BMW must have believed the best strategy for launching a new Rover was to recapture the glory days of the P5 and P6, although with a car that was modern in size, construction and execution.
There must have been people at Rover who thought differently and, following the separation from BMW, the first Rover concept car revealed in Geneva was a modern-looking estate car.
The entire Rover range, led by the 75 in February, has had a thorough makeover. The 75 has had essentially the same line-up and appearance as in 1998 when it was launched.
The thirsty 2.0-litre V6 was dropped in favour of the more frugal and responsive 1.8T a couple of years ago and the lower-power diesel is almost never mentioned. The appearance of the 75 has been refreshed, with more modern headlamp units and grille. Inside, darker instruments with a modern typeface have replaced the ivory-coloured dials. Not that the original 75’s instruments had Roman numerals indicating speed and rpm, but you feel there has been a conscious effort to modernise things where possible.
The intermediate model grade, Club, which sounded stuffy, has been dropped, but Classic and Connoisseur have been retained.
The new trim level, Contemporary, is roughly the same price as Connoisseur but with a different emphasis so now the grading reflects what the premium manufacturers offer, such as Mercedes-Benz’s Classic, Elegance and Avantgarde.
However, you can’t just label a car Contemporary and pretend it’s an Audi A4. Giving a car a name with certain connotations doesn’t immediately bestow it with those atributes. Do you remember the Mitsubishi Carisma?
Inside, the walnut dashboard of the Classic has been replaced by dark grey wood – similar to Sport models in the Jaguar range – the seats are different from those in the Classic and Connoisseur models and are seemingly lifted from the MG ZT models. Outside, there is less chrome trim than on the other models and a few other features to distinguish it from the rest of the range.
Our test car was the 129bhp diesel, which uses an upgraded version of the original BMW-sourced common rail diesel, but while most rivals achieve Euro IV compliance, this Euro III unit could have a financial impact on drivers.
However, maximum torque of 221lb-ft comes in at 1,900rpm and maximum power is achieved at a remarkably low 3,500rpm. It means the Rover 75 provides its performance with the hushed tones that accompany such low revs.
A sports handling pack is available as an option to introduce sharper reactions because as standard there is still a bias towards comfort – surely if people want that sort of thing they will choose and MG ZT.
It means there is more body roll than in something like a Peugeot 407 and duller reactions from the steering, but it will be quite acceptable for most drivers.
Rover 75 2.0 CDTi Contemporary
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £20,122
CO2 emissions (g/km): 163
BIK % of P11D in 2004: 21%
Graduated VED rate: £135
Insurance group: 9
Combined mpg: 48.8
CAP Monitor residual value: £5,875/29%
Depreciation (21.52 pence per mile x 60,000): £12,912
Maintenance (2.95 pence per mile x 60,000): £1,770
Fuel (8.44 pence per mile x 60,000): £5,064
Wholelife cost (32.89 pence per mile x 60,000): £19,734
Typical contract hire rate: £352 per month
Three rivals to consider
THE Rover 75 has a real premium car feel about it and is built to premium car standards, but the used market doesn’t value it as a premium car, so its best chance is up against these high-spec upper-medium cars. Although the new Contemporary grade sits alongside Connoisseur, it has a rather less archaic tone about its interior. However, the other three cars listed here all offer a great deal more equipment for the money.
WITH a 60,000-mile maintenance bill of £1,770, the Rover doesn’t perform well among these mainstream rivals, particularly against the Toyota Avensis which would cost £1,374 – nearly £400 cheaper. The Honda weighs in at £1,422, while the Peugeot 407 would cost £1,572 to maintain. The Rover has the longest service intervals at 15,000 miles between visits to the dealer, compared with 12,000 for the Honda, while the Toyota needs a check every 10,000 miles.
ONE of the Rover’s better rounds, the BMW-sourced common rail diesel might be less advanced than the engines in these rival cars, but it has a marginal fuel cost advantage of £12 over 60,000 miles over the Toyota Avensis and £96 over the Peugeot, with a fuel bill of £5,064. The Accord, however, appears to be in a different class with a 60,000-mile fuel cost of £4,713, which is more than £300 cheaper than the Rover.
THE Rover costs nearly £600 more than the Avensis in depreciation at £12,912, and narrowly beats the Peugeot 407 which would lose £13,164. All three of these cars, according to CAP Monitor, are within two percentage points of each other around the 30% mark. However, the Accord is on 38%. Its depreciation bill is £11,352 – a difference of nearly £1,500 compared to the 75.
THE Rover just edges out the Peugeot in this comparison with its wholelife cost of £19,734, compared with £19,884 – that’s only a difference of £150 over three years/60,000 miles – about three tanks of diesel. The Toyota has a more definite advantage at £18,786, nearly £1,000 less than the Rover 75. However, the Accord finishes the clear winner in the group with a wholelife cost of £17,490 giving it a margin of more than £2,000 over the Rover 75.
Emissions and BIK tax rates
BOTTOM of the class for this one, because the Rover not only has the highest carbon dioxide emissions in the comparison, it also has the only engine that does not yet comply with Euro IV emissions. A 40% taxpayer in the Rover can expect to pay £141 a month, but a similar driver in the Honda Accord would have a monthly bill of £100. The Toyota driver would pay £111 a month while the Peugeot driver would see £115 a month deducted in BIK tax.
THE predecessors of the Rover 75 and the current Honda Accord were once closely related, sharing the majority of components as part of a partnership between Honda and Rover. Now the Honda and Rover are very different machines, but are both skirting around the edges of the premium sector. In this comparison, the Honda is the better car dynamically and financially and scores a comfortable win. The Avensis would also make a more sensible fleet choice than the Rover.
WINNER: Honda Accord