Honda Jazz VS MG 3
- Capped-price servicing
- Build quality
- Huge interior space for its size
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- VTi-S very pricey
- Lack of advanced safety features
- Good ride
- Fun to drive
- Great ownership prospects
- Lacking safety tech
- Powertrain not great in demanding situations
- No digital speedo
Honda's Jazz is like the little engine that could.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
My time at CarsGuide started in October 2017, and since then I’ve booked literally thousands of cars across Australia. One car that has eluded me - and the CarsGuide team - over that period is the one you see here: the MG3. Or the MG MG3, or MG 3, if you wish.
Despite asking MG’s Australian arm countless times to loan an MG3 hatchback over that period, the company in charge of the brand’s PR in Australia refused to agree to loan us a vehicle to test.
Our desire to review the MG3 hatch has only gotten stronger because sales have skyrocketed. Back in late 2017 the brand was averaging only a handful of cars per month - indeed, just 52 examples of the MG3 were sold in total in 2017.
At the time of writing, MG is selling more than that in a single week. To the end of May 2020, the company had shifted a staggering 2270 MG3s in Australia - or 474 per month - bettering big-name rivals in the light car segment like the Kia Rio, Mazda 2 and Honda Jazz. It's also well ahead of the Kia Picanto, which is what many people will be shopping this car against if price is a key driver for their decision.
And that's the case in point, really - a lot of its success comes down to the price of the Chinese-built, British-badged city car. It’s cheap - but is it a cheerful experience? We finally got the chance to find out, thanks to a friendly MG dealership in NSW.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The Honda Jazz is an extremely capable small car, with an ace card of virtually unbeatable interior space. While it's hardly an excitement machine, or the best looking or equipped in its class (it is missing out on some useful safety gear), the Jazz deserves its status as a well-loved hatchback.
The best in the range is probably the VTi. There isn't anything compelling further up the variants unless you're keen on bigger wheels or leather trim. Its entry-level offering is a good-value, sturdy car that is packed with its best qualities, no matter which one you buy.
Does the Honda Jazz stack up for you? Or do offerings from Hyundai, Mazda and Kia get your bargain-hunting senses tingling?
Aside from its safety shortcomings and underwhelming powertrain, it’s easy to see why the MG3 has become a successful part of the brand’s line-up. If you’re driving around a rural centre like I was, it makes a lot of sense.
Whether you choose the Excite model, which has a bit more visual pizzazz, or the Core model, which is our pick of the range, the MG3 is well priced, has the media tech buyers are after, is a charming looking thing that comes in a range of great colours, and is smartly packaged, too.
Thanks to the team at Orange MG for assisting us with this the loan vehicle for this review. Head to Orange MG for more information.
The Jazz's exterior design is instantly recognisable. The shape has been roughly the same since the car's 2002 debut, with the mildest evolution over the years. The 2018 Jazz leads with the chin a bit, with a pronounced underbite and when fitted with a chrome grille, it looks a bit like the giant Jaws from James Bond after whacking his head.
Apart from that, the slimmed headlights and one-box body shape are almost entirely inoffensive, save for the chunky, stacked rear lights.
When you head inside it's a simple, basic interior. Well put together, it's easy to find your way around and, because there isn't much happening in here, it's unlikely you'll need the owner's manual, unless you want to identify and use every single deployment of the excellent Magic Seats in the back.
As you climb the range, you'll start to see body-kit additions like a rear spoiler and side skirts, but nothing particularly racy.
It’s a fresh looking thing, the MG3.
From its attractive front-end with “London Eye” LED daytime running lights, its Euro-look angular front bumper and chrome-trimmed grille, and its angular window lines, it really does have a distinct personality.
It looks a lot more modern and enticing than the first version of the MG3 sold here, and I have no doubt that a lot of buyers of the MG3 have been attracted by its sharp styling first and foremost. MG has done a tremendous job of creating a family look - it just happens that the family looks like it has been taking good care of itself, keeping active and trim, too.
The rear end isn’t quite as attractive, with the vertical tail-lights making it seem taller than it is. It’s still a nicely sculpted back-end, though.
