Image from rovertech.co.uk / photobucket.com – fair use © 2012
This is our latest new feature – the car of the day. Every day [at least] we’ll mention a vehicle that’s either worth reminiscing over, technologically interesting, obscure or worthy of note for some reason!
What better way to kick things off with…. a British car from a now “lost” manufacturer?
The Rover 400 was launched in 1990 as part of the R8 project between Rover and Honda, which resulted in the model-sharing arrangement that produced the Rover 200 hatchback and Honda Concerto.
Rover’s 400 Series saloon (or sedan to some readers) was a product of that. Also marketed as the Honda Concerto, it was available with Rover K-Series petrol or Honda SOHC/DOHC 4-cylinder petrol engines, and from 1992, Peugeot diesel engines.
The one we’re looking at, however, is a 414 SLi. This was the mid-range trim level, SLi being Rover’s equivalent of the ubiquituous LX trim that Ford offered, and was reasonably well-equipped for the day. You couldn’t get a 1.4 GSi (well, except on the Metro) so the 414 SLi was the most expensive 1.4 model. Why did I go for the 1.4 engine? Well, it was a 414 SLi mentioned on a car ads site about Rovers [not Autotrader.co.uk]!
There was also a basic 414 Si model too, which sold well.
The trim inside, however, was a little bit dull, and according to howmanyleft.co.uk [a car resource that any autogeek must read!] there are only 1,270 still in working order in the UK, but I think that figure is much larger if you take into account other nations that got this model.
It looks fairly boxy, but then again this was made in the 1980s, so the styling is de rigueur of the period.
Honda did offer a Concerto sedan as well, but that only had the 1.6 VTEC engine available, so no entry-level 1.4 equivalent was available (although you could get a 1.4 GL hatchback between 1988 and 1991). Unusually, a four-wheel-drive model was sold in Japan – shame Rover never tried this with the 400, could have been good. A 416 GSi 4×4 – could be good, if they tried it.
The 400 Series wasn’t bad for its time… it was sort of like a guy a tweed suit trying to blend in with the common man and this strategy worked. I suppose, that’s what Rover was in the 90s, Britishness and all.
Nowadays, the Rover name is “lost”, although TATA own the rights to it, and the MG6 Magnette is its spiritual successor.
However, I did like the 400 Series. It was safe to drive, and my example I test-drove was a 1993 K-reg 414 SLi, in a rather fetching shade of blue (it was sort of like an automotive equivalent of a posh school blazer, well, looks anyway, dull, but does the job, and a little flimsy.) It drove well, and in my short test of it, it handled the M60 brilliantly. Granted, it wasn’t the best family car, but wasn’t the worst – pretty much average. Never actually owned one, but did drive a 200 Series once – was fun to drive although I didn’t have it for very long. Didn’t like the boy-racer looks of it, the version I had was a 214 SEi.
It’s spacious, certainly, and reliable too, but the steering isn’t all that sensitive. In short; worth a drive, and although it’s nearing 20 years old now, it’s still a good buy for those wanting a first car – parents, if you’re reading this, I advise you, look at this as a possible first car. Sure, it may not be the first choice, but for those on a budget, (and really on a budget), it’s one to consider. Sure, it may not be up-to-date in the technology department, but it does the job reliably enough and any 400 Series is worth a look; repairs should be cheap, if you can find a parts specialist [however, this isn’t a used car test so I won’t go any further on this].
The 414 SLi is from an era when economy and safety were pretty much everything; but it’s good because it’s individual. The Nineties was an era when image was the thing; nowadays it’s all about C02 etc. and economy.
I hope SAIC could release a Roewe successor, but that’s wishful thinking. Personally, I’m surprised it hasn’t been re-released in China, like the Maestro was; who actually does own the design to it? Honda, or SAIC?
Anyway, the 414 isn’t a bad car, it’s merely average.
We may return again with another Rover 400 soon…