News : May 2004

Pictures of the 2004 MG ZR appear on the ‘net early…

2004 MG ZR, looking mean and moody: will it sell as well as its predecessor?

The truth can now be told: the pictures below appeared on the internet on the 14th May 2004 out of the blue. They were indeed the genuine article, and the reason they made it into the real world days before they should were simple. MGR and Haymarket publishing produced an advertorial supplement to WHAT CAR? magazine, July 2004, which celebrated the 80th anniversary of MG and the 100th of Rover. The Plan was for the supplement to hit the shelves on the 18th May, but thanks to subscriber editions being shipped before retail issues, the celebratory supplement got into readers’ hands a few days early…

MG Rover have been adept at getting pictures of their cars unintentially into the press earlier than expected: pictures of Rover’s 75 was published in several daily papers days before its official launch, and the same seems to have happened again.

Still, that was an understandable error; publishers like to get subscribers’ issues out early. But what compunded it was that when these pictures appeared on enthusiast forums, MG-Rover asked said forums to pull the pictures. Was this the right thing to do? Of course not. The internet has this habit of perpetrating information faster than the speed of light, and once something gets on to it, its spread cannot be stopped. In the opinion of, it merely added to the (admittedly short) list of faux pas committed by the press office or publicity departments.

Still, the story isn’t all bad, because the new cars look great, and their combined shelf lives have been extended extremely usefully. Full pictures of the 45 and MG ZR can be seen in their own galleries.

Those embarrassingly early pictures…

Rear view is neat and smooth – very much like that of the 45/ZS

Front details are neat and more modern, and although the rear light clusters appear to be unchanged, they look good in tandem with the reprofiled rear bumper.

Dashboard looks nice for the round air vents…

45 and ZS ranges premiered…


Much better than anyone anticipated given the lack of changes made to the sheet metal.

Hoorah! The column stalks remain functional like the old ones, but at least they aren't made from shiny bakelite anymoreTHE ZS is a car that sells badly in spite of itself: not only is it a fabulous driver’s car in V6 form, but it is still a practical proposition, and in four-door form, passes off itself as a “baby ZT” quite nicely. In the interests of making it look more aggressive, some unsubtle styling tweaks have been added to the car, but it has to be said that in the picture below, it looks good.

The styling is a step forward; lets hope that the driving dynamics improve from the already excellent standard of the original. With these improvements, it could move back to near the top of the class again…

The ZS 180 shows the extent of the facelift: new bumper mouldings, and a reprofiled boot lid…

Interior makeover is a little more far reaching than the external one: the dashtop is entirely new, and it sports a more contemporary look. Facia cowling is not unattractive, and the circular air-vents show that MGR are not averse to following fashion…

The world premier of the car is due at the Birmingham motor show at the end of May, but attendees of the Brooklands to Brighton MG Regency run were treated to the sight of a ZS saloon being displayed alongside a facelifted ZT260 V8. Customer deliveries begin at the end of May…

Rover 45:

The 45’s incarnation of the new facia looks good in Connoisseur spec: the trim colours and use of wood are traditional Rover, and therefore, should not frighten off existing 45 buyers. The fresh look might even tempt a few people back to the marque. One can hope.

Frontal view is more contemporary than the outgoing car.

Most of the important features of this car were covered in last month’s news…

CityRover makes a splash on BBC’s Top Gear

Did the BBC’s motoring programme damage the CityRover’s chances? Don’t bet against it…

Well, it looks as though MG Rover found itself half way between a rock and a hard place when it came to how they dealt with BBC Top Gear’s request for a drive of their CityRover. When it came down to it, the company’s PR department declined the request, and Top Gear went ahead with the test anyway, and in the most imaginative way possible.

James May, posing as a potential buyer, took a test drive in one. However, he and his pretend girlfriend were armed with a mini-camera, and cleverly, he took the car on a route which was littered with Top Gear cameras. The absolute piece de resistance of the story was towards the end when cruising up the highway, a Top Gear Fiat Panda came alongside for a lingering camera shot. May’s comparative comments concerning price were also timed beautifully.

Needless to say, the result of the test was foregone (the usual brickbats about interior quality, gearchange and ride), but it did make for great television. James May has tested budget cars before on the programme, and was particularly flattering about the unpretentious charms of the Perodua Nippa a couple of seasons back, so it would be wrong to accuse the programme of needlessly attacking the car because it was inexpensive.

For MG Rover, it was a PR disaster, for sure, but even if they had lent a car to the BBC, it would have probably been in line for a kicking. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned here: MGR will sell the 100,000 they have arranged to buy from TATA, and should still make a handsome profit on each one. The Indica may look quite appealing, and does go very well in relation to its rivals, but at the current list prices, MGR are doing themselves no favours.

A lot of people watch Top Gear, and even if the “typical” CityRover buyer doesn’t, you can be sure that they know someone that does…

Please drop me a line if you would like me to add your opinion on the matter to this page.

Have your say…


…it’s a pile of poo and Rover deserve all
the flack they get for it. I reckon Rover
will be forced to lower the price considerably
(they can afford to do it), the price bracket
it’s currently in, it simply cannot compete
with cars like the new Fiat Panda, even though
the Rover has a bigger engine. Since its launch
I have only seen 2 on the road.

Kevin Davis, Southampton

I’m afraid I’m with Top Gear on this one. I
think the exterior design looks good, not
too offensive, nor too old. It’s just the
interior, which I hate. If it were sorted,
then maybe it would be good enough to wear
the Austin/Morris badge… Perhaps I am old
fashioned, but I think Rover should be on
large, luxury cars. Not rebadged Tatas.