On the Core model you’ll get some lower blacked-out design trim bits, and the wheels fitted are 15-inch alloys.
The Excite model seen here is a little more, dare we say it, exciting to look at. That’s down to its body kit, consisting of lower chrome elements on the front bumper, a set of black side skirts, and a hatch-mounted rear spoiler. You get 16-inch alloy wheels, too.
In terms of dimensions, it’s closer in size to the Kia Rio than it is the Picanto. With a length of 4055mm (on a long-for-its-size 2520mm wheelbase), a width of 1729mm and height of 1504mm, it’s a pretty chunky little unit.
It is rather conventional in the way its interior is designed, however - there’s no sliding second row (like the Suzuki Ignis) or flip-folding seats (a la the Honda Jazz). Check out the interior pictures below to see for yourself.
The interior is full of cleverness packed into a small space. The centre console has two cup holders, a space for your phone and a compartmentalised open tray reachable by both front and rear-seat passengers. A third cupholder folds out of the dash on the driver's side. The back seat doesn't have any cupholders, unfortunately, and nor is there a centre armrest.
Rear legroom is impressive for such a small car - it's no wonder the HR-V compact SUV was spun off the Jazz platform. Added to that are the excellent 'Magic Seats', which fold in a variety of ways to increase the boot space dimensions from 354 litres to 1314 litres.
Luggage capacity is not bad for such a small car and with the flexible interior, the boot size goes up by four times in volume. This is one area in which it really does outdo the Mazda2. The removable cargo cover means you can get a decent chest of drawers in, however there's a bit of a drop once you get things over the loading lip.
You can also fold the seat bases up and out of the way to provide space for shrubbery, or a dog, or an awkward flat pack.
The basic VTi misses out on a bit of storage, namely the centre console storage box and driver's side seatback pocket, but the rest of the range has them both.
If you’ve owned the same old car for years and you’re setting foot in an MG3 for the first time, you’ll probably feel amazed that you can get an interior with interesting finishes, a high-tech screen and decent materials at this price point.
Earlier versions of the MG3 were nowhere near as good inside as the current model, which has been on sale since 2018. It’s not perfect, but there are plenty of things to like.
The seats offer plenty of adjustment, including a huge amount of height adjustment for shorter drivers. The seat is comfortable, though some drivers might find it hard to get the right position: there is no reach adjustment for the steering wheel (only rake adjust), and you can’t adjust the seatbelt height, either.
I really like the seat trim which is a broad tartan design (with “synthetic leather” bolsters and contrast stitching in the top-spec Excite), mirrored by an etched tartan aluminium trim piece on the dashboard - it looks really smart, even if my OCD radar was set off by the fact the trim wasn’t aligned to match perfectly between the cushion sections. Take a look at the interior pictures to see what I mean.
There are some really nice elements to the cabin. Things like the 'lock' and 'unlock' button on the driver’s door, which looks like it has been stolen directly from Audi’s parts catalogue. The same can be said for the speedo instrument font.
There’s no doubt that it’s built to a price, but it doesn’t feel anywhere near as cheap as you might expect. We’ve criticised Audi, VW and Skoda for cutting costs with hard plastic trims on doors and dashboards, and the MG has plenty of hard plastics, too - but it’s expected at this price, not double it.
There’s a standard 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with AM/FM radio and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, plus USB connectivity and smartphone mirroring - meaning you get Apple CarPlay, essentially negating the need for sat nav if you use an iPhone. You can option a GPS navigation system on the Core model, but satellite navigation comes standard on the Excite. There's no Android Auto mirroring available at all, though.
In previous models from the SAIC stable - including the LDV T60, and MG ZS - I had troubles with the media screen, but the version in the MG3 Excite I drove was quick and problem free, even when disconnecting and reconnecting my phone multiple times.
There are other little things that could be improved, like the fact the trip meter is difficult to navigate, and there’s no digital speedometer. Also, the digital climate control in the Excite model shows up on the media screen, though by way of a graphic rather than a temperature number. In the base model Core there’s a simpler manual a/c system.
