Theme : Benchmarks – The Rover 620 SLi And Its 1993 Peers

In 1993 the Rover 620i faced the BMW 318i, the Citroen Xantia 2.0 and Ford Mondeo 2.0. 

1994 Rover 620 Si
1994 Rover 620 Si

All of these cars had something going for them. Car magazine judged all four to be “formidable”. Car estimated the BMW to cost €17,000 with a few options thrown in to make it habitable; ditto the Rover though it came with more features as standard. The Mondeo cost only £14,000 in GLX trim (I miss trim designations like that). Citroen wanted £17,500 for their car. So what are these cars worth now?

If you coughed up the extra for the BMW, would you see any of that come resale time 23 years down the line? Was Car right to judge the Rover the best of these four cars: “It is a winner. If we are talking class – and that’s what the upper echelons of the M2 sector are all about – the 620 SLi exudes it. It is not as roomy as appearances suggest, it does not perform with great distinction, and it is no more fun to drive (arguably less) than the Mondeo. But it scores handsomely for comfort, refinement, quietness and build quality. Above all, it imbues the driver of it’s-good-to-be-here well-being that its rivals can’t match. It has style, it has image, it has class.”

Firstly, I looked at autotrader.co.uk and discovered they didn’t allow a search based on the criteria I was after. Obviously in the UK, if you want a 23 year old car you must look in more specialised places like scrapyards. So, I tried the European market and used mobile.de to go virtual tyre kicking.

To keep things constant, I have picked 100,000 km as a reasonable target for mileage. Sometimes oddballs with really low mileages come up and these are hard to judge. For example, the most expensive 318i was one with 27,000 km and the buyer wanted €5000 for it. I left that out of my general search.

1993 BMW 318: "the BMW is slower, stodgier, poorer riding, less roomy, plainer inside, short on gizmos," said Car. But they liked it anyway.
1993 BMW 318: “the BMW is slower, stodgier, poorer riding, less roomy, plainer inside, short on gizmos,” said Car. But they liked it anyway.

BMW 3-series

Here we have a 1993 BMW 318i. It’s €1500 and comes with a manual transmission and with 95,000 km recorded. Further up the cost ladder, an automatic with 102,000 km comes in at €4000. The very cheapest 3’s cost from €400 with 150,000-200,000 km registered.  So, you can have a banger 3 for the price of two Ikea sofas and a set of plastic plates. There are lots of these cars around. About 150 were available on mobile.de at the time of writing. This is not true for the rest of our troupe. If you were determined, you could buy a replacement 3 every few months and still spend less than you would on maintenance.

1993 Citroen Xantia: "a special, spicy, Gallic flavour" and "first rate build quality" said Car. Try finding one.
1993 Citroen Xantia: “a special, spicy, Gallic flavour” and “first rate build quality” said Car. Try finding one.

Citroen Xantia

Now the Xantia, Citroen’s hydropneumatic wonder – the one closest to the target mileage was for sale for €1900. It had 92,000 km on the clock. The other 1993 Xantia available had 170,000 km up and could be had for €250. Its interior and exterior seemed unmarked. Oddly, there were no other Xantias. So, take your pick: a Xantia for peanuts or one for two grand. The average is approximately €1000, then.

1993 Ford Mondeo with a private seller-style photo.
1993 Ford Mondeo with a private seller-style photo.

Ford Mondeo

There were 36 1993 Mondeos in all on sale, amazing given the numbers sold. The closest to the requirement was a 1993 2.0 automatic for €450 (in Bamberg, above). Car’s test vehicle had a manual. The Bamberg had covered only 69,000 km. The closest manual I found on mobile.de was a 1.6 CLX 16V, near the top of the trim range, but not Ghia. That was €990.

€1200 worth of orphan British steel. It wins the Buckley prize for being a bit rubbish but rare and charming.
€1200 worth of orphan British steel. It wins the Buckley prize for being a bit rubbish but rare and charming.

Rover 620i

Mobile.de had no Rover 600s in the target year. In all, they had two for sale out of all years. I switched to autoscout.com to find one. There were seven of all types on sale. The closest car to the target was a 1994 automatic with 134,000 km on the clock. Despite the dents and orphan status, the seller wanted €1,150 for the car (dealer basis). For €1200 a seller wanted a ’95 with only 114,000 km on the clock, automatic transmission and leather.

