MG 3 VS Toyota Yaris
- Good ride
- Fun to drive
- Great ownership prospects
- Lacking safety tech
- Powertrain not great in demanding situations
- No digital speedo
- Plenty of exterior style in a tiny package
- Safety stuff on point
- New cabin tech a major bonus
- The price raises eyebrows
- Interior treatment doesn't feel particularly plush
- Petrol-only models can feel a little thrashy
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|
Have you ever heard the saying you can’t get something for nothing? It could have been written about this all-new, fourth-generation Yaris.
It’s bigger, far safer and more feature-filled than the ageing city car it replaces. It introduces hybrid powertrains for the first time, debuts safety systems never before seen in a city car, and rolls-out the long-awaited cabin technology that the last Yaris sorely missed.
All of which is good news? The not so good news? You will be paying handsomely for all those changes. Yes, the new Yaris marks the end of the sub-$20k Toyota. And it ends it by some margin.
So does the value proposition still stack up? Or are you better off taking the never-smaller step up to the bigger Corolla. Join us as we find out.
|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.
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.
Short answer? I like it. The Yaris wears a shrunken version of Toyota's design language, a little like a Corolla's been shrunk in the wash.
Like with any car, the more you spend, the better it looks, and the little Yaris looks its sharpest in top-spec ZR guise, with its 16-inch alloys and two-tone paint job (the black roof looks especially sharp against the electric blue paint job).
The blacked-out grille area looks a little like a grouper feeding, but for mine, it works, lending the Yaris a street-smart style that sets it apart in the city car segment, but I simply can't stomach steel wheels on a car that's north of $20k, which rules the entry-level model out, for me at least.
Step inside, and you're met with a quality-feeling interior, if one that lacks some creature comforts and soft-touch materials when you consider the price point. There is no shortage of hard plastics, and even the material that lines the doors in the top-spec models feels paper thin.
The view from the front seats especially is light-years ahead of the car it replaces, with the 7.0-inch colour screen and digital driver display dominating the view. The back, however, is fare more austere, where you'll find seats and... well that's about it.
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.
The new Yaris measures 3940mm in length, 1695mm in width and 1505mm in height, and rides on a 2550mm, making it a bigger car than the vehicle it replaces. It will also serve up some 270 litres (VDA) of luggage space with the 60:40 rear seats in place.
The extra room is a boon for rear passengers. I put the backseat to the test sitting behind my own 175cm-tall driving position, and I had more than enough knee and headroom to make me feel comfortable. Then for the ultimate test, I put CarsGuide's tallest scribe (and NBA star in another life) Richard Berry in the window seat alongside me, and we decided we could both travel in genuine comfort.
There are ISOFX attachment points in each window seat in the back, and cupholders up front, but the backseat does lack cupholders, a pulldown seat divider, air vents or climate controls, USB ports or power outlets - there's not much of anything back there.
Front seat riders get a pair of cupholders, a single USB port and power outlet, and a deep, phone-sized storage bin in front of the gear shift.
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.
Let’s get the tough stuff out of the way first: the new Yaris arrives in three trim levels - the Ascent Sport, SX and ZR - with the cheapest, manual-equipped vehicle costing $22,130, stretching to $32,100 for the most expensive, hybrid-powered ZR.
That marks an entry-point increase of almost $7000, with the former model’s cheapest offering being the $15,390 Ascent Manual - a price increase of more than 40 per cent.
An even tougher pill to swallow? The cheapest Corolla is the manual-equipped Ascent Sport, yours for $23,895 ($1765 more than the entry-level Yaris), and if hybrid is your bag, you can opt for the $27,395 Ascent Sport Hybrid - which means you can get an electrified Corolla for less money than an electrified Yaris.
Anyway, let's unpack. The Yaris range kicks off with the Ascent Sport, which can be had with a manual transmission ($22,130), or with a CVT automatic $23,630.
Outside, you get 15-inch steel wheels, halogen headlamps, LED DRLs and tail lights and rear fog lamps. Inside, you'll find fabric seats, manual air-con, a USB charge point and a 12v power outlet.
On the tech front, you'll find a 7.0-inch touchscreen inside with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as a smaller 4.2-inch driver info screen. You'll also get a six-speaker stereo and DAB+ radio.
But it's on the safety front where the tiny Yaris really shines, with the brand boldly declaring it the world's safest city car. But we'll circle back to that under the Safety sub-heading.
