Having put a sizeable dent in the side of my Rover 200 Coupé, the hunt was on for a new car. The first car I looked at was a Mk3 Golf GTI 8v, but despite it having comparable performance to my 200 coupe, insurance said no – ‘we don’t insure under 21’s on GTI’s’. With that out of the window speed was of the essence, I needed a car for work and I started looking at everything. Except not everything, liking my cars as I do it had to be something reasonably interesting. As luck would have it a bargain priced Rover 45 TD caught my eye and warranted a look.
As you can imagine as I was previously looking at 2.0 petrol cars diesel wasn’t on my mind, but I gave it a chance and found it to drive pretty reasonably. It wasn’t quick and the gearshift was crap, nothing I wasn’t used to however having had a PG1 gearbox in my Coupé as well. With high mileage (160-something thousand if I remember correctly) and no service history plus a cambelt required, the car was had at a low price.
High mileage and no service history – not many people would touch that, but the car was in visibly good nick and I took a gamble. The cambelt was booked straight away, and another problem reared its head instantly, a hole in the intercooler pipe created quite a smokescreen and sapped all of the power. Given the pipes location at the top front of the engine bay it was fairly easily diagnosed, and bodged with duct tape until a replacement part was fitted.
It was hardly a flying start, but the car turned out to be near totally reliable from this point onward. MOT’s were passed with ease and the car only had me in need of breakdown services once. I lost the clutch after one of the pipes for the hydraulic system had come free, loosing all the fluid; the cure was a new pipe and barely cost anything.
So the car was cheap, and aside from a cambelt it required no significant investment after its purchase. Leaving me with just fuel, tax and insurance to worry about. Tax was £220 a year for mine, thanks to being under pre 2001 system and it’s 2.0 litre engine. Find one built after 2001 and the price would be £135. The fuel economy was stunning, by my own calculations it was almost impossible to get below 48mpg, with a less lead footed driver I’m sure the car could achieve much more impressive figures.
Lead footed I was though. On paper the car had 99bhp, 177 lb/ft – not stunning figures, and I’m sure the car had lost a fair bit of its power over the course of 170,000 miles. It slowed down up hill on motorways but other than that had no trouble keeping up with traffic. Its meagre power meant that you had to keep the speed up on country roads, which required leaning on the chassis.
I don’t think any car has received the phrase ‘silk purse out of a sows ear’ in reviews as much as the MG ZS, but I think it slightly unjust. I found my ‘sows ear’ very fun to drive, more so than the Bora the followed it. The steering was commutative and body roll was certainly marked but less extreme than the VW.
Being an early 45 it had seats straight from the rover 75, and my club had heated leather. While the seats leg room robbing size wasn’t good for my rear seat passengers they were certainly some of the comfiest seats I have sat in. The driving position was great, a revelation for someone coming from the R8 200. This along with the sheer reliability made it a highly recommendable car in my eyes, impressive for a car that I only bought because it was in the right place at the right time.
You can follow Tom here.