MG 3 VS Hyundai i30
- Good ride
- Fun to drive
- Great ownership prospects
- Lacking safety tech
- Powertrain not great in demanding situations
- No digital speedo
- Great to drive
- Practical for a little hatch
- Safety tech
- No hybrid
- Steering seems a little heavy
- No proximity key in the entry grade
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|
Despite all the cars I’m lucky enough to pilot, every time I road-test and live with a Hyundai i30 hatch I’m reminded how good it is. That’s coming from a parent, a car enthusiast and somebody who’s been testing cars for a decade.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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 i30 has become a classic in the way the Toyota Corolla is an Aussie favourite, thanks to a combination of great value, high quality, excellent safety, practicality and driving enjoyment. Throw in good looks, which are now even more high-end and glitzy, and the i30 represents a superb package.
As for the sweet spot in the range, there are two: the entry-grade i30 is priced super sharply., but the Elite grade is excellent value for money.
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 third-generation i30 was revealed to the world in 2016, but five years feels like forever in car life spans, which is why there are updates designed to freshen up interiors and exteriors to keep the tech current and stop the looks from dating.
The updated i30 was given a new face with a wider, more elaborate grille flanked by new LED DRLs, redesigned headlights, and front and rear bumpers. Also, Hyundai spotters at parties will tell you that the rear reflectors are now located lower – that’s your cue to pretend you’ve seen someone you know across the room and hastily remove yourself from that conversation.
The interior remains much the same as the previous model, but with a larger 10.25- inch screen on the Elite and N Line Premium grades. The leather in the Active lifts the cabin above the cloth seats in the entry-grade i30, which still has a premium look with its soft-touch surfaces and digital instrument cluster.
The N Line cars are almost indistinguishable from the fully fledge hardcore i30N with their body kits. We’re talking N Line black bezel headlights, N Line front bumper with mesh grille, N Line rear bumper with diffuser and dual exhaust, plus 18-inch alloys wheels with Michelin Pilot sport 4 rubber.
N Line interiors are sporty with red stitching in the leather upholstery, metal pedals, N Line gear knob and an N Line steering wheel.
As for paint colours, only N Line cars can be had in Lava Orange, but the rest of the grades come in Polar White, Phantom Black, Fluidic Metal, Amazon grey, Intense Blue and Fiery Red.
What are the i30’s dimensions? Well, it’s classed as a small car, but to be exact the i30 is 4345mm long, 1795mm wide and 1453mm tall.
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.
I know what you’re thinking – a hatch isn’t as practical as an SUV, right? Well, I can tell you that the Hyundai Kona small SUV is nowhere near as practical as the i30 hatch I’m reviewing for you here.
Sure, the Kona is about 13cm shorter in length than the i30, but a lot of people might weigh this little SUV up against the hatch.
For me, as a dad with a six-year-old child, I’d pick the i30 over the Kona for practicality. Here’s why.
The i30’s rear doors open wide, making it easy to climb in and out, and also put children into their car seats. The rear door pockets in the i30 are also large, while the Kona’s are tiny. The i30’s 395-litre boot is bigger than the Kon’s 274-litre cargo capacity, and it has a lower load lip.
Cabin storage is good. The centre console box is deep and there’s a large covered area in front of the shifter for phones and wallets. I also liked that the two cupholders up front have a ‘roller door’, which can be pulled shut to hide coins or valuables.
Rear legroom in the i30 isn’t great for me, but I’m 191cm tall and can only just sit behind my driving position. That said, the Kona’s back seat is even tighter.
The entry-grade i30 also has directional air vents in the second row which are must-haves for kids and not even the Kona N Line has those.
The main practicality gripes I have about the i30 is that the entry grade and the Active above it don’t have a proximity key or push-button start.
That means having to ‘beep’ the fob to lock and unlock the car and actually put the key into the ignition to start it.
Price and features
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.
There are five grades in the i30 Hatch line-up. As a guide, list prices start at $23,420 and top out at $36,220.
That starting price is for the entry grade, which is just called the i30 and that’s for the version with the manual gearbox. If you want an automatic it will be $2000 more.
Stepping up to the Active is $26,920, and above that is the Elite for $30,220
Then there are the two sporty grades: the N Line which comes with a manual for $29,420 or auto for $2K more; and the N Line Premium which also comes with a manual at a list price of $34,220 or an auto for an extra $2000.
The value is good especially on the entry grade i30 which comes standard with an eight-inch screen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a seven-inch digital instrument cluster, rear view camera, leather steering wheel, auto headlights, LED DRLs, 16-inch alloy wheels and the family-must-have directional rear air vents.
The Active doesn’t come with a whole lot more, but there is leather upholstery, 17-inch alloy wheels and exterior chrome trim.
