It turns out that seeing a line of MG3s in the flesh for the first time is something of an eye-opener.
Colours, graphics and alloy wheel styles assault your eyes in a rather enjoyable sort of way, not that I admit it to myself at first.
I pop into the evening’s hotel to drop some bags off, and a decorator at work pipes up. “You with the MG lot? Nice little cars aren’t they?” He’s right – the MG3 really is a good-looking hatch.
And it needs to be. After all, this is the first B-segment effort from a brand reshaped and rejuvenated from the dark days of Rover-sourced drudgery.
What you get is a supremely well-priced package in four trim levels priced from just under £8,400 to a pound shy of £10,000. At the top end in particular, where you can find Bluetooth, funky alloy wheels, leather trim details with red stitching and handy tech like parking sensors, the value for money is pretty incredible.
On top of the list prices you can add a wide choice of graphics for the bonnet, roof and sides, plus swapping out the interior air vent surrounds for different colours. But even a top-spec MG3 with every option still weighs in at less than £11,500.
There’s just the one engine choice – for now at least. It’s a fizzy 1.5-litre petrol unit with a very healthy 105bhp on tap at just over 6,000rpm. Like any normally-aspirated petrol engine it needs lots of revs to pull you along with gusto, but extracting its modest performance is good fun – and not too hard on the pocket either, with my merciless treatment of the car over the first half of the route resulting in no less than 33mpg. Taking it easy later on brought up figures in the mid-to-high 40s.
It’s a good chassis too, and but for a set of slightly budget-feeling dampers the MG3 handles well enough to entertain even a seasoned sports car driver. And the steering is set up more to dial out any unpleasant kick-back from bumps rather than deliver textural feel from the road surface.
The engine responds to pedal inputs very quickly.
I’m surprised to discover just how likeable the interior is, too. As a five-door the MG3 has a fairly typical boot for the B-segment, but it has good rear legroom and a neat centre console arrangement that emphasises style without going overboard.
No, the plastics aren’t fancy but it’s a simple, effective arrangement with a couple of cool touches on this high-spec model, like digital displays within the dials for air movement control – not to mention the optional red air vent surrounds.
The combination of style, customisation options, genuine driving talent and value for money is impressive.
Factor in insurance ratings no higher than 4E and the MG3 looks very tempting, especially for young buyers. I have to admit to being surprised by how much I like it, and maybe on this occasion I’d have been right to judge the book by its cover.