The History Of Rover 200
The Rover 200-series / 25 is a small car which was produced by the Austin Rover Group, and latterly the Rover Group and MG Rover.
There have been three distinct generations of the car, the first of which was a badge engineered Honda model, and known as the 200 series. However, both the Mark II 200 and its sister model, the Honda Concerto were built on the same production line in Rover's Longbridge factory. The final generation was developed independently by Rover on the platform of its predecessor, and was initially sold under the Rover 200 name. After the sale of Rover in 2000, and following a facelift, the model was renamed and sold as both the Rover 25 and MG ZR. Production ceased in 2005 when MG Rover went into administration. Production rights and tooling for the model, although not the Rover name, now belong to Chinese car manufacturer, Nanjing Automotive.
The Rover 200 was originally a four-door saloon, based on the Honda Ballade, but in its second (R8) generation form it was available in three- or five-door hatchback forms, as well a coupé and cabriolet (in relatively small numbers). The final (R3) generation was available as a three- or five-door hatchback.
The original Rover 200 (sometimes referred to by the codename SD3) was the replacement for the earlier Triumph Acclaim, and was the second product of the alliance between British Leyland (BL) and Honda. Only available as a four-door saloon, it was intended to be more upmarket than the company's Maestro model which came close to the 200 in size. Although neither of these cars were produced in the volumes that made it a serious threat to the sales success of the Ford Escort and Vauxhall Astra, their combined sales figures were a very real threat for the market leaders — and often enough to overtake the Astra. Throughout its later life, the first generation 200 Series was the 9th best selling car in Britain with between 55-65,000 sales per year.
Essentially, the 200 was a Honda Ballade which sported the Honda Civic-derived 1.3L 12-valve engine, or BL's own S-Series in 1.6L format (both in 85bhp (63kW) carburettor and 101bhp (75kW) Lucas EFi form), the resulting cars being badged as either "Rover 213" or "Rover 216". The Honda badged version was the first Honda car to be built in the United Kingdom (the Honda version of the Acclaim was never sold in the UK); Ballade bodyshells were made in the Cowley plant alongside the Rover equivalent, although they all used Honda engines, apart from the 216 which was a Montego S-series 1600cc.
This (original) version of the 200 series was only offered in saloon form. This version of the 213 / 216 competed against the likes of the Ford Orion, Vauxhall Belmont, Volkswagen Jetta and Renault 9, as small family saloons were still popular in the 1980s in spite of the growing monopoly of hatchbacks in this sector.
This model of car is well known as Richard and Hyacinth Bucket's car in the BBC Television sitcom Keeping up Appearances (1990-1995). Some episodes show a 213S, but later episodes show either a 213SE or 216SE.
Trim levels were:
This model, codenamed R8, was the first car to be introduced by the newly privatised Rover Group (1988), and was a quantum leap in terms of technology and image placing it as class leader. Once again, the model was designed in collaboration with Honda (who produced the new designed-for-Europe Concerto model) and both models would share production lines at Rover's Longbridge facility. Initially only available as a five-door hatchback, this was the first application of Rover's ground breaking K-Series family of engines (appearing in 1.4L (1396cc) twin-cam 16-valve form).
The 1.6L (1590cc) version used either a Honda D16A6 SOHC or D16A8 DOHC powerplant, while the 2.0L M-Series unit from the 800-series followed soon afterwards (1991) in the sporty versions. Later versions used the sturdier Rover T-Series engine, with limited-run turbocharged Rover 220s in GTi and GSi-Turbo trims, boast a very rapid power output of 200bhp (150kW) as standard. The Rover-engined models drove the front wheels via Peugeot-sourced (but built under licence) R65 gearboxes (1.4-litre) and Honda-designed PG1s for the 1.6- and 2-litre versions.
Also available were two PSA diesel engines, with the choice of naturally-aspirated 1.9-litre XUD9 or turbo-charged 1.7 XUD7T engines. These were installed instead of the Perkins Prima used in the Maestro and Montego because that engine with its noisy combustion was deemed too unrefined for the new 200.
On its launch, the R8 was in a sector in which many of the competing designs which were at least five years old. For instance, Ford's Escort had been around since 1980 (with a facelift in early 1986) and the Vauxhall Astra was unchanged from its 1984 launch. The only major European competitors that had been around for less than five years were the Peugeot 309, Renault 19 and Fiat Tipo.
The Rover 200 was produced alongside the more downmarket Maestro, giving buyers a choice of two quite different products in the Rover range.
In early 1990, the 400-series saloon appeared, and by 1992 a cabriolet (convertible) and three-door hatchback body styles were available. The range was rounded off in 1993 by a coupé and estate ("Tourer"). The coupé, cabriolet and estate continued after the rest of the range had been superseded, but without the 200 and 400 tags — known instead as the Rover Coupé, Cabriolet and Tourer respectively, and without Honda power; the K-series 1600 replacing the Honda engine until production ceased in 1999. This 200 model is the most successful Rover ever made, generating a considerably greater number of sales than the original 200, and the Maestro that it was partially replacing. In December 1991, the Rover 200 was Britain's most popular new car of the month, and it featured in the top 10 during every year that it was on sale.. On average, anything up to 110,000 Rover 200 and 400 (R8) models were sold in the UK each year.
