The fading embers of the commercial conflagration of Rover produced a few final sparks. Here is one.
The errant apostrophe serves as a hint about the state of affairs on the 34th floor at Rover Towers in Longbridge when this car hit the market. Let’s overlook the sub-editorial infelicity and see if we can
find something to like about the Rover Streetwise. How does it differ from the base car, the Rover 25, née 200, of 1995?
Black plastic bumpers, of course. And it has 10 mm more ground clearance. Bigger wheels too. Little Union Flag badges grace the C-pillars.
The Streetwise could be enjoyed with either three or five doors. Rather nicely, Rover offered it with the option of either a four or five-seat interior. The four-seater version thus offered a replacement to people still pining for the snug four-bucket interior of the marvellous and striking Volvo 480ES. (That’s not irony – I like that car.)
Frustratingly for Rover, by 2000 the brand had reverted to its senior-citizen image despite a period in the late 1980s when it aspired to be a British BMW. The Streetwise’s design cues had to suggest ruggedness, sportiness and chunkiness (belied by its 2WD configuration). The idea was to use this to counteract the staid Rover image. Or was it so staid? I do have my doubts about ideas of image. That’s the subjective piled on the subjective. In my whole life, I can’t recall anyone actively saying anything like ‘You know, Richard, Subaru isn’t a car with a great image….’. What I do hear is people reporting other people’s prejudices. But mostly, the only channel communicating image problems is the motoring press, predictably.
Customers enjoyed unique alloy wheels, a different coloured light on the instrument panel and a revised dashboard which turned its back on the smooth ’90s walnut concept of 1995 and looked more industrial or technicalesque.
You’ll notice the roofbars which came as standard with the car. I bet those are worth a bit on eBay.
A friend of mine had a Rover 200 and one thing that really stood out about the car was the lack of space in the back. Rover normally had a talent for packaging (I am told) which could not be detected in this instance. I had a Peugeot 205 for a while and, although it was a shorter car, it had way more legroom in the back and a pretty decent sized boot in comparison. Perhaps Rover ought to have acknowledged the Streetwise’s pokey interior and dispensed entirely with the seats to make it a two-seater shooting brake. If the lifestyle imagery was to be believed, this was a car for young couples and singles to go snowrafting and bungee surfing in the Lakes region rather than a car for four-up tours.
But back to the car in question. Exercising due diligence, I thought I would root through the DTW archive of Car magazines (bound in green and lilac buffalo hide with silver lettering) to see if I could get a quotable quote about the car. I found nothing in the 2003 editions except a reminder that Ford made over their Ka at around the same time, turning it into a StreetKa (successful, I think) and that there were a host of more grown-up body-cladded, grey-dimply off-roady versions of Volvos, Subarus and Audis running around contemporaneously (credible).
That saves us regurgitating received wisdom and forces me to invent some of my own: the apostrophe on the sticker in the rear window troubles me.
If you really like it, you can get this low-mileage example in Germany for a modest sum (but still more than most XMs cost!).