The range then steps up to the SX, which can be had with the conventional petrol ($27,020), or with a hybrid powertrain ($29,020), which adds a lithium-ion battery and electric motor. The new hybrid system includes a pure EV driving mode, but Toyota is thus far unable to confirm now many electric-only kilometres it will deliver.
That extra spend also buys you navigation with live traffic, auto air-con, keyless entry and push-button start, a digital speedo, tachometer and hybrid use gauge, as well as a leather-accented wheel and better cabin materials. Outside, you get 15-inch alloys, LED headlights, privacy glass and silver exterior design elements.
Finally, you can opt for the top-spec ZR, available as a petrol ($30,100) or hybrid ($32,100). For that, you get optional two-tone paint, as well as 16-inch alloy wheels, and a rear spoiler.
Inside, you get sport seats up front, paddle shifters for the non-hybrid model, and nicer interior design elements like piano black inserts and Y (for Yaris) embossed seats. You also get a head-up display, blind-spot monitoring and an intelligent parking system.
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 Yaris is offered with a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder engine which will produce 88kW and 145Nm, paring with a six-speed manual transmission in the cheapest model or a CVT auto in the more expensive cars.
The hybrid system adds a lithium-ion battery and an electric motor for a combined power output of 85kW (Toyota hasn't confirmed the torque figure), which suggests its running a de-tuned version of the 1.5-litre engine.
The new hybrid system includes a pure EV driving mode, but Toyota is thus far unable to confirm now many electric-only kilometres it will deliver.
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 perks of a hybrid powertrain reveal themselves here, with the electrified Yaris reporting a claimed 3.3L/100km on the combined cycle, with 76g/km of C02. Petrol-powered cars (CVT) make 4.9L/100km and emit 114g/km of CO2.
Petrol vehicles are fitted with a 40-litre fuel tank, while hybrid cars make do with 36 litres.
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.
It’s a tough nut to crack, the Yaris. Largely because the vehicle that appears to make the most sense from behind the wheel, also makes the least sense in a lot of ways, too.
We cycled through petrol-only and hybrid cars, and in my opinion, the electrified vehicles feel the most natural from the driver’s seat - and deliver the most of what you might be expecting from a vehicle touted by Toyota as a revolution in the city-car space.
While the petrol vehicle can feel a little thrashy and loud in the cabin under hard acceleration, the hybrid - which, given its combined power output is actually lower than that of the petrol-only vehicle, must be using a de-tuned version of the 1.5-litre engine - feels a smoother, more complete drive.
The extra weight, too (though only around 65kg or so) seems to help settle the ride, which, when combined with Toyota’s TNGA platform, delivers a car that feels fun and enthusiastic from behind the wheel, with a satisfying ride and steering that’s both easy and predicable.
All of which makes perfect sense. The part that doesn’t, though, is that you need to weigh those facts against the fact that, at either $29,020 or $32,100, you can own a bigger hybrid Corolla for less money. Hell, you can just about buy a hybrid RAV4. And given there’s not a lot of duds in the reborn Toyota’s line-up, that’s a tough financial pill to swallow.
All the things the hybrid models do well are performed a little less impressively in the petrol-powered cars. They remain fun, perky little city cars, but they don’t shift the needle in that segment, at least as far as dynamics go, in the way we perhaps expected them to.
The engine is a little louder and a little courser, and the ride a little more jumpy - the latter of which is a bigger complaint amongst my CarsGuide colleagues than it was for me, but I do like the feeling of being truly connected to the road below me, and am willing to make some comfort sacrifices as a result.
All in all, it’s a very good offering from Toyota, with only the sky-high weight of our expectations, and its price, weighing against it.
If you have a love of small, easy vehicles, there’s no doubt the Yaris will scratch that itch. It’s lightyears in front of the car it replaces, is surprisingly spacious and practical, and the tech and safety updates are a very welcome addition, the former of which - led by Apple CarPlay and Android Auto - will genuinely transform your ownership experience.
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.
It's got to a high score here, given the Yaris debuts safety systems not seen in cars this size, or this price bracket.
That story begins with eight airbags - including two front centre airbags, the only car in this segment to get them - and the usual suite of braking and traction aids.
Then the tech steps up, with Toyota's pre-collision safety system, which has AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, as well as active cruise control, intersection turn assistance, lane trace assist with active steering, road-sign recognition and a reversing camera.
That's on all models too, with the top-spec ZR adding a head-up display, blind-spot monitoring and an intelligent parking system.
The new Yaris scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating.
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.