“Japanese underpinnings, British design, British engineering” … The Rover 45
It may have been at the laughing stock of the British motor industry but the Rover 45 is a very competent car although being outdated by its competition. It may be a cliché but the 45 is a very British affair with its classic “retro” design and very British interior. It oozes something that the competition could not achieve, character.
The Rover 45 was conceived from where the Rover 400 range left off in 1999 to where it ceased production at the fall of MG Rover Group in 2005. With a fresh face, chassis alterations and revised interior it gave the 400 a new breed of life for the new millennium.
I have always had an interest in British cars and Rover in particular.When I was growing up I was exposed to these cars which was the key reason to why I wanted to own one during my driving career. While learning to drive I had my own 1996 Rover 414i Hatchback in Flame Red, that was purchased new by my grandfather and passed down through the years to myself. It was about to tick over to 103,000 miles when it came to parting with this dearly beloved car and it was running perfectly, but the 13 year old bodywork was suffering.
I did not expect to part from 400 so soon, but a neighbour of mine put an advert in the window of this near perfect condition 2003 Rover 45 Saloon sporting an 100bhp Rover L series SOHC 8V turbo diesel unit. In modern terms this is not a large amount of horsepower to be extracted from this capacity unit but being a diesel it has impressive levels of torque which feels effortless to overtake traffic.
The specification was truly luxury compared to the 400 which I owned before, electric windows, electric mirrors, heated seats, air conditioning, electric sunroof, standard cd/radio with six speakers and parking sensors.
The 45 I purchased was a mild facelift for 2003 which was undertaken by MG Rover groups “Project Drive” aim which included the cheapening of materials and build costs for their range of vehicles. Noticeable features will be the new interior, which excluded the Rover 75 seats (that ate into rear legroom) for different style seats similar to the style first seen in the 400. Cream dials were introduced, the centre console was a sandstone/cream rather than black, the door cards with the moulded lacquered wood were removed for a “woodless” door card and the lacquered wood was replaced for a less convincing wood fascia. Although this was apparent there is still a sense of quality remaining in the car that other cars in the sector were yet to catch up on, with soft touch higher dash, door cards and a more premium use of colours/trim.
To drive the 45 you’ll find it was designed for comfort, if you want a sharp handling sports car buy the closely related MG ZS with lusty growling 180bhp 2.5 KV6 unit. This is where the MG Rover engineers excelled in both aspects, they could create a comfortable, refined cruiser in the 45 and then with minor alterations create one of the best front wheel drive chassis’ seen in the ZS.
Scott’s very clean example from Long bridge
The 45/ZS is helped by a multi link rear suspension which allows each wheel to be independent which helped with damping and drivability; it means that each wheel gets the most amount of grip unlike torsion bar systems where both wheels cannot move independently. It is an extremely easy car to drive, light clutch, easy to use gearbox and smooth steering. It does everything you expect of a car.
The ride characteristics are like a baby Rover 75, the feel of luxury is evident, the 45 shares what was considered a downfall to when the 400 was in production. The rear accommodation is a little tight and the roofline is low making it a struggle for taller passengers (this is really where the vehicle shows its underling age). Where it lacks in rear space it makes up for luggage space as the boot is enormous for the size of vehicle, being a little larger than the bigger 75.
The Rover gleams in the sunlight – affordable wafting
Power plants for the Rover 45 range are as followed;
1.4, 1.6, 1.8 4 Cylinder K Series Petrol
2.0 6 Cylinder KV6 Petrol
2.0 4 Cylinder L Series Turbo Diesel.
Many will mock the Rover brand for being no longer; there is however, a wide audience of people who admire the cars the company produced. My 45 being one of them, it may have not been a class leading car of its time but it oozed charm and character. It is a very lovable car and people who have doubted my car in the past who have had a journey in it have changed their opinion. For that reason this is why I love my Rover and many other British cars for that very reason.
You can follow Scott on his Twitter page.