Essay : MG Rover in 2011
Although MG Rover’s market share was contracting rapidly by the time of the company’s death in 2005, it’s fair to say that there was still a loyal band of buyers ready to part with their cash…
But with MG Rover now long gone, what are the British made cars that would fit the bill for today’s flag-waving buyers from today’s busy marketplace?
Then and now
Many Rover and MG customers will tell you that patriotism wasn’t the prime motivator in their purchasing choices. But it must have been one factor – alongside model specification and trim, overall styling, and dealer location and friendliness. But as the original MGs and Rovers are now well and truly into their middle-age, and many of those people who bought new examples are in the market for a replacement.
It’s interesting to see that there’s still a good number of British-made alternatives – as long as you don’t look at the obvious manufacturers. The small and medium sector is full of British-built tin although not all of it could be considered a replacement for anything in the old MG Rover car park. One only needs to see the brilliant Nissan Qashqai and Marmite Joke to see what we’re getting at.
The biggest loss here seems to be the death of the Jaguar X-TYPE, which for many ex-Rover 75 owners, seemed to be the ideal and obvious replacement. Now it’s gone, the waters are muddied somewhat… Jaguar really does need an X-TYPE replacement, and if the marque won’t stretch downmarket that far comfortably, may we suggest dusting off the Rover marque? Just a thought.
2005 – Rover 25/MG ZR | 2011 – MINI
In 2005, the Rover 25 was a bit on the tired side. But despite its 10 year old styling, the 25 and its more sporting ZR cousin still had a lot going for them. They were inexpensive, roomy, and cheap to buy. And in MG ZR guise at least, had oodles of kerbside appeal. In 2011, the British built alternatives are a little bit thin on the ground.
In fact, there aren’t any direct replacements – and with UK production of the MG3 still very much in discussion, we still don’t know if there will be. The MINI range is the nearest thing to a new MG ZR, and fails to tick the box on the matter of price and interior room. But makes up a little for being a bit on the cool side.
It’s a step up from the 25 and ZR, and yet in many ways the MINI is not the car to fill the older car’s boots. Let’s see how the MG3 pans out – although we suspect that might be more of a CityRover replacement.
2005 – Rover 45/MG ZS | 2011 – Vauxhall Astra
For the middle market, you’d think that the obvious choice would be the MG6, but as it’s larger and less overtly sporty than the ZS, we’ll leave that one out. Besides, it doesn’t look like any ZS owner has traded their car for a new 6 – but please tell us if you have. The Swindon-built Honda Civic also has distant links, but somehow the Starship Enterprise interior and Joe 90 styling don’t really push the same buttons as the sedate and pedestrian 45…
So, we’re going to plump for the Ellesmere Port-built Vauxhall Astra. It might not be the most exciting looking car, and doesn’t really appeal to aspirational buyers, but under the plain Jane suit lurks a rather good vehicle. Its dynamics are spot on, and the interior is roomy – and if you buy one, you can be happy in the knowledge that your Astra was built in the UK, and helping keep a nominally British company (with plenty of British heritage) stay in business.
Trading your 45 or ZS for an Astra will certainly feel like an upgrade, but would your Griffin-badged car feel special enough? Or cosset enough?
2005 – Rover 75/MG ZT | 2011 – Toyota Avensis
The introduction makes it clear – the Jaguar X-TYPE would have been a perfect replacement for a Rover 75, but as it’s so longer in production, and as the XF starts at £30,000, we’ll have to look further afield. And as for British-built mid-liners, that leads us to the Burnaston-built Toyota Avensis. It might not be the most obvious choice for a discerning private buyer, and there’s not much Britishness to be had, but the Avensis – like your Rover 75 is a great ground-coverer and boasts impeccable build quality.
It’s also well-built and has a roomy interior… but may lack that indefinable ‘something’ that marked out the Rover as something a little bit special – and for many, still does.
Hmm… Rovers and MGs really were a little bit individual. And if many of these cars are now looked down upon by the great unwashed, but they kept their owners and admirers happy. And for many, there’s still a big hole in their garage created in April 2005 with the death of MG Rover. To get something really satisfying that fills the hole, you might have to look abroad – a subject for another essay in the future.
If you’re an ex-MG Rover customer, where have you taken your custom since?