NEW MG3 HYBRID

MG confidently launches its new small car, emphasising the prospects of its first full-hybrid powertrain.

Affordable small cars are very much in the spotlight with EV sales in decline and consumer confidence weak. MG has timed the introduction of its new MG3 about right, with hybrid sales growing in a soft market and private buyers seeking out the strongest-value propositions. The tiddler category is running hot with a new Suzuki Swift now battling with equally popular Honda and Toyota nameplates.

Some baseline numbers are very much in the MG3 Hybrid’s favour. It has a four-cylinder engine that runs on the Atkinson cycle (lower compression, more efficient fuel-burn) and its electric motor boosts maximum combined output to about 200 horsepower in old money. That’s enough to see it hit 100km/h in a very respectable eight seconds flat. It has a big battery, rated at 1.83kWh, and promises combined-cycle fuel economy as low as 4.3L/100km. Overall thermal efficiency, says MG, is 41 per cent, significantly ahead of most rivals. The kerb weight of roughly 1310kg might sound on the highish side but translates into a greater sense of on-road security, with broader tracks and extra ballast making the new Hybrid feel much more stable at any speed, especially on motorways. Around town it exhibits a settled ride.

Because the electric motor and big battery heavily influence performance, at times this MG3 exhibits similar characteristics to a small EV. For instance, it pulls away briskly and silently with abundant low-down torque and you’d be hard-pressed to notice the hybrid three-speed auto shifting gears thereafter.

You get a bit more of a performance surge when you shift from the default Normal mode (balanced tune) to Sport. Things get more complicated when you consider the drivetrain modes that the MG3 Hybrid runs through in speed bands up to 120km/h and beyond. EV progresses to Series at 30km/h, then Series and Charge, and Parallel from 80km/h. Each provides different noises and sensations and some inconsistency in delivery. If you think too hard about what the drivetrain is doing at various times, your head might start to spin. Most drivers will simply go with the flow and accept whatever the Hybrid delivers, knowing that it’s all in the interests of overall efficiency.

The previous MG3 sold well locally (over 2800 units since 2019) at a markedly lower pricepoint. It was designed more than a decade ago so its longevity in production was impressive. The new MG3 is light years ahead in terms of exterior and cabin design. The nicely proportioned and contoured body shape has the ingredients of a design that should age well. Extra width gives it a good stance and the strong nose with LED headlights takes on some of the character of the electric MG4. There are even cheeky spoilers and a diffuser at the back.

Inside, a 10.3in touchscreen combines with a virtual instrument cluster, and a rotary controller works the transmission. Top-spec Essence ($31,990) commands a $2000 premium over MG3 Hybrid Excite. Essence has built-in navigation, the MG i-Smart app, surround view camera and a sunroof. Build quality appears very good, as is seat comfort, but don’t expect the highest-quality plastics and upholstery at this price point. You can, however, expect peace of mind thanks to a growing MG dealer network and seven years of warranty and roadside assistance.

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MG3 HYBRID+

ENGINE 1498cc 4-cyl plus electric

POWER 155kW @ 6000rpm (combined)

TORQUE 128Nm @ 4500rpm (ICE)

TRANSMISSION 3-speed auto

DRIVETRAIN front-wheel drive

WHEELS 16-inch alloy

TYRES 195/55 R16

WEIGHT 1300kg

LENGTH 4.11m

0-100km/h 8.0 secs

FUEL CLAIM 4.3L/100km

PRICE from $29,990

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