Around the World : Rover Quintet

The first Honda to wear a Rover badge wasn’t the 213… but the Rover Quintet, an intriguing Far Eastern offering.

Paul Guinness tells us what he knows.


Rover Quintet: the first Ronda…

Rover Quintet

James Wittridge, who has kindly supplied us with some fascinating old advert and brochure images recently, managed to stop us in our tracks with this particular contribution. You see, we were already familiar with the Honda Quintet, the Accord-based five-door hatchback that went on sale in the UK back in 1981. That was at about the same time that the Honda Ballade-based Triumph Acclaim was being readied for launch, although the Quintet was only ever available as a Honda.

Or so we thought. In fact, as you’ll see from this brochure, there was also a version known as the Rover Quintet, although solely for Australian consumption and sold through Jaguar Rover Australia dealers in the early 1980s. This was badge-engineering at its most basic, with effectively no changes made to the 1602cc four-cylinder Honda Quintet to transform it into a Rover. Heck, there wasn’t even a Rover-style front grille grafted on for good measure. But that doesn’t make it any less fascinating.

We all assumed that the Rover 213 and 216 models of 1984 onwards were the first Rover-badged ex-Honda models to hit the market anywhere in the world. But we were wrong. That honour now goes to the Japanese-built Rover Quintet – and we’re particularly grateful to James for bringing it to our attention.

‘A superb car: plush and well appointed’

Rover Quintet
A Rover Quintet still in use, and very much loved by its owner, Paul Kenny

Paul Kenny from Victoria in Australia, owns this mint 1984 example. ‘We own this 1985 Rover Quintet (as well as an 827 Sterling and 827 Vitesse), and it’s a superb little car, very plush and well appointed for it’s time. It is pretty much identical to the Honda Quintet sold elsewhere and is very similar in many areas to the Triumph Acclaim and Honda Accord. Ours is in ‘as new’ condition with all original features such as air cond/power steering, tinted electric windows and wood laminates.

‘The little Rover is very well built, the doors shut with a satisfying thunk. There is a ‘solidity’ about it that is usually lacking in vehicles of this era. On the road, performance is lively with a 1602cc Honda in line four with a three-speed semi-automatic gearbox. Economy is fantastic. The car is bullet proof, it never lets us down in any way. A simple, delightful little gem. They are still relatively common on the roads here in Australia, the last one being built in 1986. At the time, JRA Limited (Jaguar Rover Australia) were offering the Quintet plus the V8 SE2 (SD1), the local version of the 416 (Honda Integra) and the mighty 800 series was imminent.

‘Sadly, JRA went ‘pop’ in 1993. No Rovers were available here again until the release of the Rover 75 in 2000, though curiously Rovers were available in New Zealand right through the 1990s. Now, of course, no Rovers can be had new anywhere! We reckon our Rovers will outlive us. We are delighted with them all. Reliable, stylish, comfortable and are very exclusive here in Oz.’

Rover Quintet (2) Rover Quintet (3) Rover Quintet (1)

Rover Quintet

Keith Adams

16 Comments

  1. Sorry, but that was a real low-point in badge engineering, and it wasn’t a great Honda either. Not the prettiest of cars even for its time and definitely not ‘stylish’. Completely forgettable. And there was no way that car could ever be properly ‘Roverised’.

  2. If I remember rightly, there was also a Rover version of the Honda Integra launched in the mid 1980s as the 400 Series, complete with a 416i Vitesse as the flagship version.

  3. Here in Western Australia, at least, the Rover Quintet is extremely rare. These were brought in by JRA to help give their dealers some volume (and fewer warranty claims!). They were sold from May 1983 into early 1986, when the much more stylish Integra-based Rover 416i came on stream, lasting into 1990. While the Quintet was sold in one well-equipped spec, the 416i came as an SE or a Vitesse.

    Anybody know how many of these “Rhondas” as we in Perth call them came to Australia?

