Blog : The Rover 100 still rules the roost

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Ben Adams

Ben's nan's Rover 100

The Rover Metro/100-the best (spare) car in the real world?

I write this after completing a 200 mile journey from West Sussex back up to my home in Staffordshire. Its 10.35 at night yet I am not tired nor am I suffering from any backache whatsoever. For the past three weeks and 1200 miles, I’ve been driving, almost exclusively a 1996 Rover 100 Knightsbridge SE and I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute behind the wheel.

The 100 is my Nan s car, bought new on 1 August 1996, and has remained in family custodianship ever since. Sadly she had to give up driving at 77 in 2005 and since then the car has become a spare or second car but every time the car has been called upon its been a trouper. Even before Nan packed in driving I can remember it being lent out to my Mum; Dad and I had dashed off to Birmingham as my other Nan had been rushed into hospital and this left my Mum and my sister stranded (the days when we only had 1 car!), Nan very kindly lent Mum the keys to  MVT, although not before a thorough demonstration of all the car s features no doubt!

This car has been all over the UK and even to France for the Reims Champagne Tour in 2007 and in the last 16 years has only  failed to proceed  twice; once a weird electrical fault that was simply cured by checking every single electrical component on the car; and the HG finally went at 48k/14.5 years old although it still drove to the garage to be repaired!

Yes it has some surface rust on the arches but underneath its sound and the Hydragas could do with a pump up (easier said than done). My nan’s Rover 100 has some years left in her, and when polished up recently , by none other than AROnline’s master polisher Andrew Elphick, it still looks stunning in the lovely shade of Nightfire Red!

Okay, there are one or two little  compromises  you have to make with Rover 100 ownership; there is no PAS and very few had electric windows as standard but most of them (post 1993) did have remote central locking with an alarm and all 100 models had an immobiliser. Rear legroom is not generous (although probably better than a BINI) and whilst on paper the boot looks small it s a good shape and will take shopping or a suitcase for a weeks holiday.

Yes there is the NCAP result to ponder on but remember this, who actually has an accident just like the NCAP test, like any small car made in the 1980s it isn’t going to do as well as a 2012 Clio but they aren’t a complete death trap the 100 got an airbag and they all have side impact bars fitted and those high door sills help too and remember, unlike a modern car you can see out of it very well indeed so one hopes you will see the potential danger and avoid it!

They are all in the small engine tax bracket which is currently £135 a year, and you should be able to get 40 mpg from the petrol model without trying too hard, on a long run I managed to get 45 mpg and still do 65-70mph. The Peugeot derived diesel (1.4 in the Metro, 1.5 in the 100) can return over 60mpg.

So in summing up I wish to commend to this house the Rover Metro/100 as the ideal spare car for when you are between Bangernomic options or simply want to enjoy a car that s directly connected (or should that be suspended!) to the road, no PAS, no ABS, no TC etc, etc…

As for  MVT  well she s got 1 or 2 more weeks in daily duty mode before I go back to collect my latest Bangernomics car, a 2003 Omega 2.2 CD saloon. Yes it s a manual and only  has four-cylinders but as my first non ‘firm’ car (and my first RWD) I am going to try it to see if I like it. But I m going to enjoy finding out!

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

37 Comments

  1. I used to own a little Metro 1.1S in white as my first car. To this day probably the best car I’ve owned… even with little or no street cred.
    Interestingly a friend at the time brought up the NCAP results, comparing them to a Fiesta but not realising that his A reg ’83 Fiesta was certain to be far worse than my 10 years newer Metro.
    I’m going the Bangernomics route now as well, hand built, leather trimmed 5 cylinder coupe, a Volvo C70 2.4 for £460.
    In the 5 or 6 months of ownership I’ve probably spent another £150 on oil/filters, replacing a brake line, fixing some electrics and replacing the thermostat. All in all a good buy but definitely not as reliable as the Metro, only fault that car had was a cross threaded sump plug when I bought it.

  2. They are real ‘Marmite cars’ – you love’em, or otherwise.

    I learned to drive in a 1986 Metro City, never really liked the car and preferred it when the instructor got a Mk2 Fiesta. And a friend of mine lent me her 100 when my car was off the road- I didn’t feel safe or comfortable driving it. I just prefer Fiestas of any vintage, including a Mk1 I once had for £80 as a stop-gap- that car had the most comfortable seats I’ve ever had in any car!