The steering wheel has a part leather trim with perforated edges which makes it look and feel a little bit sporty – and it has a flat bottom as well, which will appeal to the sporty-minded buyer. There are stereo and cruise control buttons on the wheel, but the stalks behind are “back to front”, with the left stalk for indicators and lights, and the right for wipers.
As for storage, up front there is a single cup holder between the seats, a couple of small storage sections including a trench for a wallet, and another storage section in front of the gear selector - that’s where the MG3’s single USB port is, too.
The front door storage includes bottle holders, and there are soft padded elbow pads on the front doors - which is more than we can say for some of those aforementioned Euro brands.
With the driver’s seat set in my position (I’m 182cm tall), I had enough back seat space to be comfortable. There was enough knee room and toe room, and reasonable headroom if I sat perfectly still - although the slightest tilt of my head to the outer side of the car saw my noggin contact the headlining. Rear seat comfort is okay - the backrest is a firm, but there’s good visibility out the windows. There are dual ISOFIX child seat anchor points, and three top-tether points for baby seats.
In the back the storage is minimal. There are two map pockets, but no door pockets, and there’s no flip-down centre armrest with cupholders. But there is one large pocket in front of the middle-seat rear passenger which would do for a bottle. The back seat also misses out on soft elbow pads on the doors.
Boot space is good for a car in this size segment. You’ll only really do better if you buy a Honda Jazz or Suzuki Baleno, as the MG3 offers a deep and boxy cargo zone, with a cargo capacity of 307 litres to the cargo cover.
Need more luggage capacity? The back seats fold down in a 60:40 split, alleviating 1081L of space - though the load-through is limited as the seats don’t fold completely flat. Or you could fit a roof rack.
Price and features
The Jazz range is made up of three models. As with any car, how much you get is dependent on how far up the price list you go. Honda occasionaly offers drive-away deals, but we're using RRP as a guide. We've done an exhaustive model comparison as well as snapshots to help you decide between the three trim levels - VTi, VTi-S and VTi-L.
Our American cousins score a Sport edition, but sadly we miss out on that one.
The VTi opens the price range at $14,990 for the five-speed manual, rising to $16,990 for the CVT auto. Standard features include a four-speaker stereo, air-conditioning, reverse camera, remote central locking, projector style halogen headlights, 15-inch steel wheels, cruise control power windows and mirrors, black cloth trim, trip computer and hill-start assist.
The inclusion of the reversing camera is good but the lack of rear parking sensors is mystifying, a problem shared with the VTi-S, although they are optional on both specifications.
While the spare tyre is a space-saver, it's better than a tyre-repair kit, should trouble strike. A small tool kit is also supplied for just such an occasion.
Even with the 2018 update, there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, although you can plug in your iPhone or Android device via the USB port. Irritatingly, the USB port is under a cover next to the 7.0-inch touchscreen itself, so you have a cable poking out of the dashboard. You might prefer Bluetooth in that case.
Step up to the CVT-only VTi-S ($19,990) and you pick up foglights, 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, 'premium' cloth trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel, a centre console with storage box and GPS sat nav.
There is no improvement to the multimedia system.
The VTi-L ($22,990) adds LED daytime running lights, climate control, navigation system (hooray!), smart key keyless entry, push-button start, leather seats, paddle shift for the CVT gearbox, an alarm, bi-LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, heated front seats and two extra speakers,
Missing from the accessories list are a CD changer, DVD player, DAB or MP3, panoramic sunroof, sport pack, black pack, city pack, subwoofer, improved sound system, HID headlights, tonneau cover, roof rack, different rims and even floor mats.
You're stuck with the same infotainment head unit right across the range - its not even a radio/CD player arrangement, just radio and your phone. At least the VTi-L has more speakers for its sound system.
Dealers will no doubt sell you darker tinted windows and an extended warranty.
The Jazz is available in seven colours, with Rally Red the only freebie. For $495 you can have one of six shades of mettallic paint - Crystal Black, Brilliant Sporty Blue, Modern steel (gunmetal grey), Phoenix Orange, Lunar Silver and White Orchid. If you're after pink or yellow, you're out of luck. Not very Jazzy.
