Group test: MG 3 vs Suzuki Swift vs Dacia Sandero vs Mitsubishi Mirage

Published: 20 January 2017

► Cheeky post-Brexit cloth-cutters go head-to-head
► Prices range from £7595 to £12,849
► Find out which affordable hatch is worth your coin

There’s fun to be had in the budget hatch sector, but who’s having most of it? Let's find out.

Tin can is onomatopoeic (go on, kick one down the road...)

MG 3

Not a whiff, here, of the legion graphic pack and wheel whim customisation options which strike us as one of the MG’s stronger selling points. They’re either tilting at understatement or, perhaps, metallic grey is the new slack-jawed punter lure?

Suzuki Swift

Delivery of fun-on-a-budget promise prompted our Car of the Year award in 2005. But can the Swift survive the unsolicited accolade of being the most expensive car here? Never thought we’d say that about a Suzuki in a groupie.

Dacia Sandero

An empty one, obviously. ‘TIN.. CAN Tin Can tincantin…’ Renault’s Romanian success, relentlessly billed as the cheapest car in Britain. Even this, um, posh ‘Ambience’ version is only just over £8k. 

Mitsubishi Mirage 

First facelift since soundly slated 2013 launch version. Front and rear styling makeover, extra equipment, improved sound deadening, extra soft-touch cabin materials and revised suspension. Hope the steering’s better. 

Styled by a dog chewing Play-Doh

MG 3

Amazing what 60 Longbridge designers can achieve with a Fabia, Punto and Clio cut ‘n’ paste conflagration; in this company the car looks almost alert. Styled in China it would probably look more GM than MG. Oh… hang on…

Suzuki Swift

Appeal probably lies more in the Saab 900-style glazing curves than the ‘Careful with that Ceremonial Scimitar, Eugene’ headlamps, but the third gen Swift is pleasantly proportioned, without having to try too hard. 

Dacia Sandero

Not really styled at all, in truth, other than in an unassuming, non-threatening, Saturday morning showroom ‘That’s-quite-a-large-box-for-not-much-money-isn’t-it-dear?’ way. Roger Buys a Fridge.

Mitsubishi Mirage 

By someone armed with a chrome lip-gloss pencil, more like... If you ever meet anyone who says ‘WOW; I’ve just got to have me one of those’, take them to the vet to be put down.

Ottoman ease or osteopath-soliciting origami?

MG 3

Dreadful, reconstituted stocking-filler plastics and a smattering of fabric struggle to sweeten the bitterness of the interior design pill. Lipstick scrawl upholstery motif detracts from acceptable front seat comfort. Surprising space astern.

Suzuki Swift

Plenty of plastic, but still the best quality interior here. Seat comfortable, and only contender with rake and reach steering adjustment, but driving position marred by left leg/centre console spat. Least room astern.

Dacia Sandero

Driving position not bad once dog’s eaten gearchange-hindering centre arm rest. Seat comfy in a soggy, gently short-lived fashion, but rear seat bench dominatrix-firm. Less rear seat room than Mirage, but bigger loadspace.

Mitsubishi Mirage 

Plastic and piano black interior finish not bad, despite the odd exposed screw head. Reach-only steering adjust but driving position acceptably comfy, with room for clutch foot. Cavernous rear seating, but diminutive loadspace.

Just what does MP3 stand for anyway?

MG 3

Range topping specification includes air-con, Bluetooth, DAB radio and, yes, MP3 compatibility. Shame the execrable stereo panel and steering wheel switchgear design makes it all feel a tad ‘Now Please Wash Your Hands’ to use.

Suzuki Swift

Top spec car with all the toys; gently aftermarket feel touchscreen, DAB radio, air-con, Bluetooth, electric front and rear windows, keyless go, cruise control, ugly children glass, and the only offering here with sat-nav.

Dacia Sandero

Dunno; but this Ambience spec includes a USB port for it, and Bluetooth, and a CD player with two whole speakers, and a front passenger Jesus handle. Renault switchgear looks better in a Dacia than in a Renault.

Mitsubishi Mirage 

Heated seats, air-con, toddler wilful auto wipers. Multimedia looks dated but works okay. No USB to be found despite listing in spec, so successful phone pairing with voice activation at second attempt. Phone charging how?

