On test: Rover 45 1.6 review (1999-2005 model) – MSN Cars UK

5 Aug 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on On test: Rover 45 1.6 review (1999-2005 model) – MSN Cars UK

On test: Rover 45 1.6 review (1999-2005 model)

Bodystyle:Hatchback/saloon

Engine:1.6-litre in-line 4-cylinder

Fuel type:Petrol

Transmission:5-speed manual

Date of test:July 2002

Once upon a time, the 45 was a Mondeo competitor, but as rivals have grown bigger, Rover repositioned the 45 to compete against smaller family hatchbacks like the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and others of that ilk. Introduced way back in 1995 as the 400, the Rover re-emerged as the 45 in 1999, featuring a new look and market placement as well as the new badge. It’s managed to maintain steady sales despite its advancing years.

Available in five-door hatchback form or as a four-door saloon, it’s the latter that’s the bigger seller in the UK – bucking the trend among British buyers who normally opt for hatchbacks.

Where does it fit?

The 45 sits uneasily in regards to conventional car categories. It may compete size-wise with rivals like the Focus and Astra, but it doesn’t seem at all comfortable among such competition. Instead it works better as a stand-alone model – as a classy looking small saloon or hatchbackwhich appeals to more mature buyers.

There’s a superb MG version, too, the ZS, which has real driver appeal and is aimed at younger buyers, but that’s another story. The 1.6 is the entry-level engine in the Rover-badged range, and it offers broadly similar performance to the 1.8-litre version while returning slightly better fuel consumption.

Is it for you?

The Rover range has soldiered on as it is for some time now and it shows. The 45 is perhaps the worst afflicted in the line-up – alongside the 25, which continues to win buyers with its charm, and the 75, which scores with its elegance and relative newness. The 45 has long been associated with more mature customers, it being rather conservative, though having a typically ‘classic’ Rover look.

That includes chrome and wood – it’s just not sexy for younger buyers – but there are a whole lot of people out there who like it, and who are we to argue?

What does it do well?

The 45 is blessed with a chassis that is surprisingly capable. It’s a gem for keen drivers – as proved to good effect in the sporting MG derivatives. A super sharp drive might not be what your typical 45 driver is after, but that underlying ability makes it a pleasant drive for any journey. The front seats are lifted from the 75 – so the driver and passenger are pampered in large comfortable chairs.

And while the 1.6 is the smallest engine in the range it’s another gem, as easy to drive around town as it is happy to cruise the motorways. The 45 is available with a lovely 2.0-litre V6, but unless you really want the performance, which the MG does better anyway, the four-cylinder units are the pick of the range.

What doesn’t it do well?

There’s no getting away from the fact that the 45 is an old car, based on an even older Honda design. So sit in the 45 and you’re instantly made aware how far newer rivals have come in liberating interior space. The large seats from the 75 are great for those up front – but eat into the already limited leg and foot room for rear seat passengers. Image-wise the 45 is undeniably associated with more mature buyers, and as such it’s unlikely to appeal to younger customers.

The dashboard looks and feels ancient, which it is, and it’s not that well specified given its price.

What’s it like to live with?

You’re unlikely to encounter any problems if you opt for the Rover 45. The 1.6 engine is well proven, as is the rest of the car. The interior is a bit of a mess style-wise, but everything works and it’s well laid out.

In any guise it’s a great drive, the saloon bettering the hatchback in the looks department and selling better too. Rover dealers are fairly easy to find, and you’ll be doing your bit for Britain – MG Rover Group being the only independent British volume manufacturer left.

Would we buy it?

That’s a tricky question. Quite simply you’re either the type of person that would enjoy the 45 for what it is, or you’re not. We admire what MG-Rover Group is doing, but the 45 is our least favourite model. That said we’d consider the MG ZS 180 version as it’s a hoot to drive. As a Rover we can see why it appeals to some buyers – it’s a good-looking machine and the Rover badge is still held in high regard among its more mature buyers.

If we wanted a Rover saloon we’d opt for the 75, but if you are considering a 45, the 1.6-litre version is an able enough car.

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