    They can be remarkably durable if you get a good one- as yours seems to be. Good luck with yours, I hope it gives you many more happy years.

  3. If you live anywhere near Spalding, or wish to make the journey,I will gladly put some juice in the suspension, FOC, I have the proper pump.

    Look after it well and make sure you keep those rear wheel arches washed out to avoid the often terminal heel plate rot, and grease those radius arms every few months.

    BTW you can fit a Belle concrete mixer in one of these but it won’t fit in a 407 estate. Go figure.

  4. Thanks for the feedback everyone!

    @3 I may take you up on that, The last 3 firms I contacted haven’t got back to me yet!

    I owned a couple of R6 Metros before this and really do feel happy behind the wheel of one, I’m not the slimmest of people yet its a good driving position.

    I’ve never had a cement mixer in the back of one of these but fold those seats down (proper folding here too) and there space is immense.

    A big thank you to Keith as well for reformatting the blog into something readable, greatly appreciated!

  5. I was the proud driver of a great LHD Rover 114SL and a couple of years later of a fantastic 114GTi. I’ve got a huge amount of great memories with these two well design and built little cars. I really loved the GTi, quick, stable and ultra reliable (more than 150K miles with just an alternator fault before buying another classic: the sparkling Rover 25 Vi). I missed them!

  6. “…unlike a modern car you can see out of it very well indeed so one hopes you will see the potential danger and avoid it!”

    I have had this thought several times whilst driving my ZR, bought 2 months ago. The large windows make urban lane changing, in particular, a breeze. Try this in many modern 3 door hatchbacks with tiny rear side windows!

    Seriously though, from a visibility point of view, the safety of modern cars is poor indeed.

  7. In November 1996, I had a 100 as a rental, a 5 door like in the picture (but in blue) It 45 MPUKG (37 MPUSG) drove fine on B roads to the M1 at usual traffic speeds. The ride was much better than the Corsa I drove in Ireland just over a year earlier.

  8. I know that situation well Pearly!

    I once found that a Gardner 6LXB block and crankcase and block will comfortably go into a Peugeot 505 STDT estate and still have room for a hamper!

  9. I am still driving with the same pleasure my Rover 114 GSI Elegance. Bought new in 92 to replace a MG Metro, the little Rover 114 Elegance has been reliable at almost 100%, just a faulty alternator. Now some rust spots here and ther.

  10. People scoff because of the NCAP result, but it’s contemporary E36 (and to be fair, Xantia) weren’t much better with 1.5 stars. But that conveniently gets swept under the carpet by the motoring press who are in cahoots with the german manufacturers.
    I often wonder how safe these SUV tanks are in town, how they can see other cars (MX5s, Elises)/cyclists with their huge pillars and high ride height.

  11. Looking forwards to hearing about and seeing the Omega. But may I ask, how come this (very nice) Rover 100 has Metro wheel trims?

  12. I learn to drive in a 1981 Metro 1.0L Spec car. I enjoined every minute I own that little car. One year, it took 3 adults with cases & food for a week on the Norfolk Broads and still pulling about 40 mpg then.

    The only thing that let it down was body rot, once it started that was it, but it was a hoot to drive.

  13. @ Frankie 14

    I fitted those from an old GTA that I scrapped I think they give the car a more sport-esque look. The originals are in the house.

  14. @ Ben Adams. I’ve always thought those style of wheel trims look very late 80’s early 90’s Ford. It’s not a criticism, just an observation 🙂

  15. If only ARonline really did do a feature on the Rover 100! The REAL Rover 100 that is, because that thing is just an Austin Metro!

  16. Great little cars…I had a Kensington new, an Ascot new, used cabriolet and a Kensington SE for a runaround a little while ago.

    They appeal to me because they are a car capable of everyday use in 2012, but with strong BL DNA

    Future classic of course, buy now and hoard for 20 years!!

