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Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Kevin Davis

CityRover: cheap, not cheerful

This is my first acquaintance with a CityRover and I bagged this 1.4 Sprite at the local car auction recently. I won it for a very princely sum with 11 months MoT and 5 months tax left to run on it and 81,000 miles but with no history and no handbook.  

I settled the bill and was handed the ‘key’ to which was attached a flimsy looking box – that appeared to have been made from a recycled video case but turned out to be the remote fob. Bloody hell! Did Rover really think this was acceptable? Fortunately, the remote fob successfully unlocked the car and I was able to get in and start it.  

The high driving position was welcome on the rainy night as I eased the car out of the car park and onto the main road, but the lack of air conditioning meant the windows misted up all too readily and even putting the blower on full blast wouldn’t clear it. Still, the power steering and smooth clutch helped progress, but the gearchange was notchy and sloppy and, as they say in the trade, they’re all like that, sir! However, performance has turned out to be very good, the engine revs freely and it’s smooth, quiet and squeak free, so it’s not in any way an unpleasant car to drive.  

Despite there being no history, someone did write on the cambelt pulley cover that the belt had been changed at 68,000 miles, so that’s reassuring. The oil and water are clean too, so it looks like as though the car has been reasonably well-maintained. Why don’t people keep their vehicle paperwork together?  

This car is seven years old now so how as it fared after Rover’s promise to the consumer that the quality was there? Well, the gear lever gate diagram has worn away, the seats are a bit creased (but not tatty) and the steering wheel rim is a bit scabby, but it’s not distracting. However, there is no way that this is a quality product. I have to say that the grey plastic parcel shelf looks bloody awful!  

I suppose that, if you intend to use this for the school run or as a shopping trolley, then it ticks all the boxes. The CityRover’s real selling point is the amount of space inside – it’s very airy, almost stark (would Issigonis have approved?) and, as a piece of packaging, it’s excellent. Some may see the lack of a passenger airbag and ABS as issues but, come on, do you really need them?  

Prices for CityRovers are all over the place at the moment, but I will advertise this one for a realistic price and see what happens. Anyway, in this current climate, who can afford to be image conscious when a 2004 car can be bought this cheap? 

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up 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 Classics 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 unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

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18 Comments

  1. I have this CityRover up for £1500, but there are better ones than this around for less. £750 will see you in one at auction…

    Oh, and since I bought it, I have had to replace the thermostat, coolant temp sensor, have the front bumper tidied up with paint and replace the steering wheel.

  2. Now that’s what I call class. I know that it has been said a thousand and one times before but if only they’d priced them right and allowed the boys in Flightshed a week to sort the details…

    I’ve been trying to buy one myself for ages now, but the prices are steadily and consistantly on the increase. Bollywood’s answer to the Metro!

  3. They were and are a pretty little car but, as the article says, they just didn’t have the quality.

    Imagine owning an R8 200/400 with all the gadgets and the wood, maybe you are getting older and want a smaller car and the only Rover that fits the bill is the CityRover – talk about disappointment…

    All the CityRover really needed was a quick whizz round with the wood veneer, some gentle adjustment of panel fits and a sensible price. MGR might not have survived as a result of it, but there would have been a whole lot more left to fight for…

  4. A mate of mine runs one – it’s not the most reliable of cars and servicing isn’t cheap. He tried part-exchanging it recently and was offered next to nothing for it. He has owned it since brand new – talk about taking a severe wallet hit…

    I’ve seen MoT’d and taxed ones on eBay starting at £500. Scairy…

  5. I know that the CityRover wasn’t one of the “finest moments” in the life of MGR but, when the car is in its native environment, it’s absolutely fine!

    I’ve seen them with over 160,000km on the clock and they’re still running okay. They operate in scorching temperatures and huge amounts of rain and the only time you seem to see them at the side of the road is after they’ve hit something or been hit by something. The ones in workshops all seem to come out running again for very little cost etc.

    In India, it’s a brilliant little car and they keep on going. In the UK, it was a total disaster!

  6. Hang on, Vauxhall gave us a badge-engineered horror based on the Suzuki Wagon R called the Agila. My dad saw a new one for the first time, called it a wardrobe and said “we’ll stick with the Omega, thanks!”

    Vauxhall nevertheless managed to sell them faults and all – no jokes or bad press were made of its origins. The Agila was a rival to the Ford Ka and sat below the 1 litre, 3 cylinder Corsa – that engine was nasty in sound and in the driving department.

    Anyway, thinking back to when the then new CityRover first reached Rover showrooms, somehow it did not look like a car from India or the Far East but more like a type of Fiat model sold only in Europe but not in the UK.

    I did think of trading the Vectra for one to downsize but missed the chance. It’s a pity that Rover did not give the CityRover/Indica V2’s IDEA packaging more credit when selling the car.

  7. The CityRover is not a bad looking car – in fact, it’s quite bonny in the right colour with alloys (IMO).

    However, what ruined the car was the general quality and look of the interior – utterly disgusting fabrics and, overall, a nasty feel.

    Oh, and whoever thought alloy-effect bolt-on pedal covers looked good in a small Rover ought to be taken outside and horsewhipped in the market square!

  8. Okay, so let’s get this straight(ish): no documentation, “someone did write on the cambelt pulley cover that the belt had been changed at 68,000 miles, so that’s reassuring [!!!]. The oil and water are clean too…”

    Yeah, right. I bet it had blackener on the tyre walls, an’ all…

    Aahh, the British motor trade at its finest…

  9. I’d have to disagree about the CityRover’s quality – it’s where it matters that it’s important. Obviously, from you own comments, this car has it. No squeaks or rattles and it still drives well. Oh, and as for the gear knob and wheel, cheap yes, but also dead easy and cheap to change.

    The ‘quality’ has been sunk into where it really matters: the body and powertrain. That’s what really matters when a car crashes or you happen to live in a country with awful roads and cities which require more than 500 miles driving to get to. I doubt an Astra would fair much better – in fact, it would be full of squeaks and rattles. However, the gear knob and the steering wheel might be nice…

  10. A dealer near me is asking £1595 for a T-Reg Fiesta – I therefore reckon that the CityRover is a steal for the same money.

    Kev.

  11. Okay, if you bought a Style, you’d get the twin airbags, aircon and four electric windows.

    My wife bought one brand new (for £9k) and it has been quite reliable – still on the same battery, no less!

    Partswise… Citroen and Peugeot ignition parts and oil filters are so cheap and there are lots of parts on eBay etc. Rear wipers pack in frequently but can be repaired using Austin Rover sunroof motors.

  12. Even now there is price discrepancy! Looking on autotrader, prices range from 495 to 2695. £2650 for an 8 year old small car is outrageous. I just bought a 5 year old Vectra for less then 3 grand. It may not be perfect but is much better value for money.

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