor Corporation.
So, in short, forget everything I’ve just said. This new MG is a hatchback that offers great specification at an affordable price and an ultra-low insurance group of 4E, blah, blah, blah. And stripes.
2) How much is it?
As they said, affordable. In the UK, prices start from around £9,000, while here in Australia, you’re probably looking at $15,000. It’s very well equipped too – you get an 8-inch touchscreen, five seats, and an automatic transmission. It’s like a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy, with a six-year warranty.
3) Is it built by children?
Having just spent far too much time on their online configurator, I’m beginning to think it is. At very least, teenage girls.
There's a whole lot of graphic packs available for the roof and bonnet - the stripes, as I may have already mentioned, but there's also rainbows, colourful shards, a burnout, candy, even a Union Jack for some reason. All lovely, but then you get to this:
What sort of person over the age of 16 would want to drive around in a car with that on the roof? Just imagine the birds. Every morning when you reverse it out of the garage after grooming your finger nails, they will immediately gather around and start thinking, "Hmmm, what face should I poo on today?" They do think things like that.
Anyway, I must say the car itself does look rather good. For a hatchback.
4) Does it work?
Well, for something designed in Birmingham and built in China, I think the safest thing to say is, I don't know. That it will.
Build quality inside and out is apparently on the questionable side of things.
5) Does it go with any of my handbags?
Doubtless it does. I don’t have a handbag (for obvious reasons), but I do carry a bag to church each week that’s equipped with Panadol, a torch, a fake wallet to give to robbers, and other useful things – it’s navy blue. Navy blue goes with everything.
6) Is it brilliant on a racetrack?
MG chose a very appropriate place for the international launch of their new affordable hatchback that offers great specification and blah, blah, blah, and stripes: the Shanghai racetrack.
Because what the MG3 also has up its sleeve is a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine that produces 88kW of power and 150Nm of torque. Couple that to a brand-new four-speed automatic gearbox, front-wheel-drive, and over a tonne of metal and mostly plastic, and 0-100km/h is bound to take only a few minutes.
Now, for all that, I haven't actually driven it. But I did go in search of those who have. Here's what CarAdvice.com.au had to say: "We found the car lacking in dynamic ability". Autocar: "It has a conspicuous lack of performance." WhatCar? gave it one star for performance, two stars for ride and handling, and two for refinement.
You get the gist: a medieval dray cart is better.
7) Can I crash it?
Um, next question.
You see, in an original British MG, if you drove the old girl straight into a lorry, it would be like going through a pasta maker. You would be dead. And I think that is the only time where you’ll find the new MG isn’t much different.
When EuroNCAP tested the MG3 in 2014, they gave it three stars out of five. The Chinese were quite happy with that, so despite the automatic gearbox and the new headlights, this is almost exactly the same car. There’s nothing extra by way of airbags or clever automatic emergency stuff, so it’s quite easy to crash and when you do, it won’t end well.
8) What sort of person would I have to be in order to buy one?
In the past, you bought an MG because you were a sporting British flat-cap-wearing patriot who couldn't quite afford the ultimate sign of sporting British flat-cap-wearing patriotism - namely, a Jaaag. I don't think you would buy this new one for quite the same reason.
And that's why I have to say I despise it. All that heritage and racing pedigree and wire wheels and this is what we get. Now I will admit the larger MG6 hatchback has been running in the British Touring Car Championship since 2012, and actually doing quite well. But, it is still a hatchback; a Chinese hatchback at that.
But if you're the sort of person who doesn't care about any of that and just wants a cheap little runaround car that stands out from the crowd a bit, like your blue-streaked hair, there's another thing.
It's called the Suzuki Swift.
PICTURE CREDIT (unless otherwise specified): CarAdvice.com.au (August 2018). "2019 MG 3 pricing and specifications".