Rover 75 car review
Thursday 19 February 2009
Ten Point Test
Auto Trader Ten Point Test rating: 78%
When MG-Rover went bust in 2005 it had an ageing range that had been facelifted numerous times in a bid to keep the company going. While the 25 and 45 were definitely past their sell-by date in many respects, the 75, which was six years old at that point, was still very capable in most of the key areas.
As a result of its less able siblings, the 75’s biggest problem was its image; potential buyers just assumed it was hopelessly outclassed by rivals. Nothing could be further from the truth though, as the car could compete on equal terms with some prestigious adversaries.
If this makes the 75 sound enticing, it gets even better; with the car now out of production for several years, prices are eminently affordable. So if value is your priority, look no further.
1 Looks 6/10
When it comes to the Rover’s exterior design, the chances are you’ll either love or hate it; few people fall in between. Early cars were unashamedly retro with their twin circular headlamps, which were lost when the car was facelifted in 2004. However, even these later cars retained the bold grille and lashings of brightwork, giving the car a rather dated look in the eyes of some.
As is often the case, the Tourer is better proportioned than its saloon counterpart, with a rather more successful rear end design. So while the 75 is certainly distinctive, whether you could call it attractive is another matter.
2 Looks inside 7/10
Whereas earlier 75s were shamelessly retro in their interior design, the facelifted car from 2004 features a more low-key cabin with contemporary finishes instead of relentless slabs of wood. The seats of these later cars are also different from those fitted to earlier 75s, the chairs from which looked like something taken straight out of a 1950s Rover P4.
Perhaps more importantly than the design, all 75s feature an interior that’s solidly screwed together and feels very durable, even if some of the switchgear doesn’t feel quite as beautifully engineered than that offered by key German rivals such as Audi or BMW.
3 Practicality 7/10
If you’re unsure what the term ‘lifestyle estate’ means, here’s your answer. The focus is very much on form rather than function, so while the Tourer looks good, it isn’t as capacious as it should be. With the rear seats in place there’s just 400 litres of load bay capacity available; tip the seats forward and this rises to just 1222 litres, putting the 75 behind most rivals. Still, at least the load lip is decently low and the rear suspension doesn’t intrude very much – but it should be better.
The saloon offers a bit more boot space than the Tourer with the rear seats in place; up to 432 litres can be accommodated. Perhaps more importantly though, there’s ample space in the 75’s cabin, in both saloon and estate guises.
4 Ride and Handling 10/10
This is where the 75 really excels, because although the handling is very tidy, the ride comfort is something special. Rover’s engineers worked hard to ensure the perfect balance between sublime ride comfort and sharp handling, with a truly supple chassis at low speeds.
It’s not just when pottering about that the 75 delivers though; press on and it can cope with whatever you throw at it, within reason. Turn in is excellent and so is the steering, which offers just the right amount of feedback and feel. So the next time somebody tells you that front-wheel drive is the poor relation, here’s the proof that it isn’t necessarily.
5 Performance 7/10
None of the 75 variants are especially sluggish, but unsurprisingly, it’s the BMW-sourced 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine that provides the perfect balance between performance and economy. Smooth, refined and frugal, the engine is a peach, but things are let down by an over-generous kerb weight. With 1620kg to haul along and just 221lb ft of torque with which to do it, the diesel option is definitely for those who like to cruise rather than enjoy the cut and thrust of deserted B-roads.
If you’re after something truly quick, the 75 4.6 V8 offers a mouth-watering 256bhp and 302lb ft of torque to give a 0-60mph time of 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 151mph – which should be quick enough for most.
6 Running costs 7/10
With these cars so cheap to buy, depreciation isn’t much of an issue for the 75 owner any more, so it’s servicing and fuel consumption which are the key factors. There are three service bands (A, B and C), with costs varying depending on whether the car is powered by 4, 6 or 8 cylinders as well as whether it’s petrol, diesel or LPG-powered. The transmission also affects servicing costs – automatics cost more to maintain.
Road tax is also a consideration of course, with the 1.8-litre petrol in normally aspirated form emitting 184g/km. There is also the 193g/km turbocharged edition, sitting alongside the 2.5 V6 and 4.6 V8 editions.
7 Reliability 8/10
Despite a reputation for fragility, the 75 is stronger than you might think. The key thing is to avoid the 1.8-litre petrol cars, as their head gaskets are weak; all the other engines are much tougher, especially the BMW-sourced 2.0-litre turbodiesel.
Other problems can crop up, such as uneven tyre wear through misaligned suspension. Coil springs can also break and cabins can fill up with water when the plenum chambers block up. You must also check the electrics are all working as they sometimes don’t.
It’s worth seeking out a car made in Longbridge rather than Oxford, as they’re generally put together with more care. These cars can be identified by their body-coloured sills; cars built in Oxford featured black sills.
8 Safety 9/10
Despite its relatively old design, the 75’s four-star EuroNCAP rating puts it on a par with rivals such as the Jaguar X-Type, 2000 Honda Accord, 2001 Ford Mondeo and original Volvo S40 of 1997. As such, the 75’s structure will do a decent job of preventing you from getting mangled in an impact. Indeed, if the optional side-mounted head airbags were standard instead, the 75 would have been able to match the Renault Laguna’s five-star EuroNCAP score.
Hopefully there won’t be any impact in the first place, thanks to the fitment of anti-lock brakes and an excellent chassis that inspires confidence. If the worst should happen, there are front seatbelt pre-tensioners, as well as front and side airbags for the passenger and driver.
9 Equipment 9/10
Most 75s feature a decent amount of standard equipment, but with values so low there’s no need to go for a poverty spec example unless you’re on a seriously tight budget. Even the entry-level Classic comes with air conditioning, remote central locking, electric front windows an alarm and CD player, but buying something further up the range won’t cost significantly more yet it’ll be nicer to live with.
Moving up a level to the Connoisseur adds powered windows all round, leather trim, alloy wheels and climate control. Opt for something even posher and you’ll get powered adjustment for the seats and a CD autochanger, but you’re probably better off settling for something in the middle of the range and paying that bit less for the car.
10 X-Factor 8/10
Looked at objectively, the 75 is a real cracker; it ticks most boxes to add up to an all-round package that’s hard to beat – and especially for the money. Comfortable, refined, well-built, well-equipped and generally reliable, the 75 offers more car for the cash than most of its rivals, but its poor reputation holds it back. If there’s a downside it’s the relative lack of luggage capacity in Tourer form; if this isn’t a priority for you, the 75 is definitely worth a closer look.
Model tested: Rover 75 Tourer 2.0CDTi Connoisseur SE
On the road price: £22,995
Price range: £16,995-£23,395 (saloons and estates, April 2005)
Date tested: February 2009
Road tester: Richard Dredge