1993 Ford Mondeo interior: unmarked, nearly worthless. Go to Bamberg to get this car.
1993 Ford Mondeo interior: unmarked, nearly worthless. Go to Bamberg to get this car.

Conclusion

The answer to this search is that these cars cost pretty much whatever you are willing to pay. If you don’t mind another 50,000 km on the odometer, a BMW 3-er is running at €500 to €1000, which for many is about half a month’s take home pay. If you want one with 100,000 or so on the odo, you’ll pay €1500. That’s not far off the price of the slightly younger Rover. Citroen and Ford are each odd in their own way.

Few Xantias remain so the data is hard to average. The one car mobile.de turned out to be quite costly in comparison with the others. And Ford sold loads of cars but seem to have zero appeal so you can bag an “old man’s car” for the price of a good weekend in Bamberg (where the car is located).

Had one bought the BMW you would have invested £3000 more in the car than the Ford driver did. The return 23 years later is that you get about £500 of that back (roughly converted). Is that worth it?

Of the foursome, it seems to me that that Ford offers a lot of car for nearly no money. There are lots of well-maintained Mondeos out there for pocket money. At the other extreme, the few Rovers that are out there are often quite well specced and offer a more distinctive choice than the same money spent on our benchmark, the 3. Whatever this survey proves, it shows that long term, all this class of cars turn into fairly worthless commodities, however they were viewed when new.

Other conclusion

Wasn’t Car’s verdict really inconsistent? The Rover wasn’t roomy and wasn’t fun to drive. The Rover was the second slowest in the test. It had the lowest top speed. It was the second heaviest car.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

24 thoughts on “Theme : Benchmarks – The Rover 620 SLi And Its 1993 Peers”

  1. I read this review 2 or 3 years ago and from what I remember the verdict from Car was that you couldn’t go wrong provided you bought any of these cars for the right reason i.e. for their respective strengths and knowing that you would have to put up with their weaknesses.
    Maybe it is the first review to illustrate the point made on these pages that there are no bad cars anymore?

  2. Now that’s interesting. I would’ve expected the BMW to be considerably more expensive than the also-rans.
    I have the secret plan to buy a Rover 75, for I completely fell for its lovely retro dashboard and interiour style.
    But then, there are no reliable car tests in Germany (really: nothing) and I find it quite hard to find out about the car’s weaknesses and what to consider…
    Any thoughts from the expert community around here?

    1. You want retro styling? The Jaguar S-type was made for you around the same time as the Rover.

    2. Hehe. Yeah, I know. But still, I find the Rover more appealing. And more affordable.

    3. Unfortunately I don’t think these were ever imported to Germany

    4. Well, I respect your attempt in making fun of me, but more to the point: You don’t like the 75, do you?

    5. Not trying to make fun of you, but retro design is one of my pet hates. Sorry!

    6. Ok, apology accepted.
      And I can see why you don’t like retro. Usually I’m skeptical as well, to say the least.
      But I can’t help praise the 75 interiour for its distinctive, or even autistic approach. For me it’s design autism done right.

    7. Daniel, I too am surprised how inexpensive a good example of a 75 can be bought. Whilst I am not a big fan of the styling, the interior is leagues ahead of rivals for the money and is worth it for that reason alone. Personally I would opt for a diesel or a petrol K-Series engine with the replacement cylinder head gasket. I would even be tempted by any K-Series if it has been well looked after, if it can be had cheaply.

    8. Thx chris. What do you mean exactly by “replacement cylinder head gasket”?
      And K-Series: The 4 cylinder version or the KV6?

    9. K-Series refers to the type of Rover four cylinder petrol engine installed in the 75. Whilst a very good engine for the time, the K-Series had a common defect that caused the cylinder head gasket to warp and fail. It is one of the most likely cause of uneconomical repairs for most latter day Rovers. The replacement fix parts from X-Part (the company that handles spares for Rover post bankruptcy) are superior in design and quality, effectively curing the defect.