Slow as a plumber going for his tools

MG 3

1.5-litre lump feels tight and reluctant to pull. At 60mph in fifth, you can bounce your throttle foot up and down as if inflating a Lilo whilst in a foul mood, to no effect whatsoever. 

Suzuki Swift

On paper, yes; with 1.2-litre Dualjet engine focused on headline-grabbing mpg and tax-dodging CO2 rather than jowl-adjusting performance. But the unit’s eager to please and the gearchange is encouraging. Rewards stick stirring.

Dacia Sandero

Vies with Mirage for eager three-cylinder turbo noises-off award. Sandero quicker despite greater weight than Mitsubishi, gearchange much better too. Hollow tin can interior promotes healthy meld of road/wind/engine noise.

Mitsubishi Mirage 

Three-pot turns car to bullied blancmange at idle, but fantastically eager to rev. Gearchange shoddy; reverse a well-kept secret. Soundproofing added, but insufficient to prevent cabin acoustics succumbing to car’s inner can.

Rolls like a labrador in fox poo

MG 3

Actually, in the handling stakes, it verges on the amusing, despite steering feel of overcooked squid which, bizarrely, weights up as speeds fall. Beyond first-car-fun velocities, however, composure collapses as abruptly as a jilted bride.

Suzuki Swift

Nope; dynamically the most appealing of the group. Quite firm undercarriage, but well shackled body roll, accurate steering and very nice balance as speeds rise. Old school, brake-free driving required to maintain momentum. Fun.

Dacia Sandero

Suspension is tough so less body roll than anticipated. Ride somewhat lumpen, but steering far more connected and meatier than Mirage. Not as prone to understeer as Mirage either. Caution: steering refuses to self-centre. Alarming.

Mitsubishi Mirage 

Ride niggly, but dominated by extraordinary steering which feels more like a suggestion than a command, occasionally feeling as if the car is toppling off an invisible jack. Dynamics can’t keep up with lusty little powerplant.

Verdict

Suzuki Swift (WINNER)

Feels the most grown up machine here in every department, and a lower spec Swift can be had for less than £10,000.

MG 3

Almost styled, almost engaging, almost cheap enough. Badly needs a more sophisticated powerplant and, er, a shouty roof graphic.

Dacia Sandero

A basic car that needs to remain basic so that you can buy it at a stupid price. Or there’s always that secondhand Fiesta…

Mitsubishi Mirage 

A model responsible for less than 5% of Mitsubishi’s total UK sales and, despite facelift and modest revisions, still feels like it.

Facts and figures

Suzuki Swift 1.2 SZ4 (WINNER) 

Price £12,849 
As tested £12,849 
Engine 1242cc 16v 4-cyl, 89bhp @ 6000rpm, 89lb ft @ 4400rpm 
Transmission 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive 
Performance 12.3sec 0-62mph, 102mph, 65.7mpg, 99g/km CO2 
Weight 1030kg 
On Sale Now 
Rating  ★★★

MG3 3Style VTi-TECH 

Price £10,499 
As tested £10,894 
Engine 1498cc 16v 4-cyl, 105bhp @ 6000rpm, 101lb ft @ 4750rpm 
Transmission 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive 
Performance 10.4sec 0-62mph, 108mph, 51.5mpg, 124g/km CO2 
Weight 1150kg 
On Sale Now 
Rating ★★★



Dacia Sandero TCe 90 

Price £7595 
As tested £8115 
Engine 898cc 12v turbo 3-cyl, 89bhp @ 5250rpm, 99lb ft @ 2250rpm 
Transmission 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive 
Performance 11.1sec 0-62mph, 109mph, 57.7mpg, 109g/km CO2 
Weight 962kg 
On Sale Now
Rating  ★★★

Mitsubishi Mirage Juro 1.2 

Price £10,999 
As tested £11,029 
Engine 1193cc 12v 3-cyl, 79bhp @ 6000rpm, 78lb ft @ 4000rpm 
Transmission 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive 
Performance 11.7sec 0-62mph, 112mph, 65.7mpg, 100g/km CO2 
Weight 845kg 
On Sale Now 
Rating  ★★★

Read more CAR magazine comparison tests

By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Contributing editor, architect, sentence constructor, amuse bouche

Comments