Essays : The slightly premature euthanasia of the final BMC model

Steven Ward

13 years ago last month, the Metro productions lines stopped. Spurred on by Mike Humble’s recent blog, Steven Ward looks back at its final stint in sales.

The Rover 100 was missed by the people who sold it

The Rover 100 was missed by the people who sold it

Maybe euthanasia’s not the correct term – I mean the model was hardly in its first, second or even third flush of youth. It wasn’t a trendy or even a sensible purchase any more.  Yet, for some, the Rover 100 née Metro (we never did get used to that numerical moniker) represented a set of values which marked it out from the rest of the supermini herd.

We know, of course, what killed the dear old Metro, it was those dastardly NCAP results. NCAP seemed to be a committee of men assembled by the European Union to show us exactly how unsafe our cars were. Who cared about abdomen loadings? Not us. We Brits were not particularly bothered by such trivia and I doubt the Europeans were either. Until, that it is, NCAP discovered a test that would shock and shake-up people’s perceptions of crumple zones and they were going to flog the images to death to make their mark on civilised society – this was going to be their calling card into our modern motoring lives forever. Renault sensibly, were to cash-in.

The dear old Metro never stood an earthly and this was the excuse BMW needed to finally pull the plug. Longbridge had made some attempt at improved crash safety – side intrusion beams and a driver’s airbag – when the 100 emerged in late 1994. Bizarrely, these modifications seemed to make the NCAP dummy’s plight even worse on the footage. Oh dear.

Still, us die-hards knew that the Metro, sorry, 100, was as safe as its contemporaries. Stout, complex, all encompassing subframes, stepped inter-locking sills, robust, spot-welded inner wings, a collapsible steering column, an award-winning safety steering wheel, fuel shut-off, a notably stiff shell which always felt very well engineered, need I go on?

Yes, and anti-submarining seats too. Probably not, you’re either convinced of the car’s crash-worthiness or you were persuaded by one of its more modern and significantly heavier rivals. I bet those who looked to NCAP for guidance were also actively avoiding British Beef at the same time.

I was selling  new Rovers back in the summer of 1998-for-the-S-plate and recall being taken aback by how many people wandered into the showroom and asked to buy one. Notice that, they asked to buy one.  The car sold itself and the customers who bought them were lovely people. Sadly, mainstream stocks had long since – and unexpectedly – sold out.

There was approximately 15-17 weeks worth of 100-Series orders cancelled when the car was cruelly chopped. The AA still used them as a driving school car, an invaluable sales tool for the range. The gradual wind-down never happened and that hurt people. Sure, the range was steadily being trimmed (the diesel had been dropped, the GTa’s bespoke gearing had gone too), but there was still advertising bumph for the LE Ascot lying around.  Little tweaks had continued – trim changes, headlamp levelling and the caramelising of the little K-Series (MPI fuelling) but the car was cut short and without notice, almost as a sop to the NCAP brigade.

That was, of course, always going to happen. In the harsh world of large Dealer Groups where used cars are stocked alongside each other according to size, the Metro was becoming deeply unfashionable (read unsellable), despite its increasingly bargain basement price.

Where stock turnover is a ruthless 60-90 days, buying a transporter full of grey-bumpered 111is to sell along side Puntos and Polos was starting to become a bit of a gamble. The 114GSi was still a smart looking and well-equipped car that drove nicely too, but the lack of a PAS option was a bit of a hindrance when stacked alongside those two cutting-edge cars.

The dealership I was at then held no stocks of the car, barring a single courtesy car. They feared the demand would die with the car, but they were wrong and inexperienced. They wouldn’t be buying anymore, despite the steady stream of customers and my pleas. Traditional Rover Dealers knew they’d be an unprecedented demand for a discontinued BMC-derived product.

The dealership I’ve spent most of my life at stock piled Maxis, 213s and Maestro/Montegos in anticipation of the final rush. You see, Rover Group, and all that went before it, never really got to grips with replacing a successful car and people rushed to buy a model when production ceased (we’ll ignore the 800 Series for this essay).

Enter then, the Metro’s replacement or, then again, maybe not.

Rover took the R3 200 and set about making it acceptable to would-be Metro owners. They installed the 1.1-litre K-Series engine in MPi form with a delightfully shiny aluminium alloy inlet manifold – a super, sweet unit which had to be ragged to pieces to in order make decent progress. That, to me, was no hardship, but it was alien to Metro drivers where the low kerb weight made for effortless progress.

Next Rover removed the well-weighted power steering from R3 and installed the awful manual rack from the old R8.  A full four stodgy and hefty turns lock-to-lock if you remember – only, in this instance, it was a bit worse as the R3 had a lot more castor at the front end compared to R8. Central locking was also missing on the 211 (as, in fairness, it had been on the 214i) only Rover had changed the door lock specification which give us terrible issues. The tumblers had been cheapened and they all, without fail, collapsed, meaning no entry from the driver’s door. You’d have to enter from the passenger door and eventually the boot –  the alarm would usually go off at that point. Remember also that the 211 had manual windows.  Compared to the manual windows of the Metro, they were ergonomically flawed, heavy in use and slow in operation. Likewise, the space where you rested your left foot was confined compared to Metro.

Here we are then, for £9995, this was your Rover 114GSi replacement. Oh, and for that money, you’d lost two doors and gained two bigger, heavier, less handy items. Rear visibility was much poorer than the Metro too and the 211’s tailgate, while having an internal handle, opened a bit high for some. Finally, the ultimate indignation – the 211 had no dashboard shelf. Not surprisingly, traditionally loyal customers flocked to Hyundai and Kia in their droves.

My company car was the 211 demo. I loved it and have many fond memories of racing it, but I had to point out that it was heavily (sensibly?) optioned and that to get one to my spec added well over a £1000 to the base price.

People left their names in order to buy that one remaining 114GSi courtesy car. Rover and BMW were crazy. You see, up to this point, Rover customers were the best customers in the game for car finance. They gave big deposits, never ever missed a payment and quite often bought again as soon as the finance was cleared. They were the most loyal and most honest people in the land and Rover had just barred the entry point to many of them.