      The link that Eoin posted below from Honest John (http://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/rover/75-1999/?section=good) details the problems. Personally though I wouldn’t let it put you off. Find a 75 that has been looked after, or has had the X-Part parts installed, and it should give you great service.

    10. Daniel: did you buy that Rover 75?
      Incidentally a website called Honest John and another run by the Automobile Association have quite good overviews of used cars.

  3. I seem to remember that the 600 was a competitive offering for the class, with a decent all round package and good materials, fit and finish. The model was certainly on the radar of BMW, who were happy to let it wither on the vine after buying Rover out, lest it poached sales from their precious 3 Series.

  4. Remember that the 600 was an Accord underneath. It had a very nice interior and looked good/ classy in its day. The problem was a lack of derivatives (no estate, no coupe), limited range of engines and very little development invested over its lifetime.

  5. The epitome of this tight-fistedness was the abomination of the passenger-side air-bag that Rover just plopped onto the dashboard mid-life; it was like an ill-fitting toupe, but cheaper than resculpting the dash. I was a fan of the 600 in its day, but now, of the 4, I’d call it my least favourite. They did make it in BRG, though, Richard

  6. The Xantia is a rocksolid piece of high-tech, compared to these opponents. And very roomy (only beaten by the ugly Passat). One of the last works of Bertone – an ageless elegant dress.
    The BMW is neither solid nor solid looking, the ford is an ordinary designed mediocre car for the middle-aged middle-class. But i always love the styling of the Rover 600- and 800-Series, much more elegant than their japanese brothers.
    So – no doubt – for me only the Xantia and the Rover would open my portemonnaie….

    1. That fixing the heater matrix means tearing out the dashboard is a criminal design flaw. Yes, super steering and ride. It’s fatally undermined by that suicide pill design feature. Of this batch of cars I’d choose a 2.0 Ghia hatch. The Rover is a silly car and the BMW is too suburban. I know, the Ford is suburban too. Hmm.

  7. I’m no retro fan, but I always appreciated that the 75 made a far better hand of it than the S-Type. Although, when the Phoenix Four got desperate, they did some horrid things to it. I can’t offer an expert opinion on it Daniel, but I promise I wouldn’t be as mean to you as Laurent if you bought one. With my unerring ability to select the most unsuitable car from a range, I’d look for a V8 engined, rear wheel drive Tourer. The obvious problem is keeping any 75 running is that it doesn’t have a manufacturer still obliged to produce spare parts for it.

    1. Of the cars discussed here, I would go for a post-facelift S-type. I think it actually looks ok.

  8. Ironically, Rover’s facelift of the 75 did that car no favours, whereas I agree that the S-Type did well out of its refresh. We do keep drifting onto the 75 on this site, so I wonder whether a full piece article is in order?

  9. I have written a longer piece on retro design to be posted on the 29th. For that reason I have kept my head down and out of this discussion. I would like to say I think Daniel is more than justified in liking the 75 (I would go for a 2.0 in dark blue with a burgundy interior). And Sam is entitled to hate it – no one is forcing him to buy one. I agree the face lifted S-type is actually rather grand. Is Markus right to opt for the Xantia? Technologically, it has a lot going for it and I can´t allow my pet dislike of its a-pillar to stand in the way of his preference. Nobody is standing up for the Ford. I argued that I might prefer the Rover but at €450, a mint Mondeo is hard to ignore. If I had some choice, I´d insist on a V6 in Ghia spec for €476.

  10. I’m going to side with Daniel on the Rover 75. While it can appear a little chintzy in certain colours and trims, it was and remains a very handsome design – infinitely better looking than the abhorrent X200 Jaguar. Daniel, The main problem with all K-series engined Rovers is the state of the head gasket – although the worst issues were largely confined to the 1.8 litre models. There’s a useful list of potential faults here: http://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/rover/75-1999/?section=good There’s masses of information about the model here too: http://www.aronline.co.uk/blogs/cars/rover/75mg-zt/ Read all that and you’ll be about as informed as it’s possible to be – assuming you still want one…

    1. Thx a lot! That’s really helpful!
      And I agree with all of you that the facelift looks rather horrid.

      As for the cars discussed here, I would side with Markus in choosing the Xantia. The Hydractive alone is worth it.

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