MG summoned the British motoring press to Birmingham today for the UK unveiling of its MG3 supermini. The five-door hatchback is an attempt to bridge the gap between the functional and affordable hatchbacks on the market (think Ford Fiesta) and more iconic aspirational models (like the Mini). Despite the company's troubled recent history, it is confident that the brand still carries prestige. Though MG's engineers are split between the UK and Shanghai, MG's Global Design Director, Anthony Williams-Kenny, today emphasized that the MG3 is an example of British design.

"We believe good design is honest design," Williams-Kenny told those assembled, during a presentation in which British design icons including the Spitfire, 2012 Olympic Cauldron and Norman Foster's Gherkin were projected onto the screen. Were the audience not already familiar with the MG3's appearance, it might have been forgiven for expecting a radical rethink of the automobile. As it was, when the covers were whipped off, the MG3 beneath was identical to that shown off at this year's Shanghai Auto Show, which, as Angus MacKenzie noted at the time, is actually quite conservative so far as form factor is concerned.

That said, there are some fun touches, albeit superficial ones, which suggest that MG has learned from the launch of the MG6, regarded by some as a good car which under-performed in the market. This time round, MG is making a big thing of the MG3's customizabilty, the idea being that the car is as fun to buy as it is to drive. Not only will the hatchback be offered in 10 colors (including bold choices like "Cherry Bomb" and "Orange Marmalade"), buyers will also be able to choice between a range of decals. These range from the obvious (Union Flag roof) to the dubious (tire tire skids as a racing stripe), to the relatively tasteful (classic racing stripe). Particularly attention has been paid to the headlights, with the actual lamps branded and shaped into MG's octagonal logo.

The MG3 isn't the first car to have branded headlamps, but it's a nice touch all the same (Photo: Gizmag)

To find out what was under the hood, Gizmag spoke to MG engineering director Alan Anderson. Anderson confirmed that the MG3 is packing a 1,498-cc four-cylinder petrol engine with multi-point fuel injection. What does that mean for mileage? "We're still working on getting every last bit we can get out of that," Anderson says, adding that its mpg count will be competitive. Anderson did tell Gizmag that the MG3 achieves a top speed of 110 mph and accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in a shade over 11 seconds.

Under the MG3's hood (Photo: Gizmag)

In terms of on-board gadgetry, the MG3 will include USB and auxiliary ports for connecting iPhones and the like. These are concealed in a stowage compartment where, Anderson surmises, drivers will naturally put their phones in any case. Music from the device can be routed through the car's audio system using the aux connection or via Bluetooth. Anderson also highlighted a smoothed-off area of the dash designed to take the suction cup of a tablet, phone or sat-nav mount.

By way of driver assistance the MG3 does come with a hill start assistance system and electronic brake and stability controls. Braking is also helped by a system which will wipe the discs in wet weather.

The MG3 has plenty of room in the back, as these two strapping 6-footers attest (Photo: Gizmag)

But how does one go about creating a design icon? "I think you have to wait for the public opinion on that, to a certain degree," Anderson says. "I think what we've really tried to do is to create a car which has got an elegant design, and as such will age very well, but at the same time we're giving people the opportunity to personalize it to their own taste. That's the key thing that this car offers."

In truth, MG has set about designing a hatchback that is customizable rather than iconic, and judging from what Gizmag saw today (such as a roof decal composed of computer smilies), the company has delivered in spades. You won't like all the options – that's the whole point – but provided you like the car itself, selecting a final appearance to suit your tastes shouldn't be difficult. Whether this will prove sufficient to make the MG3 a success, and reverse the fortunes of a company not long back from the dead, remains to be seen.

The MG3 is set to launch in the second half of 2013. Price is yet to be confirmed, but expect a starting price around the £10,000 (US$15,600) mark in the UK.

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