Lucrative wasn’t the word – most took CPI as a matter of course. What was left of the Metro’s image soon tumbled away to nothing. The AA stopped reconditioning them before they were entered into sale and nothing looks worse than damaged alloys, which most of them had (damage and alloys!).

Let’s not forget either that the Metro was a big hit with the Motability user choosers. The driving schools, daily rental fleets and Motability were previously precious sales to Metro as they gave potential customers a ‘soft’ and lengthy test drive and familiarised the car with impressionable drivers.

I must, at this point, say the Metro/100 wasn’t without its faults. The rear wheel arches rotted away, something introduced with the R6 back in 1990 and quite perplexing as to why. The rear radius arms wore alarmingly quickly. Central locking solenoids failed with depressing regularity. The fuel tank seams split. The upper front suspension arms wore out on the heavier diesels.

I could go on and on and on as it was so dated and quite frail in many respects. However, despite it all, the Metro/100 was such a sweet little thing. Handy in size, refined in powertrain, sweet to ride and sharp to steer. The interior was thoughtfully designed – all round visibility was outstanding (at 88% was this ever bettered PK fans?) and the thing just looked so restrained and tidy.

How could anyone not fall for its charms? Indeed, with the plethora of BMW MINI models being launched and previewed, I for one am eagerly awaiting the day they rediscover the mighty Metro.

Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007. Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Clsssics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

93 Comments on "Essays : The slightly premature euthanasia of the final BMC model"

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  1. Paul Taylor Paul T says:

    I would still like to know how a Smart ForTwo car can pass the NCAP tests but not a classic Mini or Metro…

  2. Jonathan Carling Jonathan Carling says:

    The final 100s were very nicely trimmed and, yes, they had character and great visibility. Surely, though, it’s impossible to look at the NCAP video and still want one. There was no replacement in prospect.

    Maybe they shouldn’t have launched the 211, just as they shouldn’t have launched basic versions of the Rover Metro in 1990. Both cheapened the range’s appeal and devalued the Rover name.

  3. Andrew Elphick says:

    @Paul T
    Have a look on the forum. There are some bare Smart shell photos – it’s very heavily built under the tinsel.

  4. Lord Sward says:

    Indeed, even by Euro NCAP’s own admission with a little tweaking and beefing, the car would have made two stars and matched the Punto. Remember too, those A-pillars were strong enough to go unstrengthened for the Cabriolet.

  5. Shep says:

    A great article…

    A member of my household owned a 114 GSi in BRG for a time in the mid-2000s until it was stolen in Sheffield and disappeared forever. Despite being more or less a 100% Volvo person, I was impressed by the quality of the car’s fit and finish and the way it drove.

  6. Paul Taylor Paul T says:

    @Andrew Elphick
    That’s all fine and good, but how would it react to a head-on at 30 mph or being rear-ended? I would be very interested if you have any links to crash test videos!

  7. Brian Daniels says:

    @Paul T
    The Smart ForTwo is essentially a rolling roll cage – perhaps it’s only redeeming feature. Maybe it even fills up with foam packing peanuts when you crash…

    What amazes me about the Smart isn’t that it’s relatively safe, it’s that the silly thing only gets 38 miles per U.S. gallon in U.S. specification. Had it delivered 55 or 60 I might have been tempted to endure the inevitable ridicule involved in being seen in one.

    The real shame isn’t that Rover had to replace the Metro, it’s that it didn’t have something cheap and cheerful, as you Brits say, to replace it – something like a new Mini which could have sold as an entry-level car alongside the 200 and had people queuing up for miles to buy one.

  8. Mark Hayman says:

    A great feature… I bought my girlfriend an N-reg 1.4GSI – this model has wood panels on all the doors whereas the later ones didn’t. I think it’s a nice little car, easy to drive, loads of space, an ideal run around and much more refined than the earlier Metros. The grille made the front end neat and repectable.

    It’s a shame that Rover didn’t re-engineer the Rover 100 Series as the Rover 211 was not really a replacement. The only model which was similar was the CityRover, but that was available later on down the line.

  9. Mike C says:

    Sorry, but the body structure of the Rover 100 was seriously out of date by the end – this is one area where technology moved on significantly in the 1990s.

    I wonder if the re-bodied R6X would have been much better and lasted longer in production?

  10. Ryan says:

    I, like just about anyone else born before 1988, learned to drive in a Metro and I loved it – it always felt so nimble and secure on the road and, being a learner driver, it forgave me for just about anything.

    I’m far too tall to own one but I dearly miss them and wish I could have owned one as well. However, facts can’t be ignored and that crash test shows why they needed to end production.

    Cars had also grown and, of course, if the 200 Series (R3) had been billed as an upmarket Metro/100 Series replacement then who knows what might have happened. I guess we’ll never know…

  11. Alex Scott says:

    It’s funny though how the Rover Mini was allowed to remain in production after the Metro… What was the NCAP rating of the Mini compared with the Metro?

    Alex.

  12. Paul Taylor Paul T says:

    @Alex Scott
    I recall reading somewhere (and am happy to be corrected) that the NCAP rules didn’t apply because the Mini’s design/Type Approval was so old and pretty much unchanged from 1959.

    I think it was emissions legislation and the inability to fit all that was needed under the bonnet to meet it that was finally the Mini’s undoing.

  13. Wilko says:

    @Alex Scott
    I don’t think NCAP existed back then.

  14. Wilko says:

    @Paul T
    Sorry – ignore my last comment. I thought you were referring to the continuation of the Mini after the Metro was launched. I’ll try to read properly in future!

  15. Ian Mackenzie says:

    A great article – it’s a shame the Metro/R100 was never replaced with another proper Supermini (ignoring the CityRover – too little, too late, too costly). I had two Rover 100s: a 1993 1.4Si in BRG (it went like the clappers) and a 1994 100 Cabriolet. Dated, yes, but they both had a charm and, even with the rotting wheel arches, I would still climb over a mid-1990s Fiesta or Corsa for one.

  16. Allen Walker says:

    There was more to it than the NCAP results. The car was firmly in the ‘old granny’ category by then thanks to Rover’s insistence on swathing everything in chrome and walnut fillets, blue-rinse colour schemes and so-on. It was sold mostly to traditionalists or oddballs in its latter years.

