The upgraded diesel engine has been praised as more suited to the car's weighty body and its build quality has attracted positive comments. But by far the most popular aspect of this particular model is a nifty little heater, powered by diesel, which can operate even when the engine is off and the doors are locked.
As editorial assistant Jane Ward explained in the last longterm test, by using a remote control, you can set the car to heat up in advance, so when you get in during cold winter snaps, it is completely defrosted and warm. You can even programme it to come on at set times.
I have tried it and it is fantastic. Like Ford's heated front windscreen I couldn't recommend it highly enough – it is worth every penny of its £400 price tag. But the most surprising aspect of this car is that no-one has so far mentioned that it also comes with a £2,325 television and satnav system.
Either the team at Fleet News is worryingly close to preferring woollen blankets and a flask of tea to the latest techno gadgetry or, more likely, it is a useful pointer to what a buyer might value most when this car comes on to the used car market.
The TV is very good. Although it turns off while driving – for safety reasons – you can still hear the sound and effectively use it as a radio, so I can listen to some mind-numbing trivia like Richard & Judy on the way home. Yet I very much doubt any used car buyers will stump up a huge amount of hard-earned cash to buy a car with this additional extra.
But tell them that the car will warm itself up in the morning and save the driver having to scrape off ice with a credit card each day and they would happily chuck in a couple of hundred pounds extra, just for the chance to stay in bed 10 minutes more. I know I would.
Fleet operators who take residual value risk take note. The Fleet News' team may not be your average used car buyers, but we know a good thing when we see it. On the road, there is a noticeable improvement in performance from our Rover thanks for the extra grunt from the improved diesel engine.
However, like the veritable Oliver Twist, I still want more, as I still feel hungry for better performance to cope with the hefty chassis.
During everyday driving, this shortcoming isn't really apparent, but when turning into fast moving traffic, I would feel happier with a few more bhp and lb-ft under the bonnet.
The chassis could certainly cope with it, because despite giving the impression that is would wallow more than a hippo in sharp turns – thanks to a very compliant ride on straight roads, it actually handles pretty sharply.
However, you have to trust the car to make it through corners, as the steering wheel gives little indication of when its commendable grip will reach its limit.
Company car tax bill 2003/04 (22% taxpayer): £123 per month