CityRover press release

The CityRover marks a brave re-entry for Rover into the lower half of the Supermini sector. Priced at an anticipated £6,500, it will face stiff opposition from the likes of the Daewoo Matiz and Daihatsu Charade. MG Rover should have some room for flexibility when it comes to pricing, should there be a price war in the sector.

Based upon the TATA Indica, the CityRover has the advantage of Italian style, and a proven reliability and quality record (after initial some initial stutters). Should it prove successful (and Rover dealers believe it will be), then it may mark the beginning of further, exciting joint ventures with the Indians. Time will tell if it becomes the latter-day Triumph Acclaim or not.

In lieu of my own development story, this is Rover’s initial press release for the car:


With the forthcoming launch of the new CityRover model range, Rover gains an important expansion of its market coverage. CityRover is an attractive modern ‘city sector’ small car that provides the most competitive value-for-money blend of space, performance and specification available in the £6,500-£8,500 price band. Although compact and easy to drive and park, it has a roomy and user-friendly ‘tall’ package in a semi-MPV style, with easy access for all ages, from babies in carrycots to mature citizens.

At launch, all CityRover models have a 1.4 litre OHC 85Ps petrol engine and five doors, which compares favourably with the many price rivals that offer smaller engines and only three doors. The new model will be sold through all MG Rover dealers and benefits from the regular three year/60,000 mile warranty and 6 year anti-perforation cover.

Rover’s designers and engineers have given CityRover a distinctive modern Rover appearance inside and out. CityRover uses the new-style Rover Viking Ship badge.

Following careful analysis of the key customer profiles in this market area, a range of four derivatives (‘Solo’, ‘Sprite’, ‘Select’ and ‘Style’) has been developed, with the two mid-range choices respectively emphasising sporting style or luxury. CityRover provides a strong entry-level underpinning to the Longbridge built Rover 25, 45 and 75 model ranges and will significantly strengthen the business activities of Rover and its dealer network.

CityRover – its sector and customers

The ‘city car’ sector of the overall European small car market accounted for 1.1 million sales in 2002. There is a considerable variety of styles and sizes within this group, which includes cars such as the Peugeot 106/Citroen Saxo twins, Ford Ka, Vauxhall/Opel Agila, VW Lupo and the Fiat Seicento.

CityRover’s value-for-money pricing structure will position it against some 90% of the products available in this entry-level sector. In addition, because of its generous space and power, it will be an attractive alternative to small cars in the next category, such as the Renault Clio, Toyota Yaris and Fiat Punto. Since there is minimal overlap with Rover 25 pricing, and a substantial difference in size (nearly 300 mm shorter), the CityRover complements the 25 and emphasises its positioning in the upper quartile of the small car sector.

Analysis of the city car market shows that there are a number of target customer groups who require a budget size car and/or cost, from first time motorists to multi-car families. There are considerable differences in the buyer profiles for existing products in this sector, but a key pointer for the overall class is that a majority of main drivers are female, and there is a fairly even distribution of age bands. Approximately half of the cars in this sector are purchased as second cars in a household and buyers tend to be open-minded with around 60% of purchasers having no loyalty to specific brands.

Generous Space and Specification

The key to CityRover’s class leading interior space is its long 2400 mm wheelbase and tall build. Getting in and out is easy, with doors opening to 90° and high mounted seating, which also gives a commanding driving position. The rear seats are slightly higher than the front ones to optimise the rear passenger viewpoints; they also feature the classic 60/40 split with jack-knife folding giving a flat load floor and flexible load carrying configurations between 220 litres and 610 litres. Rover-specified interior trim uses a variety of high grade woven or knitted fabrics according to model, and there is a full-leather option for the top ‘Style’ model.

The lowest-priced ‘Solo’ model is well equipped, with standard features such as driver’s airbag, front seat belt pre-tensioners, radio/cassette with four speakers, clock, lockable glovebox, variable intermittent wipe, rear wash/wipe, tinted glass with shadeband, cigar lighter, load space lamp, courtesy lamp delay, 4-speed heater/ventilation fan with recirculation setting, alloy gearknob, remote releases for tailgate and fuel filler, and many others.

Sporting features of the ‘Sprite’ model include alloy wheels, leather sports style steering wheel and gearknob, front fog lamps and a rear spoiler. Luxury features on the ‘Select’ model include front and rear electric windows plus air conditioning as standard. Both ‘Sprite’ and ‘Select’ have power steering, remote central locking, a tachometer and a CD/Tuner. All these features are standard on the top model, the ‘Style’, which also benefits from anti-lock braking and a passenger airbag._Paint choices include two solid colours and eight optional metallic shades.


At launch, all CityRover models will be powered by a 1405cc petrol engine, with an alloy cylinder head, single overhead camshaft and multi-point fuel injection. It develops 85Ps at 5500rpm, and a solid 115Nm of torque at 3000rpm. There is a five-speed manual transmission. Rover engineers have tuned the chassis, which has all-independent coil sprung suspension (McPherson strut front, semi-trailing arms at the rear), specifying larger 14 inch by 5J wheels and 175/60R 14 tyres, a lower ride height and revised damper and spring rates to give a good ride and handling balance. Steering is by rack and pinion, with power assistance standard on Sprite, Select and Style models, optional on Solo versions. Powerful servo-assisted braking is via 231mm diameter ventilated front discs and 200mm diameter rear drums.

Keith Adams
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  1. Just to expand on my previous comment, should this have been marketed as a Metro re-launch? (obviously as production of the Metro ceased a few years before the City Rover was put into production). The Re-launched Mini (Cooper S and Clubman), VW Beetle, Fiat Panda and 500 have all done very well.

  2. It should have been marketed as a £5000 budget supermini and not put in the £6500 – £9000 bracket competing directly with better and newer superminis. It typified the appalling marketing of the MGRover era (and indeed of all the predecessor companies). They thought they could fool people into buying the car by giving it a few ‘slick’ trims and bunging a union flag on it. In that price bracket it was hopelessly outgunned. Had they sold it at £4995 for example, they’d have made millions because it wasn’t a bad little car at all and people would have judged it rightly as a budget supermini. I drove a few CityRovers after MGRover went under and I thought they were OK for what they were. Motorpoint, I think, bought up the stock and sold them all at something like £4000 each and did well with them. I still see quite a few CityRovers about the place.

    Kia made an absolute killing with the Picanto (£4995) at about that time, selling 50,000 a year. Fiat launched the brand new Panda in 04 starting at something like £5500 if my memory serves me right.

    The CityRover’s main purpose in life was to squirt cash onto MGRover’s balance sheet. By the time it came to market (why it took so long God only knows) it was too expensive and too late. It’s development and launch proved that MGRover management were hopelessly out of their depth or just hopeless.

  3. One thing is for sure – this car should never had worn the Rover badge as it really did help put the final nail in its coffin.

    Instead it should have been badged under another name such as Austin or been given a new brand identity altogether such as, well… Spiritual. How about the Spiritual, by Austin?

  4. I wonder if it time for me to write a roadtest on the CityRover, having just been loaned one for 24 hours while my regular car was awaiting its new exhaust to pass its MOT?

    You might be surprised with what I thought…

  5. They’re great. I literally sold them by the transporter full.

    Here’s my article on what was [url=]THE FUTURE[/url]

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