  17. My dad ordered a metro 1.3 HLS just after they were lauched – top of the range at that time and what a comortable car it was and quite pokey too. He kept it until he gave up driving and only had one major problem when the output shaft in the gearbox broke in two. Rust eventually killed it, like most Metro’s.

  18. Oh, how I love the Rover 100…

    I chose an early 1995 1.1i Kensington 3dr in Knightfire Red (my favourite Rover colour) for my brother to drive. Alas, his feet for too big for the pedal box and then I used it as a back up car, fell in love and kept the thing for 5 years as a spare. The poor thing was often neglected and the battery was always flat when I went to use little ‘Kenny’. A quick jump and he was away.

    No matter that he failed every MOT on rust, I’d always fix him just in case I needed him (or a fun blast on the fantastic back roads of Fife). Then I did the terrible thing and gave it to my cousin who was mourning the loss of a 1995 Polo… She deliberatly killed it as it wasn’t as cool…

    Twas the year I scrapped the BX too… Was a very bad year…

    Now, everytime I see one of these little cheeky cars, I always smile. They just look so happy…

    I’ll get me coat…

  19. My Grandad had an X-reg 1.0 HLE from new which was surprisingly nippy if a little noisy due to the lack of a fifth gear.

    Had a 114GSi as a courtesy car once. Went like stink although felt a little light at the front at the limit!

    Speaking of NCAP ratings, the Rover 600 only got half a star more and it was introduced thirteen years later.

  20. I’ve just found out that a friend of my stepmothers has a 1983 Austin Metro hidden away in her garage. Bought new on the staff scheme (they now work in Oxford) it gets an outing once a year. I will endeavour to find out more!

  21. The only crime the Rover 100 committed was not having a comprehensive enough re-skin. Had the Rover Metro oily bits been re-launched clothed in the AR6’s bodywork, it could have been a very competitive super-mini well into the noughties. Sadly, as was so often the case, ARG failed to see this, and persisted in trying to be a British BMW, which was doomed from the off. Considering the strong heritage ARG had in small cars – rivalled only by FIAT – to end production in this way was a great shame, especially when the car, old-hat body aside, was pretty good.

  22. Are those Metro GTa wheel trims on there Ben?

    Either way, nice write up. Our old Metro was brilliant. Took us on several three hour plus drives around the country when we were searching for the Jag and we were always comfortable and not too tired on arrival. Much better than Kate’s current SportKa for that, despite the age difference.

  23. Certainly are Richard well spotted.

    Of course your Metro was brilliant, I sold it to you!!

    Its just a shame that the criminal element in Dudley took such a shine to yours.

  24. I recently got an entire Rover P5B roof (it had a Webasto sunroof in it) from an ex-ambassadors car in to my Grand Espace – and I didn’t need to take any of the seats out 🙂

  25. My girlfriend swears by here one. She loves its basicness compared to modern small cars. She recently tried the latest Yaris, and although it was supposedly more modern the only thing she thought was better was the brakes!

  26. Make sure you don’t pump the suspension up too high,They handle like a go cart at 320 mm trim height.I always felt the ‘honda’/air bag steering column of the 100 made the driving position worse but the mems 1.9 multypoint injection is the one to go for.Best avoid single point injection,you might have to buy a new ecu when it goes wrong.

  27. Hi, anyone that has a Metro/ Rover 100;

    Join Metropower forums, great bunch or guys, really helpful, parts and chat. People that have pumps etc…

    http://www.metropower.org.uk

    I have a 5dr Rover 100 as first car, it’s a little modded to my taste and I love it. Dad has a mint 40k MG Metro.

  28. I ran a 1.4Li CVT for six years until its seventh birthday. Lovely, lively little car and a superb ride. Replaced it with a 25 CVT which I fell in love with and wish I still had

  29. The little rover 100 is a brilliant car if you have them rustproofed, i have owned 6 over the yrs but always waxoyled the rear arches then no trouble with rust at all.
    I still own a 5 door ascot se with 20000 miles on it and i
    dont know how i would manage without it, the best 2nd car you can own for sure, only wish i could buy a brand new one
    I have never had a mot failure on any 100 i have owned and they was always reliable just like a faithfull labrador.
    Anyone who has one tho with std tyres on 155×13 should swap the tyres for the 175×13 they look and handle so much better.

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