The success of the MG3 in Australia has been largely driven by its price.
And no wonder, with the price list starting at just $16,490 drive-away for the Core model and topping out at $18,490 drive-away for the top-spec Excite, the cost of buying into the MG brand is pretty darn low. Note: those prices are the RRPs listed on MG’s site, and there are promotional deals happening all the time.
Wondering what features you get when it comes to the models in the range? There are only two - Core vs Excite - so let’s run through what each model gets.
The Core gets 15-inch alloy wheels, cloth tartan finish seat trim, auto on/off halogen headlights with LED daytime running lights, manual air conditioning, electric windows, electric mirrors, and a leather steering wheel with audio and cruise control buttons. There’s a space-saver spare wheel, too.
The media system includes a 8.0-inch touch screen with USB connectivity, Apple CarPlay (no Android Auto), Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, and AM/FM radio. There’s no CD player, and the Core model gets four speakers. You can option sat nav in the Core, but it’ll set you back $500 more.
Stepping up to the Excite nets you a few extras like 16-inch two-tone alloy wheels and a body kit, body-coloured mirrors, vanity mirrors in the sun-visors, and synthetic leather trim on the seats with contrast stitching.
The Excite also includes GPS sat nav as standard, and steps up the sound system to be a six-speaker unit with “Full Vehicle Yamaha 3D Sound Field”.
Interested in the safety spec inclusions? Read the safety section below for what’s included, and what’s missing.
Our friendly MG dealer let me know that he can’t get enough of the Tudor Yellow models, and that colour - as well as Dover White and Pebble Black - are no-cost optional hues. You should bare in mind that Regal Blue metallic, Scottish Silver metallic and Bristol Red metallic (as seen here) will set you back an additional $500. Looking for orange, green or gold paint? Sorry, no can do.
As for accessories, beyond floor mats there’s not a lot to speak of. Oh, and those wishing for a sunroof? No chance… unless you’re handy with a Sawzall. Note: do not cut a hole in the roof of your car.
Engine & trans
All Jazzes are powered by Honda's 1.5-litre single-cam four-cylinder. The engine specs don't make for inspiring reading, with just 88kW and 145Nm. That's not a lot of horsepower, but when you consider the weight of the car, the figures don't look so weedy.
Power goes to the front wheels, so the Jazz is definitely not an off-road proposition.
Only the base model VTi has a choice of manual vs automatic, with a five-speed manual transmission and a CVT auto to choose from.
As to the question of timing belt or chain, the Jazz has the latter, so you don't have to worry about a belt change. The oil type is 5W-30
There is no diesel option, so there'll be no diesel vs petrol argument. Nor is there an EV or plug-in hybrid - with a battery, it's unlikely you'd have much boot space left. There isn't an LPG, 4x4, or AWD version either.
If you can be bothered fitting a towbar, the manual's towing capacity is 1000kg braked while the CVT's load capacity drops to 850kg. Both transmissions will haul 450kg unbraked.
Keen to know the engine specs for the MG3? Well, it’s pretty simple on the specifications front.
There’s just one motor available: a 1.5-litre four-cylinder non-turbo petrol engine, dubbed NSE Major by MG.
It has class competitive outputs of 82kW (at 6000rpm) and 150Nm (at 4500rpm). It is only available with a four-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. There’s no manual transmission available anymore - it was available in the earlier MG3s, but no more.
While some competitors offer higher-powered flagship variants that act as the horsepower hero of the range, there’s no such variant in the MG3 range. Not yet, anyway. For now there’s just one engine size, no turbo, and no diesel or EV models to speak of either.
The tare mass/tare weight for the MG3 hatch is 1170kg, which is a bit heavier than a Mazda 2, but pretty much on par with a Kia Rio.
Considering a caravan holiday with your new MG3? Maybe think twice - the maximum towing capacity is just 200kg.
If you’re worried about engine problems, clutch problems, or have questions about the battery, gearbox, or the oil requirements, be sure to stay tuned to our MG problems page. And if you're curious about whether it has a timing chain or timing belt? It's a chain.