Richard Jesset, Oxford

I am with Top Gear as well; I think that the
interior design is awful. I have read reports
in a certain car magazine, that people were
cutting themselves on parts of the facia…
If Rover managed to smarten up the interiors
of “badge specials” like the 200 and 600,
why not with this?

Paul Wilkinson, Wolverhampton

Has everyone forgotten the day Top Gear got
their hands on the MG SV in the last series?
They walked past a CityRover and called it
“rubbish” then, so no wonder MGR didn’t
want to lend them one for a second slaying.
The plastics are of pretty poor quality and the
price is too high, but otherwise I enjoyed the
test drive I took. Rover is a damaged brand
already; this is the last thing they need…

Christian Lamb, England

I have to say that Top Gear did MGR a
disservice. They should have gone on about
the good things: the bigger engine, the large
boot the vast amount of room inside. The fact
that the doors open further than its rivals
indicates that the entry will be good,
especially for the old and infirm. Some
people have said that Rovers should be
Rovers and not re badged Tatas, but
virtually the entire range over the last
twenty years have been rebadged something
or other…

John Mower, England

These are desperate times for MGR and with
the CityRover is shows very clearly. At least
previous re-badged efforts were based on
something respectful in the first place. This
model is a badged version of the first ‘own’
car by a company from an emerging economy.
It shouldn’t have been born in the first place
and is an insult to MGR engineers and indeed
it’s work force. At the price it’s pitched at MGR
had this coming to them sadly.

Gary Saunders, Southampton

I don’t think the CityRover is a “pile of poo”. It’s
an honest spacious small car and rugged to
boot. I think all this is detracting from MGR’s
fine efforts elsewhere. They needed a small
car for the dealers to sell. Increasingly MGR
franchises are becoming dual-marque
dealerships. They need people to get on the
rung rather than end up in a Matiz or Getz.
This is it.

Jenny Porfrio, England

It’s a shame that MGR had to be devalued in this
way. The Tata is a puny little car without any
merit, except its low price. And MGR had to take
out the USP. Yes, it’s a quick way to make a profit,
buying from the manufacturer a car at Indian prices
and selling it at European ones, but I fear that, in
the long run,it will be a big mistake. MGR finances
must be pretty desperate.

Rafael Neira Márquez, Spain

I think there is only one thing that merits the car:
its name. Generally, it is a sad reminder of the
fact that India was a part of the British Empire
in the 20th century. Regrettably, it looks old
enough for that.

Max, Kazakhstan

…it certainly seems overpriced, but one fact is
often overlooked in judging this car: If it is built
to withstand Indian conditions, it might well prove to
be by far the most reliable and durable car in its
segment, which might earn it some respect after all.
Only time will tell though. Let’s just hope MGR will
be around long enough to find out.

Matthias Jost, Munich, Germany

I sincerely hope for MGR’s sake that somehow
this car helps to turn their fortunes around so
they can pump some desperately needed funds
into their model development. The CityRover
looks too much like a cheap import and not like
a small Rover. With its widely known origins, I
suspect that not only will the car itself put people
off, but also the residuals. As one comment that
was made said that a car built for India will be
more rugged, the image of a flimsy machine may
well disappear over a year or so, but it will be a
hard one to change

Dylan Jones, England

With such a need for a new supermini after
the demise of the Metro and old Mini, MGR
had a duty to provide us with something better.
The CityRover gives no incentive to previous
Austin-Rover small car buyers to stick with
MGR, it will cause more future image damage
than can ever be imagined. Rather like the Mini
effect in reverse. The car is poor, there’s no
doubt about that, but they could at least price
it (very) competitively and sell on a pure
cheapness basis… but there isn’t even a 1000cc
model to tempt the high insurance young drivers.
Not to mention that for the few people who still
by MGR for nationalistic reasons, it defeats the
object; not so much a “British car to beat the
world, as a British badged car to beat absolutely

Tom Coley, England

…subjective opinion aside, for hard facts on
the CityRover, why not visit Rover’s own
website? Look for the section called “Inside
Info”. This is where MG-Rover give details of
which bits of their cars exceed that of the
competition. I challenge the opinionated to
own and operate the product for six months,
and then write an informed article on the

Gary, UK

Over the years my parents have owned lots of
Rover Group cars, and now they are thinking of
replacing their Rover 100. I suggested they look
at the CityRover. They compared it on price,
equipment, etc, to the competition and have
decided to buy a Fiat Panda instead. If Rover
cannot sell these cars to people that have been
loyal to the brand for many years, then I can’t
see them selling well. They need to delete the
base model so that journalists cannot say the cars
don’t have electric windows or PAS, fit a new dash
and the K-Series 1.1 and 1.4, and then sell the
cheapest one at £4,999.

Matt Semple, Bristol

I have seen the CityRover in the flesh and to be
honest it’s a nasty let down. The interior is
PAINFUL; it screams cheap and positively yells
“Tacky” to the rooftops. As far as the TopGear
appearance goes, they were always going to
crucify it. It’s funny how they whine on about
the demise of the UK car industry and they
try their hardest to finish the job…

Jon Marriage, England

I agree with the people who think the CityRover
shouldn’t be a re-badged Tata. What comes
next under the guise of despair? Re-badged
Dacia’s? Come on! Collaboration with Lancia,
as suggested on a recent article submitted
here, has been my favourite option for the last
two years, given the clear parallelism between
these two great marques, as long as BMW
stays away, because it’s been confirmed they
still have an interest in lending a hand under
some conditions – which we might get to
know earlier than expected. Picture a new
Metro, refined and sophisticated, yet affordable,
based on the MINI. Now, that would be one
decent CityRover. In the meantime Hindustan
Ambassador owners must be having fun!

Thierry Mouton, Belgium

Keith Adams

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