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Kia Picanto vs MG 3: spec battle for Australia’s two most affordable cars


Chasing Cars pits the two price-busting cars together to see which one comes out on top 

It’s pretty hard to buy a brand new car in Australia for under $20,000 these days. However, both the Kia Picanto and MG 3 are two of the only cars to fit under that price bracket. 

The small-car segment is getting smaller, with the likes of the Ford Fiesta saying goodbye and models such as the Hyundai i20 only offered locally with one variant. 

But these small cars remain popular with young drivers and those wanting an efficient second car. 

2022 MG MG3 Excite side profile shot
The MG 3 is one of Australia’s cheapest cars
Kia Picanto GT 2022 LT front 3/4 far
We had a Kia Picanto GT for a period of three months

Let’s take a look at both of the small car offerings from Kia and MG and see how they compare on the spec sheets. 

We’ll look at the base models of each, rather than the higher-spec versions such as the Picanto GT and the MG 3 Excite. 

How much do these small cars cost?

2022 MG MG3 Excite driving shot
The MG MG3 starts from $17,490 before on-road costs

Prices for the Kia Picanto have gone up slightly compared to 2022 figures, but the base S in manual guise now starts from $16,290 before on-road costs. The most expensive Picanto is the GT that is priced from $20,790 before on-road costs. 

Meanwhile, the MG 3 starts from $17,490 before on-road costs for the base core automatic variant. The highest-spec Excite variant tops out at $19,490 before on-road costs.

Verdict: If you’re after the cheapest new car on sale in Australia, the base Kia Picanto is where you should be looking. 

Kia Picanto GT 2022 LT badge 4
The Kia Picanto will be getting a facelift in 2023

Standard specifications compared 

Beginning with the Kia Picanto, the base S variant offers standard features that include cloth seats, cruise control, a 4.2-inch digital instrument screen, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, a four-speaker sound system, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, manual air conditioning and a multifunction steering wheel. The base S variant skips out on LED headlights and is instead fitted with halogen units.

In the base MG 3 Core, standard features include a four-speaker sound system, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay functionality (but no Android Auto), a multifunction instrument display, 15-inch alloy wheels, halogen headlights, LED daytime running lights and fabric seat trim throughout the interior. 

Kia Picanto GT 2022 LT interior front
Inside the Kia Picanto GT flagship variant

Verdict: Both are similarly appointed in base spec, with the Picanto creeping slightly ahead thanks to wireless Apple CarPlayand Android Auto mobile functionality. 

Available powertrains and transmissions

The Kia Picanto is available with two powertrains: a 1.25-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 62kW/122Nm and a 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine that outputs 74kW/172Nm. The former is fitted to the base S variant.

Kia Picanto GT 2022 LT engine
The Kia Picanto is powered by either three- or four-cylinder powertrains

The four-cylinder engine is available with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission, while the GT is available with a five-speed manual only. 

With the MG 3, it is available with one engine option: a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 82kW/150Nm. It’s mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. No manual option is available. 

Verdict: The Kia Picanto has the upper hand here by offering more powertrain options for buyers and wins the section for also offering a manual transmission. However, kudos to MG for offering a higher-output engine paired with a popular automatic option. 

2022 MG MG3 Excite alloy wheel detail
The MG 3 Excite gains alloy wheels

How safe are these two small cars?

The Kia Picanto comes standard with six airbags, autonomous emergency braking with forward collision warning, hill start assist control, a rear-view camera and rear parking sensors.

The MG 3 comes as standard with six airbags, emergency brake assist, hill launch assist, a reverse camera and rear parking sensors. 

Kia Picanto GT 2022 LT seats
The GT grade of Picanto has sports seats

The Picanto currently has a four-star ANCAP safety rating, while the MG remains unrated by ANCAP.   

Verdict: Neither of these two cars do particularly well with safety. They don’t offer a lot in terms of active safety, but the Kia’s AEB fitment makes it the preferred recommendation. 

Servicing and warranty 

The Kia Picanto comes with a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing for the Kia Picanto works out to be $1925 over five years. 

2022 MG MG3 Excite interior shot
Inside the MG MG3

The MG 3 is covered by a seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing costs for the MG 3 come in at $1380 for five years of servicing. 

Verdict: The MG 3 is much cheaper to service over five years, so it wins here! 

Which car should you pick?

Kia Picanto GT 2022 rear shot
We recommend the Kia Picanto as a great first car

While the MG 3 does well in terms of servicing, the Kia Picanto is the safer car and offers more choice of powertrain and transmission. The Picanto is the car we would pick for drivers new to the road. 

Even though the Kia Picanto is the winner of our shootout based largely on pricing and specification, it’s worth noting that the MG 3 is the larger vehicle with more interior space, a virtue some buyers will undoubtedly be drawn to. 

We drove a Kia Picanto GT for 8000 kilometres over a period of three months. You can watch what we thought on Youtube here.