  4. @Andrew Egginton:

    You might like to contact the Rover Owners Club in Australia as there is a member who used to work for JRA and has quite a bit of knolwedge on these cars. A number of years ago he did give me some figures to indicate approximately how many were sold in Australia, although as usual, they are lurking in any one of a number of potential files.

    I do, however, have a magazine advert for the 416i Vitesse.

  5. The 416 was sold in Australia only as a 5 door model. (without the rear spoiler) Honda sold the Integra as a 3 door model only. Interestingly the Quintet at least had Rover logos on the engine covers whereas the 416 still had Honda logos on the engine cover. The Rover salesman at the Brisbane motor show took pains to point this out to my parents at the time in order to demonstrate that the car was a product of superior Japanese engineering and had no British input whatsoever!

  6. Interesting…the idea of Jags and Rover being sold alongside each other is a good one. Rover really could of done with that sort of image boost over here (before BL was broken up of course).
    Does anyone know where the Rhonda Quintet was made?

  7. FYI- All Rover Quintets were made in Japan, shipped to JRA ‘s plant in Sydney and ‘converted’ to Rover spec. They may not be everyones cup of tea, but I would have a fleet of the things. I defy anyone to show me a comparable small ‘mainstream’ car from the early-mid eighties with that much equipment and standard of build.

  8. Some in Australia may remember on TV – “The Price is Right” with Ian Turpie in the eighties- The major showcase prize for several years was a Rover Quintet. At the time, a full size Holden Commodore with comparable toys was around 8,000 AU. A Quintet was nearly $14,000 ! (I still have our original sales reciept from the JRA Dealership) As a matter of interest, when the 800 series was released in Oz both the Sterling & Vitesse were more expensive than a Jag XJ6. Rovers were regarded as a very exclusive cars here (Still are really, even for the rarity value)

  9. I remember the Rover “Quintet” being mentioned in Motor/Autocar mag. I still think it would have been a good addition to BL’s line up in the early 80s, particularly running against the Escort/Astra hatchs.

    I do admit that the Quint didn’t get the market success that the Accord enjoyed.

  10. 416 probably the only Rover with popup lights?

    And last such product of the empire since the TR7?
    (Excluding MG EXE concept and XJ220 which was under Ford ownership by then)

  11. Vivo en Colombia Sud América, en el año 1982 se importaron varios modelos de vehículos Honda desde Japon entre ellos el modelo Quintet. En ese entonces compramos un Prelude que se vendió varios años despumes que era hermoso, un accord automático excelente que se vendió hace dos años y un Quintet que conservo en excelentes condiciones. Es un coche muy fiable y muy bien equipado. La linea es hermosa, prueba de ello es que llama mucho la atención y constantemente me preguntan el origen y año de mi vehículo. En síntesis un gran carro que no tuvo mucho existo en su tiempo tal vez porque estaba fuera de época y adelantado a su tiempo.

  12. A Trimuph Quintet would have made interesting offer into the private market (with the Montego focused on fleet- and a little later) in 1981 alongside the Acclaim in the UK.

  13. Extraordinarily lazy to not even give the Rover badged Honda Quintet a new, more Roverish name! The Rover 1600 say…

  14. I saw the first Honda Quintet when launched at the Birmingham Motor show in 1980… rather liked it and regarded it as a 5 door Accord as it used the same drivetrain. Never saw many on UK roads though, perhaps it was priced too high against the competition?

    In those days my brother had a 1979 Accord which was a nicely finished car.

  15. 2 stories from the JRA inside – The cost make up of JRA included a warranty figure – Rover Quintet – $9/car – Rover SD1 – $1000 – Jaguar – $1600 – Range Rover – $2000. – I know I was the pricing analyst at the time. When Honda first starting the production of the Quintet , they sent a very apologetic telex because they had promised us the first production run on a certain date in the morning shift and they were actually not started until the afternoon shift! This was when we didnt know what the spec, colour and model of the vehicles we would receive from BL until we inspected the ship in Sydney.

    Btw the only JRA input on these cars was the front and rear badges – we called it Araldite engineering.

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