The third generation, codenamed R3, was smaller than the previous two cars. This was due to Rover's desperate need to replace the ageing Metro, which by now was 15 years old. Although some elements of the old 200-series were carried over (most notably the front structure, heater, steering and front suspension), it was by-and-large an all-new car which had been developed by Rover. Honda did provide early body design support as a result of moving production of the Honda version of the second generation 200 from Longbridge to Swindon leaving a 60,000 unit gap and at this time the car had a cut down version of the previous car's rear floor and suspension and was codenamed SK3. Lack of boot space and other factors led to Rover re-engineering the rear end to take a modified form of the Maestro rear suspension and the product was renamed R3. By the time the car was launched, Honda and Rover had already been "divorced" after the BMW takeover the previous year, and as a result the R3 only used Rover-produced K-Series petrol engines, most notably the 1.8L VVC version from the MGF, and L-series diesel engine.
Launched with 1.4i 16v (105 bhp) and 1.6i 16v (111 bhp) petrol engines and 2.0 turbodiesel (86 bhp and intercooled 105bhp (78kW) versions) engines, the range grew later to include a 1.1i (60 bhp) and 1.4i 8v (75 bhp) engines and also 1.8 16v units in standard (120 bhp) and variable valve formats (145 bhp). Manual gearboxes were available across the range and a CVT option was available on the 1.6i 16v unit.
Despite reportedly disappointing interior quality, the interior of this Rover 200 still carried across the sense of luxury that Rover cars were notable for, especially with mid- and high-specification trim levels.
The 1.8-litre models earned a certain amount of praise for their performance, whilst the intercooled turbo diesel was actually one of the fastest-accelerating diesel hatchbacks on the market in the late 1990s.
In 1998 a limited edition model called the 200 BRM was offered, priced at just under £18,000, to celebrate Rover's history with British Racing Motors. Using the 200Vi as a basis, this model is noticeable by its orange lower front grille (sometimes sprayed silver by dealers) and quilted red leather interior with machined aluminium trim and switchgear. The car was limited to 795 UK examples and benefited from revised suspension, a limited-slip differential, larger wheels and close ratio gearbox.
The third generation 200 sold very well initially in the UK, with the model placed in the top 10 best selling list between 1996 and 1998, but it didn't sell as much as its predecessor. This could have been due to pricing above expected levels for the car. Essentially, due to the presence of the 100 range below it, the 200 became priced as a Vauxhall Astra/ Ford Escort rival rather than a Ford Fiesta rival.
A face-lifted version, renamed the Rover 25 (internal codename Jewel) was launched in autumn 1999 for the 2000 model year. This version used similar frontal styling to the larger 75 model. The chassis had been uprated to give sportier handling (suspension setting from 200vi) and the front end had been restyled to give it the corporate Rover look first seen in the range-topping 75, a number of safety improvements and interior changes were made, but the 25 was instantly recognisable as a reworked 200 Series. The 1.4L, 1.6L and 1.8L petrol engines as well as the 2.0L diesel were all carried over from the previous range, but the gearbox was now sourced from Ford .From late 2000, there was also an economical but powerful 1.1L 16V petrol engine available in the 25 range, offering higher than average performance levels than with equivalent 1.2 and 1.3 litre engines.
A Rover 25 commercial, featuring a casino spinning wheel, was soundtracked by Mono's "Life In Mono" track.
Less than a year after the Rover 25 was launched, BMW sold the Rover Group to the Phoenix consortium for a token £10. By the summer of 2001, the newly-named MG Rover Group had introduced a sporty version of the Rover 25: the MG ZR. It had modified interior and exterior styling, as well as sports suspension, to give the car the look of a "hot" hatchback. The largest engine in the range was the 1.8 VVC160hp (119kW) unit which had a top speed of more than 130mph (209km/ h). It was frequently Britain's best-selling "hot hatch".
In 2003, Rover made a version of the car with increased ride height and chunkier bumpers, called Streetwise. The car was marketed by Rover as an "urban on-roader". They also introduced a van version of the 25 called the Rover Commerce.
By 2004, the age of the Rover 25 / MG ZR's interior design in particular was showing, so MG Rover gave the cars an exterior restyle to make them look more modern. The majority of changes however were focussed on the interior, which featured a completely new layout and fascia design. Production of both cars was suspended in April 2005 when the company went into administration. In March 2005 the 25 won the 'bargain of the year award' at the prestigious Auto Express Used Car Honours: "The compact hatchback was recognised by the judges for the availability and affordability that help make five-year old examples an attractive purchase proposition."
Specifications for the Rover 25 design were purchased by Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation in early 2005, though new MG Rover Group owner, Nanjing Automobile Group now owns the tooling for the car. Nanjing started building MGs again in May 2007, with the MG TF being superficially assembled from CKD at Longbridge and the MG 7 (formerly MG ZT) being built in China, but the Rover 25 design is no longer being used by the new owners. Its successor, the MG 3, will be launched in 2008 and may also be sold as an Austin.
The Rover 25 was Britain's best selling car in April 2000, possibly due to a brief surge in sales among buyers wanting to support the company at the time of their sell-off by BMW.
Sales of the Rover 25 actually continued into 2007 (though in tiny numbers), by which time Longbridge was being re-opened by Nanjing Automobile.
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