Roewe E1 Concept : Is the Rover Spiritual back from the dead?

Ash Sutcliffe, China Car Times, 25th April, 2010

Roewe E1
Roewe E1

The Rover Spiritual was set to be the car that would replace the ancient Rover Metro and take Rover back into the heart of mass producing small cars, which was essentially its bread and butter.

The Spiritual Concept broke free at the Geneva Auto Show way back in the spring of 1997. Rover were eager to go for something radical and new but the BMW Group, which then owned Rover,were aiming to remake the Mini in modern form. Ultimately, Rover changed hands and BMW took the MINI with them, but the Spiritual Concept stayed on, probably in a dusty corner of Longbridge under two inches of dirt.

However, the Spiritual Concept seems to have come back from the dead in the form of the Roewe E1 Concept car now being displayed on SAIC Motor’s stand at Auto China 2010 in Beijing. Interestingly, the Spiritual was going to have its engine under the driver’s seat and the E1’s electric motor will be located in roughly the same place…

The Spiritual and the E1 do share a common element in that they are both attempting to redefine the way we drive and take bold new designs forward into a new era of automotive development. The Spiritual was going to be a 21st Century car with a focus on being light weight, yet roomy and as good to drive as the original Mini –  the E1 is focusing on being an entirely new electric car which, from what we hear, is not actually all that far from being put into production.

Roewe E1

[Editor’s Note: An outline of the Roewe E1’s technical specification and more photographs can be found in this earlier China Car Times article.]

Clive Goldthorp


  1. Nothing much to do with the Spiritual Concepts (designed for engine under rear seat).

    I saw the Spiritual twins at Gaydon and the 10′ long, 3-cyl version looked fantastic – not too cute for blokes to drive and just enough clever Mini references, but forward looking in its design. Much more efficient than one of these primitive electric jobs too, I would’ve thought!

    I would imagine the Spirituals were incarcerated in a Bavarian dungeon, never to be seen again.

  2. Why does saving the planet mean you have to drive round in a car that looks like this? Health and Safety Laws have made cars too fat and heavy but, if cars were made lighter with fuel efficient engines, then there would be no need to to produce cars like this. The Rover Spiritual looked like it could have become a great city car and a far better vehicle than the Smart FourTwo.

  3. The 1997 Spiritual Concept was supposedly intended as the inspiration for the original MINI rather than as a Rover model. It was clever in its packaging, innovative and probably less flawed than the smart that would go on sale eighteen months later (and still is).

    Sorry, but the Roewe E1 is hardly timeless or elegant, let alone inspirational – makes me glad that this concept wears the humble Roewe badge and not the Rover name (had SAIC Motor been successful in acquiring the rights to the name).

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