    I remember going to look at one in 1996 when I was in the market for a new car. The spec. read well, it was the image that was all wrong. I eventually plumped for a Nissan Micra (Mk2) and I got enough stick for that.

    My mate actually bought a brand new Kensington (or whatever ridiculous ‘prestige’ monkier was on that year’s special edition) and I had a quick spin in it. I’m sorry, but where the Nissan was tight, well built, zippy and light (no power steering either, didn’t need it), the Rover 100 was rattly, shoddy and garish.

  17. Richard Kilpatrick Richard Kilpatrick says:

    I reckon the Rover 211 would have been a fine Metro replacement if it had replaced it and retained Hydragas. The Rover 100’s absolute saving grace was the impeccable ride quality and handling.

  18. Jon says:

    Sorry to be a pedant, but 15 years ago??

    Jon

  19. Mike Humble Mike Humble says:

    A cracking article and so bang on the money!

    We were not allowed to even park a 100 anywhere near our showroom if it had been a chopper (part-ex) regardless of condition.

    We too regularly were asked for 100s and even Montego Estates. I will also totally agree about the refinement of the 1100cc K-Series plant – a sweet, sweet little engine!

  20. Adrian says:

    I like the way the original name of ‘Mini Metro’ lasted all of 5 minutes after the launch in 1980, before being replaced by the simpler ‘Metro’…

  21. David 3500 says:

    Mike C :Sorry, but the body structure of the Rover 100 was seriously out of date by the end – this is one area where technology moved on significantly in the 1990s.

    I wonder if the re-bodied R6X would have been much better and lasted longer in production?

    I have to agree with you on this. Privately, I thought that, when the ‘Rover’ Metro was launched back in 1990, it would only have a shelf-life of five years at the most. Even by 1995, in its ‘new’ 100 Series guise, it was looking well past its sell-by date. Despite this, it still continued to sell in reasonable numbers, right up until when the last one rolled off the assembly line in December 1997.

    It was so short-sighted of the Rover Group’s new owners BMW (and British Aerospace before them) not to see the urgency to allocate funds to develop a replacement for the Metro and, hopefully, produce something that was more appropriate to the then aspirational Rover badge.

    Clearly, the R3 had the potential at its early development stages to be developed as a replacement for the Metro (albeit it with a much shortened platform). Indeed, add to this the prospect of undertaking a comprehensive body facelift of the R8 200/400 (to a similiar degree as the R17 over the original ‘XX’ 800 Series) in preference to launching the uninspiring HHR 400 Series (Rover was heavily constrained as to what they could do with that model) and the fortunes of Rover Cars might have looked a little more promising.

  22. Tim says:

    I was a Rover salesman once [back in 1986] and most of my customers were old folks who always returned to buy this most British of small cars.

    I bought my wife a brand new but pre-registered Rover 100 Kensington SE in early 1995 for £5995 – a bargain at the time. We loved the Kingfisher blue metallic paint and the colour coded bumpers but, after 12,000 miles, the car started pinking all the time underload.

    I took the car back to my local Rover Dealer [I had sensibly purchased the extended warranty] and was told unofficially that the engine suffered from not really being able to handle the unleaded fuel and they had given it a decoke of sorts, cleaned the valve seats and replaced the valves with a chisel mod.

    Needless to say we go rid of it just before its first MOT and purchased a new Polo which gave A1 service for 11 years before we disposed of it under the Scrappage Scheme!

  23. Will says:

    The Mini only died because BMW was licensing the name for Rover to use until they brought out their own ridiculous effort.

    The Mini Metro name came about again because of licensing issues – someone else was using the “Metro” name but the issue was soon resolved.

    The Rover 100 (it had been known as this in Europe since the Rover badging) was a nice wee car. A few friends had them. I drove a 114i GTa and it was like a go-kart! They were always comfortable but occasionally needed to be re-gassed. The rear arches seemed to be made from the same steel that early 1990s Fords were made from.

  24. Marty B says:

    A good article, but the 100 was hopelessly outdated by then. The main rival in the UK, the Ford Fiesta, had gained the excellent 1.25/1.4 16v engines and sweet handling, along with lots of kit and safety enhancements. The French had the 106/Saxo while Fiat were around with the Punto.

    The 100 Series didn’t stand a chance, especially as the afore-mentioned competitos all fared better in crash tests. People saw that it was an aged car, clinging on for dear life, and so decided to buy something more modern.

    I would reckon quite a few Metro owners switched to Skoda as it was around that time when sales started to boom. The Felicia had PAS as standard on almost the entire range from 1998 and a 3 year warranty (and, for a brief while, 3 years free servicing). The Felicia was sold at bargain prices by dealers who were courteous and there was a capacious estate variant – factor in the backing of the mighty VW Group and it’s easy to see why the Felicia would appeal to former Rover 100 owners…

  25. Andrew Elphick says:

    @Paul T
    I’ve found the photograph of the bare Smart ForTwo shell! Have a look at this one from my files

  26. Hilton Davis says:

    I never owned or drove a Metro, MG Metro, Rover Metro or Rover 100 so cannot comment from experience.

    However, my wife passed her Driving Test first time in one so I will say kind things about it for that reason. The Metro/Rover 100 was, at least, a true British-designed and built car which is more than can be said for many of its successors.

    I do lament its passing in the mid-1990s and miss seeing them on the road.

  27. @Jon
    Well spotted – I have checked our Rover Metro/100 Development story and the Rover 100 went out of production on the 23rd December, 1997. I have therefore now made the appropriate edit to the text.

    Incidentally, as Keith will no doubt confirm, we do strive for factual accuracy on AROnline so please do not feel that you have to apologise for being “a pedant”!

  28. I am just in from work and there are already loads of comments on this article. That just shows how popular AROnline has become. I once drove a 100 and it was great fun due to its great handling and powerful engine.

  29. Jonathan Carling Jonathan Carling says:

    Wasn’t the new MINI the Rover Metro/100 replacement -at least in BMW’s eyes?

