Happy 20th anniversary, Rover 200. Or is it 21st anniversary?
Around about this time 20 years ago Rover enjoyed the beginnings of renaissance. We all know where that ended. It ended in a story that classic car journalists like because they can rake over and ask “what if” as they swirl madeira in their glasses.
This image is from the front cover of Autocar, January 17, 1996. It’s one of the first reviews, perhaps. Either way. Water. Bridge. Under. A lot of. The article pitted the Rover 214 against the new Fiat Bravo. I’d like to say which one won but in the end neither did. Fiat admit the Bravo was competitive for about the first two years before swiftly being relegated to also-ran status.
Was there anything wrong with the 200? A friend of mine had a Rover 200 and I noticed how cramped it was in the back compared to my recently departed (then) Peugeot 205 which happened to be shorter overall. It also cost a lot compared to similarly sized rivals though less than the bigger-rivals it supposedly competed with.
Elsewhere here I praised Rover for their packaging skills. These must have departed by the time this car was conceived. Like many other Rover products down the years necessity was the mother of invention or the mother of attempting to make something of a tough problem nobody wanted. The Rover ought to have been sold as a supermini in which case the lack of interior room might not have been seen as a problem. Instead it was sold as an Escort and Astra rival.
At the time I didn’t know this. I always thought it was somewhere in between for people who wanted something more luxuriously appointed than a Ford or Vauxhall and a tad bigger (in some ways) than the Fiesta and Corsa. I wonder if people other than car reviewers saw the 200 as a failed supermini? You can argue they did, eventually, as sales numbers declined markedly after three years. Or maybe they noticed it was really not as good as car as first supposed.
Here´s one with a 1.1 litre engine and 15,000 miles on the odometer for £500.