Fuel figures are slightly different, depending on the gearbox you've chosen. Honda claims you'll get 6.5L/100km on the combined cycle in a manual while the CVT uses a bit less, coming in at 5.9L/100km. So fuel consumption km/L works out at about 15km/L for the five speed and 17.km/L in the CVT.
Real-world consumption is a little different, however. Our most recent test with the manual yielded 8.0L/100km while the CVT chugged down 8.2L/100km. Having said that, you'll see better fuel economy figures in the manual if, as I admitted in my VTi review, you don't drive it enthusiastically. The CVT was a bit disappointing because I was a lot more sedate in that one and it didn't deliver better mileage than the manual.
Fuel-tank capacity is 40 litres.
The combined cycle fuel consumption claim - which is what the brand claims the vehicle should use across a mix of driving situations - is the same across the MG3 line-up: 6.7 litres per 100 kilometres.
During my time with the car - which consisted of exactly 100km of mixed driving - I saw an at-the-pump fuel economy return of 7.7L/100km, which is decent.
The fuel tank capacity of the MG3 is 45 litres - meaning a theoretical mileage per tank of about 580km. It runs on regular unleaded (91RON), too.
Just be aware, the filler neck of the fuel tank is a little less angled than some other cars, so you might find it can splash back when it ‘clicks’ the first time.
The Jazz has always been a comfortable, easygoing car with performance figures to match. Its 0-100km/h acceleration is best described as leisurely, so if it's speed your after, this car isn't for you.
That said, the manual VTi is terrific fun to drive. Switch to the CVT, however, and the Jazz's reputation is restored. A good ride for front-seat passengers comes from McPherson struts up front while the rear suspension is by torsion beams, meaning rear-seat occupants can get a few shocks over bumps.
Road noise is a little higher than you might expect, but that's probably a combination of tyres and a commitment to lightness.
Obviously, being such a small car, manouverability is a key advantage. The turning radius is 5.2m, which is good but not super tight and the light, electric power steering makes dodging about easy. It certainly doesn't feel like it's on rails, but that's hardly what a car with a such a small engine size is about.
Ground clearance is 137mm, which is reasonable but jumping gutters is not advised.
In the base manual, you have a five-speed with a light clutch and an easy shift. For a motor missing out on a second cam, let alone a turbo, progress is swift rather than exciting, the engine droning away with a relaxed air. The CVT has an eco mode, which further blunts performance, but a ring of light around speedo glows green if you're behaving yourself.
You might think of MG as a sports car brand - that’s what they built back in history, after all, and those are the reminiscences the company is hoping you’ll have when you see the famed octagonal badge.
And of the current crop of models that MG sells in Australia, the MG3 is undoubtedly the sportiest.
That comes down to its driving manners, steering and ride - but not the engine and transmission.
The powertrain feels to be lacking enough power and torque to make it feel light and zippy when accelerating. The automatic transmission doesn’t make the greatest use of the engine, and can be indecisive when climbing hills or when you ask more of the car. Oh, don’t even think about a 0-100 performance claim - no such number exists.
In urban driving at lower speeds it’s fine. Between traffic lights and encountering roundabouts, and there’s not much to complain about. It doesn’t have any lag or lurch from a standstill, and is smooth and quick enough to get away from rest, too.
It’s just once you start to ask more of the engine and transmission that you notice that things could be better. There is, at least, a manual shift mode for the transmission to allow you to take control of the shifts, and there’s a sport mode too, which will hang on to gears and quell the indecision of the transmission to a degree.
On the open road it gets along fine, sitting at the speed limit without much fuss - although once you encounter a hill, you will notice the speed drop off a little. And the cruise control seemingly has a bit of a mind of its own, with a set speed displayed at 100km/h, I noticed the speed varying between 90km/h and 110km/h, depending on the terrain.
It’s the road holding, grip, handling and steering that help it live up to the badge, with steering that has a nice hefty weight to it and good directness at pace or around town. It even offers a little bit of feel through the wheel, which is welcome. That grip was surprising given the tyres fitted to the Excite’s 16-inch alloy wheels (Giti GitiComfort 228 tyres in 195/55/16 size).