  30. MG Ben says:

    Have a look at SMG in Bristol’s website – it makes interesting reading. SMG are apparently a former MG Rover Dealer and have around half a dozen delivery mileage, 08 registered ZT’s still in stock as well as a number of older vehicles (Streetwises, for example) with delivery mileage. Perhaps – with reference to Steven’s excellent essay – they were anticipating an end of line rush which never came…

    I know other dealers did good trade in the months after MG Rover’s demise, but SMG have surely missed their moment – at least at those prices!

  31. Mark Gibson says:

    I saw a Toyota Aygo today and wondered what that would look like after it’s been hurled at a concrete wall.

  32. Chris Chapman says:

    I worked for a major component supplier and we were asked to quote for the supply of another 30,000 sets of Rover 100 parts some time after production stopped – it seemed that the new independent MGR management were looking at putting it back into production again. Anyone know how far this project went?

    Rover had a big problem with NCAP/crashworthiness, possibly due to having legacy models with thin window pillars but, in the case of the 100, I think they could have done something with thicker/stronger body panel steels and better door mechanisms at relatively minimal cost. However, investment funds seemed always to be at a premium on the Metro/100, eg fixing the rear suspension arm wear problem!

    Anyway, as for Smarts, Fifth Gear drove a white one into a wall at 70mph and demonstrated how the Tridion Safety Cell keeps its shape despite the transparent roof and frameless doors. See:

    However, despite other advanced safety features, the problem is the massive G forces imposed on occupants due to the relative lack of a progressive crumple zone. Nevertheless, many other cars would look a lot sicker after being shunted into a wall at that speed!

  33. Ianto says:

    This article has brought back memories of fitting a Sharp stereo to an elderly aunt’s new Metro Mk2 (A-Series) and taking it for a quick spin afterwards. Superb…

  34. Paul Taylor Paul T says:

    Will :The Mini only died because BMW was licensing the name for Rover to use until they brought out their own ridiculous effort.

    ???

  35. Paul Taylor Paul T says:

    @Andrew Elphick
    Yep, that’s pretty solid!

  36. N S says:

    @Paul T
    I was rear-ended in my 92/K Metro 1.1 by a van at speed in 1998. The car held up a lot better than I did! It was not even written off, but repaired and given back to me for another 3 years use – I can’t complain about that.

  37. @Paul T
    I think Will was suggesting that the terms of the Licence Agreement obliged MG Rover to cease production of the original Mini when the new MINI was introduced. However, I wonder whether any other AROnline readers have some further information about that…

  38. David 3500 says:

    @Clive Goldthorp
    My understanding of the situation is that MG Rover Group was required to end production of the Mini by a certain date in 2000 – it was probably pre-arranged with BMW management as to when this would likely be.

    However, in early August 2000, the specification of the final cars had to amended whereby they featured a high-level rear brake light, so as to meet legislative requirements.

    According to what I heard from an employee of a former MG Rover Group Dealer, I think BMW also wanted all examples of the Longbridge-built Mini registered within a fairly small time frame after the last example had rolled off the assembly line on the 4th October, 2000 – possibly by the end of January 2001. However, this has not stopped some examples from being registered with Y and even 51 plates.

  39. Paul Taylor Paul T says:

    @Clive Goldthorp
    The worst thing BMW Group could have done was to make MG Rover change the name – even then ‘Mini’ was a model within the Rover range, rather than the stand-alone ‘MINI’ brand that BMW have made it.

    I have read a fair bit about the classic Mini (and own 3 of them in various guises) and, as far as I know, it was the economics relating to the car that put paid to it as far as MG Rover were concerned – if MG Rover had wanted to keep producing it, they could have changed the name, as you will see in the following paragraphs.

    However, in saying that, it puzzles me how Wood & Pickett were able to sell Minis as new builds using Heritage shells with the law the way it is. They couldn’t call it a Mini, which suggests that the licencing issue story certainly holds water, so they called it the Margrave 50. I assume that, as BMH now exclusively produce ‘genuine’ Mini and Clubman shells, they must own the rights to the design now. Consequently, BMW could not have stopped MG Rover building cars to that design but could have prevented MG Rover from calling them Minis.

    I actually emailed Wood & Pickett and asked what I thought were pertinent questions about Type Approval/design, emmissions and crash test legislation and how the car would be branded for insurance purposes but, funnily enough, I got no response. Perhaps someone from BMH or W & P could come on here and clarify? They are still being marketed on their website at a cool £26k.

    I also assume that W & P’s Margrave 50s would have current registrations as they have been built from totally new parts and therefore meet DVLA requirements.

  40. @David 3500 @Paul T
    Many thanks to both of you for all the additional information – I surmise that Wood & Pickett’s Margrave 50 might have to undergo a Single Vehicle Approval Test before registration but, given the £26k price, cannot help but wonder how many have actually been sold…

  41. Will says:

    @Clive Goldthorp
    I could see the W&P Margrave 50 being a huge seller in Japan if the company could get Japanese approval (possibly fitted with a Toyota A Series engine). Maybe even in the USA as well…

  42. Paul Taylor Paul T says:

    Clive Goldthorp :@David 3500 @Paul T Many thanks to both of you for all the additional information – I surmise that Wood & Pickett’s Margrave 50 might have to undergo a Single Vehicle Approval Test before registration but, given the £26k price, cannot help but wonder how many have actually been sold…

    The fact that Wood & Pickett are still marketing them nearly 18 months after the Mini’s 50th birthday suggests that their assessment of how much nostalgia was worth was clouded by the aforementioned well-hyped anniversary and that the limited run of 50 models hasn’t been reached yet.

    You can get a painted shell from BMH for £6k and assemble a decent car for less than the £20k balance. The warranty given also appeared to be less than comprehensive when compared to that offered on a £26k new MINI.

  43. Paul Taylor Paul T says:

    N S :@Paul T I was rear-ended in my 92/K Metro 1.1 by a van at speed in 1998. The car held up a lot better than I did! It was not even written off, but repaired and given back to me for another 3 years use – I can’t complain about that.

    That’s a good endorsement of the car’s strength. I know that the insurance companies would write one off now but, at least, anyone owning one can be confident the car does have good inherent strength.

