‘Booming’ MG Motor UK is planning to re-launch the Rover 100, re-badged and suitably overhauled to meet the needs of the 21st century sub-B sector before the end of 2012. The car, which originally went out of production in 1997, following disastrous Euro NCAP testing, and as a result of dwindling sales, is to make a surprise return at the Beijing Motor Show at the end of April. It is primarily aimed at developing markets, but will go on sale in Europe before the end of 2012.
It’s been one of the world’s worst kept industry secrets that tooling for the Rover 100 was retained in the Midlands by Rover – then MG Rover – and this was passed onto Nanjing, before settling with the current owners of MG, Shanghai Automobile Industry Corporation. Engineers at Longbridge have been busy during the past six months re-installing the famed Metro/100 tooling at the Assembly Buildings within Longbridge. MG3-based ‘mules’ have been seen pounding the country running a combination of K-Series running gear and a development of Hydragas suspension, which now uses a combination of Citroen and Ssangyong components – engineered with the full approval of Moulton Engineering.
Aside from its computer-controlled fluid suspension, the technical make-up of the MG1 is straightforward. The TCI-Tech engine has been reduced in capacity to 1.4-litres, and is now joined by a new three-cylinder version (harking back to the days of the ECV3 prototype). Thanks to the sturdiness of the original body – including hefty sill sections – surprisingly little additional strengthening has been needed in order to beef up the design and give it an expected MG-friendly four-star Euro NCAP rating, with the most work being concentrated on the A-posts and bulkhead. We know little about the interior as yet, although one engineer has hinted that MG1 will feature full iPod integration (including navigation, audio, remote start and unlocking) and a centrally mounted speedometer.
The Chinese are keen to launch an entry-level MG, which can be sold in developing and struggling markets beneath the MG3. The MG3 will then be pushed as a premium sporting hatch, to go head-to-head with the Audi A1. The Longbridge-built car will be initially sold the UK and Ireland, but Eastern Europe, then India will follow within months. Plans to call the new car the MG Metro in its home market were scuppered when it became clear that MINI would be making active use of the name in the coming months.
Expect a starting price for the three-cylinder model to be around £5000…