The ride is tuned with a firmer character to it than you might expect. It’s not to the point of discomfort, and nor is it fidgety or clumsy over potholes or sharp edges. And that tune for the Macpherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear suspension means that it feels plenty grippy in corners. Over my drive loop - incorporating sweeping bends and tighter twists - the MG3 stuck itself to the road commendably, with no noticeable skittishness to speak of.
Indeed, I kept thinking that the suspension tune reminded me of a VW, Skoda or Audi city car - assured, confident, and ultimately a bit of fun.
The braking performance was good, too - it pulled up true and straight under heavy braking, and offered decent response at city speeds, too.
One minor criticism was some noticeable wind noise from around the windscreen pillar / mirror area, which was evident at speeds from 70km/h up.
The safety specifications include six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, brake assist and brake-force distribution. The Jazz was awarded a five-star ANCAP safety rating in January 2015.
Baby car seat security is offered with either three top-tether anchors but there are no ISOFIX points.
Missing is the more comprehensive safety equipment of its key rival, the Mazda2, which has forward AEB as standard, and its mid-range adds reverse AEB and at the top of the range scores reverse cross traffic alert and blind -spot monitoring. The airbag count is competitive, however.
Safety technology is the MG3’s biggest shortfall. There’s no ANCAP crash test safety rating to speak of, and the MG3 doesn’t come with any form of auto emergency braking (AEB), which is disappointing given the tech has been available on affordable city cars since 2013 (the VW up! was an early benchmark).
Even the facelifted Mitsubishi Mirage has AEB with pedestrian detection, but the MG3 doesn’t. Nor does it come with lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert or rear AEB.
So what do you get? The range comes standard with a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, electronic stability control, and six airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain). And that may be enough for you, but we know you can get more safety tech in rival cars, so it can’t score well against this criteria.
Where is the MG3 built? It’s made in China.
Honda's standard five year/unlimited kilometre warranty also comes with capped-price servicing for the first five years or 10 services, whichever comes first. Service intervals are every 10,000km or six months.
Up to 30,000km you won't have any extras but once you hit 40,000km you'll have to do the brake fluid, which is a reaonable $144 extra. Your service cost structure is otherwise simple - $259 for odd numbers and $297 for even.
Many people ask where the Honda Jazz is built, and the answer to that is "not Japan", or in Honda's Thailand plant.
Second-hand values appear strong, with around 60 percent of value retained after three years. Resale value is something of a Honda strength, which is probably to do with a lack of high-profile reliability issues.
A dip into the usual internet forums yields little in the way of common faults, problems, complaints or issues for the Jazz. Some look for automatic transmission problems, others for manual gearbox problems, but the current Jazz seems quite clear of defects in Australian-delivered cars.
I kept thinking about one particular thing over my time in the MG3 - the warranty. It’s such a great peace of mind move from the company to back its cars with a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty plan.
If your brain works like mine, you could calculate it out and see the purchase of the MG3 completely differently: what about thinking of it as a $2500-ish-per-year investment, and at the end you get a free car…! The same can be said of the Kia Picanto and Rio, though.
That warranty should put your mind at ease when it comes to reliability, problems, common faults and issues, as any required fixes are set to be covered by the brand over that period. And buyers get seven years of roadside assistance included, too.
Maintenance is required every 12 months/10,000km, whichever comes first. That’s a bit more regular than some rivals (most have 15,000km intervals), but the brand backs its cars with a seven-year fixed service cost plan. Servicing costs averaged out over the first seven years/70,000km of ownership equate to $382 per visit (before GST), which isn't cheap, but nor is it expensive.
Here's a rundown of the recommended service costing (all prices pre-GST): 12 months/10,000km: $231.76; 24 months/20,000km: $385.23; 36 months/30,000km - $379.72; 48 months/40,000km - $680.74; 60 months/50,000km - $231.76; 72 months/60,000km - $533.19; 84 months/70,000km - $231.76.
Keep the service logbook stamps up to date in your owners manual - it’s a ticket to better resale value.