  44. Chris Chapman says:

    @Will
    I think the 1990s craze for retro cars in Japan has passed. Why have a Mini when somebody like Mitsuoka could Anglicise a Daihatsu Trevis/Mira Gino which looks the same but is much more modern?

  45. Marinast says:

    MG Rover missed a wide open goal with the R6 by not fitting either the n/a 1600cc or 1800cc K-Series engines – that would have transformed the car’s image for peanuts.

    I reckon that any such versions of the 100 Series would have been more than a match for and arguably more fun than either the Fiesta Zetec S, Polo GTi or even the Punto Sporting. I’m sure that MGR could have sold them for far less too.

  46. Craig Tetlow says:

    I seem to remember that CAR Magazine did quite a lengthy article on the Rover 100’s demise back in 1997/98. I’m pretty certain that, at that time, all the tooling for this car was for sale to anyone that wanted to restart production with the strict pre-condition that it couldn’t be sold in Europe. I wonder if any far flung manufacturer ever considered this?

    A great article by the way. I remember the NCAP results coming out as, at the time, both myself and my best friend had matching 1994 5 door Glacier White Rover Metro 1.1s with the red “S” badging.

    All our friends took the mick saying we were suddenly driving absolute death traps and that we needed to sell them immediately. My friend traded his in for a Fiat Punto soon after and I bought a silver Rover 111 GSI! LOL

  47. Marinast says:

    Legend has it all the Metro/100’s tooling went to the Middle East…

  48. Richard Moss says:

    NCAP ratings miss the point of ACTIVE safety. The Metro which was nippy, handled well and had great brakes (at least my MG 1300 version did) has a better chance of avoiding the accident in the first place than a stodgy, poor handling, slow lump with poor visibility.

    Unfortunately, it was always going to be a marketing disaster once the ratings came out. However, that would be less of an issue for what someone earlier called the “granny market”. They were loyal customers who, as Steven says, bought on finance, paid on time and in many cases didn’t haggle too hard! Perfect customers, in fact, and a steady stream of income.

    The loss of the 100 meant that MGR lost a lot of volume – and therefore lost out on economies of scale.

  49. Liam says:

    Great read, very interesting article! 😀 I’ve a couple of questions which Steven could perhaps answer:-

    1) When did the headlamp levelling become standard – and was it on all models?

    2) What options and paint colours were available with the Ascot/SE?

    Incidentally, if the brochure you’re holding is a late version, it would be great to have a PDF of it 😉

  50. Martin says:

    Alex Scott :
    It’s funny though how the Rover Mini was allowed to remain in production after the Metro… What was the NCAP rating of the Mini compared with the Metro?
    Alex.

    Have a look at these video clips:-
    1961-65 British Pathe Film of the BMC Mini and 1100 crashing into a concrete block at 25, 30 and 38 miles per hour:
    http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=72595

    Mini Crash Test:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvQtsMpcWFs

    Mini and its accident safety:

  51. Martin says:

    Original Metro Crash Test from BL Heritage Films:

  52. Paul says:

    How terribly British this article and the responses are. It’s not Rover’s fault for still selling a 17 year (SEVENTEEN YEAR!!) old design but those dastardly Europeans for pointing out that it crumpled like a tissue box in an accident.

  53. Keith Adams Keith Adams says:

    @Paul
    To be fair, it’s a British website.

  54. DeLorean's Accountant says:

    It’s all very well getting bunged up over the demise of the Metro/100 and feeling some injustice having seen the original Metro crash test video but, over the years, it was realised that few cars drove squarly full on into a concrete wall when crashing and that the offset deformable barrier was much more realistic and it was here where it fell very short.

    I knew of someone who died in an offset collison – not her fault – in an old Suzuki Vitara and, having later heard that she would have been much more likely to have survived in a more modern mid-sized car, I won’t be getting tearful about the Metro/100’s demise.

  55. Jon T Pierce says:

    I quite agree with Paul T’s comments. There are other cars which do not look safe to me – I often wonder about how on earth some of them pass the NCAP tests…

  56. Passing NCAP with a good result is not a legal requirement, but is excellent publicity.

    When Brilliance tried to sell cars here in Germany they obviously had EC Type Approval. However, the publication of the really bad crash test results (not as bad as the Metro, but a long way behind competition) contributed very heavily to a complete fail on the market.

    Renault did it right: the original Twingo did quite badly in its first crash tests, but they improved the car over time so that repeated tests showed it to be good and competitive.

    Having an organization like NCAP assessing cars way beyond the legal requirements is basically a good thing, as the publicity gained forces the manufacturers to implement non-required, but essential security. Due to the cost involved, I’m sure much of this would never have happened without some serious pressure.

    The decline in fatalities due to road accidents over the years here in Germany is a very strong argument for these safer cars. Despite significantly more traffic these are now half of the number in 1990 and less than a quarter of those in 1970.

  57. Mark Pitchford says:

    Just a thought: is there a difference between the extent to which cars are designed to be safe and the extent to which they are designed to gain NCAP’s approval? After all, it’s only NCAP’s (admittedly expert) point of view.

  58. Jemma says:

    I’ve always wondered about this: on the one hand people mostly buy a car on what it looks like – and mostly cars don’t crash. Howwever, then there is the fact that, when they do, the ‘bags of mostly water’ inside them tend to squish to varying degrees…

    People were still buying the original Mini but they weren’t exactly safe – and the same goes for the Metro II/100 (a GTa was the first Driving School car I drove, followed by a steel grey XR2 – yes, my instructor was a nutter).

    Personally, I have always preferred larger cars on the basis that, if I am in a serious accident, there is more metal between me and the incoming BMW.

    I think the decision to kill the Metro II/100 was another Austin-Rover speciality – the perfect knee-jerk – while it’s true that you would be more likely to get hurt in a 100 than a similar class competitor – if you get hit by a Artic at motorway speeds it’s going to make little difference either way – you’re still going to be human molecular mulch.

    Mind you, in the case of the Metro II/100 in particular there was a substantial percentage of elderly people interested in this car, whom, to be fair, wouldn’t exactly be pushing the car to its limits… I inherited a 6 year old Renault 5 from my grandfather – it had 11,000 on the clock and back brakes which had actually seized in the off position because they had never activated in 6 YEARS! (the Supercinq had front/rear brake split on a load sensor).