The Elite is loaded with standard features. So, along with the entry-grade’s equipment, plus the leather seats and 17-inch alloy wheels form the Active there’s an Infinity premium sound system, digital radio, wireless charging, proximity key and push-button start, a 10.25-inch media screen with sat nav, dual-zone climate control and rain-sensing wipers.
The N Line has all the Active’s gear plus 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and taillights, wireless charging, proximity key and push-button start, dual-zone climate control and rain sensing wipers. The reason for getting the N Line though is for the more powerful engine and sports suspension. The N Line also has a tough-looking body kit.
The N Line Premium adds a sunroof, tinted glass, a 10.25-inch media system with sat nav (yes, the regular N Line doesn’t get that), heated and ventilated front seats, Infinity stereo, power driver’s seat and digital radio.
Metallic paint is a $495 option and if you want to know what colours there are to choose from then see the Design section below.
You may have spotted that the entry-grade i30 has wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto? Well the rest of the grades need you to actually plug in your phone to use these apps. So, while entry car has the convenience of wireless connection, I found that my phone dropped out on calls occasionally which was frustrating.
Engine & trans
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.
The turbo engine is the pick, offering not only more grunt but it’s paired up with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, rather than a traditional six-speed auto matched to the lower powered engine.
Thing is the turbo engine is only available on the N Line and N Line Premium, while all the other grades come with the lower-powered 2.0-litre.
Those N Line cars also come with the option of a six-speed manual gearbox, and it’s also offered on the entry-grade i30, too.
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 turbocharged 1.6-litre and the 2.0-litre engine only need 91 RON petrol which is the most affordable at service stations, and there’s not much of a difference in consumption between the powerplants either.
According to Hyundai, the 1.6-litre with the auto transmission should use 7.1L/100km while the manual will bump that to 7.5L/100km. Hyundai says the 2.0-litre engine with the auto should use 74.L/100km and 7.3L/100km with the manual. Those consumption figures are for a combination of driving conditions, in other words: open roads, urban roads and everything in between.
My own testing saw me driving an entry-grade i30 and after 161.7km I used 12.18 litres (measured at the fuel pump). This comes out to 7.9L/100km. By the way, the trip computer was reporting 7.7L/100km.
That’s a pretty thirsty result for my test car and even the suggested consumptions are on the higher side.
Really the i30 should be available with a hybrid powertrain, or even as a fully electric vehicle. So, points are lost here for the i30 range’s fuel economy.
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.
Right at the start of this review I said that I’m reminded how good the i30 is every time I test one. There’s the practicality and safety, but a big part of what I like so much about this car is the way it drives.
All i30s are easy to drive and comfortable. The suspension has been developed here in Australia for our roads and the result is a car that handles superbly for the price with a composed ride.
Most recently I road tested the entry-grade i30. As mentioned earlier, all entry-grade cars come with the 2.0-litre engine, which doesn’t have the grunt of the turbo 1.6-litre from the N Line and N Line Premium, but I didn’t think it felt too underpowered.
The N Line and N Line Premium not only have more mumbo under the bonnet, but also sports suspension for better handling.
SUVs are now hugely popular, but driving the i30 hatch was a good reminder, that regular cars don’t wobble, bouncy, or lean as much as their springy, taller counterparts.
That said, I was also reminded about how low you sit in an i30 compared to even the smallest SUV and that the steering, while accurate and smooth, feels heavy for a little hatch.
Visibility is good and this combined with fairly diminutive dimensions made the i30 easy to park.
When it was time to return the i30 after a week, I swapped it for the Kona, which is smaller but somehow felt bigger and more cumbersome to drive.
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.
The i30 was given the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2017. That was some time ago, but advanced tech in the i30 has been updated over the years and the current safety offering is impressive.
Coming standard on all grades is AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection. This AEB system is able to brake for stopped cars between 10-55km/h (10-80km/h if the car is moving), and brake for pedestrians and cyclists between 10-65km/h.
Lane keeping assistance is also standard across the i30 range and so is adaptive cruise control.
Blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert comes standard on the Elite variant and above.
For child seats there are two ISOFIX points and three top tether mounts across the second row.
A full-sized spare wheel is standard on entry, Active and Elite grades. A space saver spare comes on the N Line and N Line Premium.
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.
The i30 is covered by Hyundai’s five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty. That's still lagging behind sister brand Kia's seven-year warranty.
Servicing is recommended every 12 months or 15,000km. For the entry grade, Active and Elite a three-year pre-paid plan costs $777, four years is $1136 and five years is $1395.
For the N Line and N Line Premium a three-year plan is $807, four years is $1116, and five years is $1385.