    To be brutally honest, I bought my first car and all of them since (bar the R5) on their looks and design, not on their safety rating because, in a bad accident, it’s probably luck that saves you, not design.

  59. Wilko says:

    DeLorean’s Accountant : I knew of someone who died in an offset collison – not her fault – in an old Suzuki Vitara and, having later heard that she would have been much more likely to have survived in a more modern mid-sized car, I won’t be getting tearful about the Metro/100′s demise.

    The problem is, though, that we’ve ended up with a ridiculous sort of arms race. I suppose that, if a Metro crashed into another Metro or a car of similar design, then it wouldn’t be so bad. However, if a Metro crashed into a modern, reinforced tank of a car then obviously it’s going to come off worse. It seems that cars have to be designed constantly bigger and heavier to keep up with what else is on the road.

  60. @Wilko
    Yes and no – if a Metro crashes into something like Toyota Landcruiser with the frame above bonnet height (or a tree or a concrete wall) it might well look much worse than in the NCAP test, which uses a deformable barrier, that spreads strain evenly.

    A very good modern car can act in a very similar way to such a barrier. I can’t really see how one Metro crashing into another will lessen the effect significantly – there’ll be two cars with destroyed cabins… There is a point though: the Metro needs to crash into something even softer or significantly lighter than itself to come away better – rather unlikely on both counts.

    There would have been ways to improve it when the change from Austin Metro to R6 happened, but this would have cost money…

  61. Ross Armstrong says:

    Err.. excuse me but I seem to remember that when (I think Pirelli) the tyre company which supplied Smart with the rubber went to test what they needed to produce, the cars were at a much greater risk of rolling over. In the original Mercedes A-Class – of which this is a pretty direct relation, the cars allegedly rolled over in sharp cornering – and it was reported by Autocar that stabilisers had to be used in order to properly test the setup.

    Mercedes/Smart gave the cars a very understeering front end which was their way of solving the problem but that obviously meant that cars couldn’t really be used to their full potential – even after the Brabus conversions they never handled all that well.

    Another problem to touch on is the difference between the tests. Back when the original miniMETRO was tested, the car was crashed straight into a concrete wall at 30mph. The test revealed that, while the steering column moved towards the driver and up by about 1-2 inches, the passenger cell remained reasonably intact. This was considered unrealistic by NCAP and so they used the 40mph offset crash test as they thought that was a more realistic test.

    The Smart crash above is one that the manufacturers tried to push through. It directs far less energy to the cell, since the vehicle is able to use whatever energy is left to carry on moving the car to the side even after impact – any car could survive this and the test doesn’t really give a true picture of the overall structural integrity of the car – Fifth Gear’s test is pretty much flawed.

  62. DeLorean's Accountant says:

    Wilko :

    DeLorean’s Accountant : I knew of someone who died in an offset collison – not her fault – in an old Suzuki Vitara and, having later heard that she would have been much more likely to have survived in a more modern mid-sized car, I won’t be getting tearful about the Metro/100′s demise.

    The problem is, though, that we’ve ended up with a ridiculous sort of arms race. I suppose that, if a Metro crashed into another Metro or a car of similar design, then it wouldn’t be so bad. However, if a Metro crashed into a modern, reinforced tank of a car then obviously it’s going to come off worse. It seems that cars have to be designed constantly bigger and heavier to keep up with what else is on the road.

    I have to disagree quite strongly there. Modern cars have better designed crash structures and designed “rigid” cages so when a like-for-like collision occurs – say Focus offset with Focus – then BOTH vehicles will deform in the crash structure area, forward of the cabin, with the occupants of both vehicles being somewhat protected.

    Now, to use your example, a Rover 100 on an offset with a Rover 100 would more likely lead to the occupants of BOTH vehicles being severely injured as the cabin area would more likely be impinged upon.

  63. Mike C says:

    I remember that on Top Gear a few years ago they showed various crashed cars including a Freelander 1 and a Fiesta (the 2002 version) and the visual difference after the NCAP tests was really noticeable – the Fiesta had survived the crash well whereas the Freelander was a mess. That’s a sign of the progress in recent years.

    You can see the video clip at this link – it’s quite interesting.

  64. Martin says:

    Where are you better off in a head-on crash? A modern-day 5 Star Euro NCAP car or an old banger that’s built like a tank?

    Take a look at this video clip of Fifth Gear’s Renault Modus v Volvo 940 Crash Test…

  65. Andrew Elphick says:

    It’s all cobblers – you can have 5 Star NCRAP, 37 airbags and a plastic Jesus on the dashboard, but if you sit 12″ off the steering wheel it’s never going to help! My wife wrote off a people carrier rated with just 2 Stars by Euro NCAP, but “Very Good” by the North American NHTSA, so who do you believe?

    That said, friends of ours with similary aged children recently bought a French 5 Star NCRAP winner but, when it needed tyres, they bought “the cheapest” because they are all the same… is your NCRAP still 5 Star if you need another 50 metres stopping distance?

  66. Andrew Elphick says:

    Cor, I’m grumpy! Have a squished Metro from 1980 instead.

  67. Rodden Shaw says:

    @Paul T
    The Smart is extremely rigid, the Metro is not. Simples.

  68. Paul Taylor Paul T says:

    @Rodden Shaw
    Yeah, I think we got that one. Try and catch up…

    Well done on the really novel end to your comment – that still isn’t boring after hearing it uttered so much over the past year…

  69. MM says:

    Another nail in the Metro’s coffin lid, the petrol spillage from a loose fuel filler cap onto the rear tyre, only happened after the fuel fill point was resited.

    Police records of accident investigations showed the Metro to be involved in far fewer fatalities per car accident than supposedly “safer” cars.

    The Smart car has no crumple zones whatsoever – the crumple zones are, in fact, those in the other car in a collision and this was believed top be a deliberate decision by the Designer(s).

    Additionally, in this day and age, how can anyone justify a rear engine/rear wheel drive setup? That’s an accident waiting for the moment.

  70. MM says:

    I too replaced a Metro with a Nissan Micra K11 1.3LX “Noddy Car” and took a lot of stick. The car is now 17 years old and driven by my sister, a notorious car wrecker, but shows no signs of giving up.

    Early K11 Micras (from 1993 to about 1995) were measured as being the most reliable car on British roads. My neighbour’s new Merc C220 certainly disgraced itself several times, but not my Micra.

    My reason for not buying a Rover 100? Well, I tested nearly all the small cars available at the time and the Micra was head and shoulders above the competition – it had 16Valves, a Twin Cam engine, two catalytic convertors and sequential fuel injection plus deep carpets as sound proofing etc, etc.

    A superb car – wish I still had it…

  71. Paul Taylor Paul T says:

    MM : Additionally, in this day and age, how can anyone justify a rear engine/rear wheel drive setup? That’s an accident waiting for the moment.

    I asked myself exactly the same question when turning at a junction in my MG TF in Friday’s fresh snow… :).

  72. Lord Sward says:

    Oh, come on, the fuel spillage issue was sorted out in the 1980s and was largely a ‘pilot error’ problem anyway.

    Multi-point injection became standard in 1996/97 on 100 Series. You could, of course, have had a MPI engine from 1991 in certain models…

  73. Peter Harris says:

    I had a Metro Mk2 from almost new – it was the Studio2 limited edition and it was great – huge, comfy seats and the genuine ability to cruise at 90mph. One of the best cars I have ever owned in its day…

  74. DeLorean's Accountant says:

    Peter Harris : I had a Metro Mk2 from almost new – it was the Studio2 limited edition and it was great – huge, comfy seats and the genuine ability to cruise at 90mph. One of the best cars I have ever owned in its day…

    No, it wasn’t great. It was a bad car with huge, comfy seats and a genuine ability to cruise at 90mph. How can anything that was fundamentally designed in the late 1970s have competed with cars designed 15+ years later?

    Andrew Elphick : It’s all cobblers – you can have 5 Star NCRAP, 37 airbags and a plastic Jesus on the dashboard, but if you sit 12″ off the steering wheel it’s never going to help! My wife wrote off a people carrier rated with just 2 Stars by Euro NCAP, but “Very Good” by the North American NHTSA, so who do you believe?

    That said, friends of ours with similary aged children recently bought a French 5 Star NCRAP winner but, when it needed tyres, they bought “the cheapest” because they are all the same… is your NCRAP still 5 Star if you need another 50 metres stopping distance?

    You’re missing the point entirely and are confusing “Active Safety” with “Passive Safety”. The former is the ability to avoid an accident in the first place (ABS, tyres etc), the latter is the ability to maximise the survivability/reduction in injury once a collsion has occured.

    NCAP doesn’t attempt to assess Active Safety just as a seat belt doesn’t stop you from driving with your eyes closed. Furthermore, NCAP doesn’t assess how the vehicle fairs in a collision. That’s partly given over to a Thatcham rating (they do assess many other areas of crash safety too).

    Just out of interest, how many people here are driving on winter tyres?

  75. Lord Sward says:

    I’m on winter tyres as are Andrew Elphick, Rhydian Edwards and Tim Colley, all of this parish. Likewise, you’ll find we’re all on premium-branded tyres throughout the year. Active safety and enhanced driving pleasure – anything else is a false economy.

  76. Paul Taylor Paul T says:

    The TF’s not on winter tyres – I don’t use it enough for casual driving in this weather to justify that. Anyway, after 30 years, I feel confident I have the ability to drive safely in winter with normal tyres with good tread.

    The Scottish Government are considering making them compulsory, which will be a nice little earner with big mark-ups for the manufacturers!

    Incidentally, did you see the story in the news a few weeks ago about insurance companies treating winter tyres as a mod and pushing up premiums? They’re not supposed to do that but, if most have, then it will put people off buying and fitting them.

  77. DeLorean's Accountant says:

    I’m on winters. I did here about the insurance companies. I haven’t told mine but have seen on the web that they don’t charge extra either.

    The point is that nearly every car here (in the UK) is available in Austria/Germany etc. and so will have recommended winter tyre and corresponding wheel “OEM spec”. Now, if like my car, you have OEM spec winter wheels and tyres, then the vehicle has not been modified. I’d cancel my policy if my insurance company were to charge,

    Anyway, back on topic, IMO the Rover 100 was far too long in the tooth when it was chopped and should have been replaced years before that.

  78. Wilko says:

    DeLorean’s Accountant : Anyway, back on topic, IMO the Rover 100 was far too long in the tooth when it was chopped and should have been replaced years before that.

    I don’t understand why age is necessarily an indicator of quality. All you keep saying is that the Metro/100 was too old. However, if something is a great design, then it can stand the test of time better, and stay in production longer, than something that isn’t. That’s why the Land Rover is still in production but many vehicles designed much more recently than it are not.

    I can understand someone choosing not to buy a Metro on its safety record or some other perceived failing – what I do not understand is criticising the car simply on the basis of the year it was designed.

  79. Ianto says:

    That’s all well and good but, when you consider the basic premise of the Saxo and 106, you begin to realise how flawed the thinking was. Straight forward engineering, decent space, reasonable price – enough said.

    The Metro may have rusted out of existence, but will always have a place in the collective memory of those who were driving in the 1980s to 1990s.

    Vive la Metro!

  80. Craig MGR says:

    Ianto :
    That’s all well and good but, when you consider the basic premise of the Saxo and 106, you begin to realise how flawed the thinking was. Straight forward engineering, decent space, reasonable price – enough said.

    The Metro may have rusted out of existence, but will always have a place in the collective memory of those who were driving in the 1980s to 1990s.

    Vive la Metro!

    Exactly right – both of them remained on sale until around 2002. The styling and packaging of the 100 wasn’t a million miles away from the two French cars. The rust issue should have been sorted out though.

  81. Andrew Elphick says:

    Here’s an unrelated fact: a 106 facia fits a Saxo and vice versa – not bad for a 1987 AX… The Ford Fiesta from 1989 – 2002 effectively used the same floorpan too. Ford and PSA knew the clever money was in the exterior sheet metal.

    Another thought: would a re-skinned R6 (Metro) have been a wiser spend than the 2-door R8 variants?

  82. Allegro says:

    I had one five years ago – I was crazy about Rovers for their neat style and those charismatic and powerful engines.
    Sadly, one day I had a crash because of a flat tyre but I survived.

    I reckon that the Metro/100 was behind the game and Rover should have ceased production back in 1994… A huge mistake and had to learn it the hard way. In 1995, you could buy a Polo, Fiesta, etc. – all proper superminis – with PAS or AC (options or not) whereas the 100 didn’t even have such features as options….

    Yes, the 200 was a viable solution and Rover got it right in 1999 with the introduction of the 25, but it was already a bit late…

    Rover had great cars and sold reasonably well, but (don’t get me wrong) it had one of the worst managements I’ve ever seen…

  83. DeLorean's Accountant says:

    Wilko :

    DeLorean’s Accountant : Anyway, back on topic, IMO the Rover 100 was far too long in the tooth when it was chopped and should have been replaced years before that.

    I don’t understand why age is necessarily an indicator of quality. All you keep saying is that the Metro/100 was too old. However, if something is a great design, then it can stand the test of time better, and stay in production longer, than something that isn’t. That’s why the Land Rover is still in production but many vehicles designed much more recently than it are not.

    I can understand someone choosing not to buy a Metro on its safety record or some other perceived failing – what I do not understand is criticising the car simply on the basis of the year it was designed.

    …but the year it was designed has a very strong influence over how good it is/was in crash. The understanding of how cars behave in a crash, the pursuit of trying to capture what is a representative crash and the ability to design, test, analyse and subsequently redesign a car to be better in crash have all taken huge steps forward in the last 20 years – partly due to consumer demand – and it’s this where the Metro is woefully short.

    IMO, the Metro was great when it was launched and for about 3 years after that but then the opposition caught up, overtook and headed off into the distance. A like-for-like Micra was a far better-engineered car.

  84. Martin, in Yorks says:

    MM :
    Another nail in the Metro’s coffin lid, the petrol spillage from a loose fuel filler cap onto the rear tyre, only happened after the fuel fill point was resited.

    The recall was for early cars and probably only 3-Door ones. Mine was a 1981 1.3S with the filler right down by the sill/wheelarch. The later cars (maybe just the 5-Door?) put the filler much higher up.

    Anyway, you had to be an idiot not to refit the original filler cap correctly and then drive in a constant tight radius circle until the fuel leaked onto the rear tyre – wasn’t it Which? that ‘brought this important safety issue to the attention of the British public?’ Enough said, no doubt they’d be extolling the virtues of some bland Japanese hatch with all the charisma of Attila the Hun.

    I have the original sticker provided with the new cap somewhere in a drawer. I never got round to fitting it to the inside of the fuel flap.

  85. Dennis says:

    The rusting rear wheel arches were introduced in 1980, long before the R6. The back end of the R6 was more or less identical to the original Austin Metro – remove the back bumper from the R6 and the Austin one will bolt straight on. The wheel arch rust problem was just as bad on the 1980s cars.

  86. Ianto says:

    @DeLorean’s Accountant
    The Micra Mk1 was a fantastic car and should have been used to inspire a proper Metro Mk2.

  87. Liam says:

    Do you have any of the advertising bumph for the late Ascot models which you could scan in?

  88. Ianto says:

    The Pet Shop Boys, The Clothes Show, the Mini Metro – awful times.

  89. Steve says:

    @MM
    Nissan Micras are awful!! Sluggish, noisy and rust prone (although admittedly not as rusty as R100s were). The 16v engines didn’t like to rev and had no torque to speak of, as well as being unimpressive to drive.

    However, at least the R100 had character, was a relaxing breeze to drive and had a flexible, refined engine!

  90. Steve says:

    Dennis :
    The rusting rear wheel arches were introduced in 1980, long before the R6. The back end of the R6 was more or less identical to the original Austin Metro – remove the back bumper from the R6 and the Austin one will bolt straight on. The wheel arch rust problem was just as bad on the 1980s cars.

    No, in my experience, that problem was not as bad on the 1980s cars.

    My mother’s 1983 1.3 HLE (bought new and undersealed yearly) rusted everywhere (and I mean everywhere) APART from the rear arches – they were still relatively sound when the car was scrapped early in 1993…

  91. David Price says:

    I’ve had two Rover 100s and I drove them like I’d ride a motorbike – that is to say I respect myself, my car and other road users and don’t blast along thinking I’m invincible, which I’m far more likely to do in my Jaguar 4.0 XJ Sport. My point is that having a big strong car promotes complacency, which can often be the most dangerous thing of all on the roads.

    I have to say that the Rover Metro/100 is a small car with a big character, more so than any of its rivals or indeed Rover replacements. It’s wonderfully easy to drive (when you’re used to the steering and seating position) and a total hoot to pilot around country lanes. Its exceptional narrowness, shortness and glass area make it about ten times easier to drive than any modern car, and its ride is great when you’ve regassed the suspension and reset the tracking. Coupled to a sweet motor, decent gearbox and very light weight, and it was/is lovely.

    The Rover Metro/100 should really be treated in the same way as a classic Beetle or 2CV – it wasn’t a rival to a modern Eurobox, it was a completely different thing.

  92. ben says:

    Surely the rover 100 could have been stiffened up and reskinned to become the rover 15.Think it does make sense AUSTIN METRO reskinned mini ROVER 15 reskinned metro.It could have been done I am sure even the 1980 austin mini metro would have been safer than the 1959 austin se7en so why would’nt the rover 15 have been safer than the metro/100.Oh yeah and the rover 15 would have to have been more rust resistant and have PAS standard on all models.

  93. Chris Baglin says:

    I’ve only driven the 100 once, but travelled in one several times (my mate had the coal-fired version- sorry, I meant diesel). My abiding memory of it was that whilst it was a huge improvement on the horribly agricultural Metro City that I learned to drive in which was about as pleasant as root canal surgury; it was cramped, tacky (awful plastics), and did not feel very safe. I prefer a long-legged driving position with my legs as straight as possible (dodgy knees), rather than being about an inch from a moulding at the bottom of the facia- which I felt would probably break my legs in the event of a crash.

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