Blog : Badge snobbery?

Words and photography: Alexander Boucke


As long as I can remember – and a bit longer still – my family and I have always and exclusively driven British-built cars. These were, at first, Austin and Morris but, after the ‘Roverisation’ in the days of Graham Day, they were slowly replaced with Rovers (which some die-hard Rover nuts would have said to be more Austin than Rover anyway).

In a way this has become a trademark of our family, helped by the fact that all of these cars have always been rare here in Germany and easy to recognise. As our general experience has been a good one over nearly five decades and endless miles, I’d be happy to continue with this.

That’s not a problem at the moment as our current daily drivers are certainly fit for some more use and fulfil all our needs: the Maestro as a cheap to run, compact and yet roomy town car and the Rover Tourer as economical and comfy family car.

Over time the 416 Tourer has proved to be a particular good choice – it is just large enough to swallow our family of four with all our stuff for a long holiday trip, but small enough to be easy to use in town, while the K-Series is very frugal with fuel on a run, yet quick if needed. As the miles pile on, currently closing in on 175,000, it also proves to be a very robust and durable car.

Our trusty and well travelled Tourer
Our trusty and well-travelled Tourer

AROnline has recently been full of good news about the British motor industry going from strength-to-strength. You’d think, then, it should be possible to find an imaginary replacement for the Tourer. My requirements are simple: it needs to be roomy, economical, have a compact footprint – and, of course, a recognisable British badge. Jaguar, Land Rover and MINI are all successful siblings of the once mighty BLMC empire but dismissing their current ranges can be done quickly – the cars are either too small inside, too large outside or have features we neither need nor want (4×4).

So what else is out there? Honda, Nissan and Toyota may be British-built, but are not badged as such and are ultimately seen as Japanese. Vauxhall? Good question – it is undeniably an old British brand with a long tradition. However, apart from not being able to buy one here, everyone would see it as a German-made Opel with different badges stuck on (some would also see a hint of questionable taste, as Vauxhall badges have been used on certain Corsas together with after-market add-ons).

What about adding used cars which are actually newer than the Rover Tourer to the list? Well, the Jaguar X-Type and Rover 75 Tourer suddenly appear on the radar. These are certainly fine cars, fulfilling quite a few of our requirements. Sadly, both have a rather appalling lack of roominess and, while offering hardly (if at all) any more usable interior or luggage space, they are actually too large on the outside to be really practical in town.

Hang on, how about MG? Currently, MG does not sell any cars outside the UK, so it is not even an option on our imaginary list. That said, the MG6 hatchback certainly could suit us in terms of size and impressed us with ride and handling on a test drive and the MG3 looks like it could be a modern-day Maestro replacement. But is it all in the badge?

Would I be happy to drive a Chinese-made car because of the all-important badge? Serious production in Longbridge certainly would strengthen the appeal no end!

Out with the old, in with the new - a case for the MG6?
Out with the old, in with the new – a case for the MG6?

A serious case of badge snobbery? Or should I just go out and buy another Citroën C4 Picasso? They are the perfect size and shape – I just need to stick a Rover badge onto the front…

I hope I don't need to see the back of the Tourer soon, replacing it seem to be difficult...
I hope I don’t need to see the back of the Tourer soon, replacing it seems to be difficult…
Alexander Boucke


  1. Alexander, I know exactly what you mean and, as you imply, there is simply nothing to replace your Princess 1300 or your 416 Tourer.
    I would be inclined to look at the viability of keeping them both and to repair as needed.
    For the same reasons, I run a 2006 Mk1 Fabia TDi Estate.

  2. “Would I be happy to drive a Chinese made car because of the all important badge? Serious production in Longbridge certainly would strengthen the appeal no end!”

    Do >300 engineering staff at Longbridge, some with a history dating back to the Metro launch, not count for something?

  3. I like the Rovers because they drove nicely, were slightly more luxurious and I think the generally just look better. The Rover Tourer above is a good example, Have a look at the Similar Honda Orthia wagon – the Rover just looks better . alex

  4. Virtually all, scrub that, ALL modern cars are bloated and over sized compared to the interior size. You can thank EU driver and pedestrian safety regulations for that.

    A modern Polo is the same size as a Mk2 Golf, but actually has less useful room inside. It will get worse because of the latest regulations for pedestrian safety which will mean having higher bonnet lines for the time when you mow down a pedestrian on a crossing to prevent the person being killed by the nasty hard engine under the bonnet. I recently sat in a small Fiat van … small inside but bulbous outside and with a bonnet so high you felt you were peeping over it.

    The 416 tourer pictured was probably the last generation of cars built before safety regulation madness took over. You are quite right that the 75 has no more space inside. One reason that I never bought a 75 with a growing family [at the time]. These were a fine car but at their best with the 2.0 diesel IMHO.

    Being brutally honest, the 416 will outlast any MG6 built today if looked after properly. It will only take one electronic failure or DPF / Catalyst to fail to make the MG6 or indeed most modern cars an economic write off. Recently seen a perfectly good Corsa written off due to an intermittent misfire caused by an ECU fault. Cost of replacing the ECU? £1300. Value of the car? £1200.

    175,000 miles? Nicely run in.

  5. I’m guessing the XF Sportbrake is a little too big?

    The Honda Civic tourer could be an option, built in UK and Honda here are seen somewhat where Rover used to be, just shy of Premium branding.

    The forthcoming Mini Clubman will be an extended wheelbase 5 (4+barn) door vehicle, likely a similar size to the Tourer.

    Other than that, the Skoda Rapid estate and the Volvo V40 would be modern European equivalents.

  6. From the used market I would strongly recommend the late (post facelift) X type estate. They are spacious and can carry big loads (more spacious than the 75 Tourer).

    Also don’t forget that the Qashqai is designed and built in Britain.

    Much as I miss Rover the British car industry is in better shape than it has been for a long time.

  7. Owner of a rebadged Honda Concerto refuses to consider a British-built Qashqai or CRV because of the badge on the front?


  8. That’s very interesting Alexander, I understand exactly where you are coming from in likeing to have a motoring ‘identity’.

    My MGZT became an S-Type when the time came for he same reason.

    Regarding your dilema,how about finding a cherished low mileage 45 Tourer by way of replacement?

  9. What a great article which would be a social psychologist’s dream to investigate further – the impact of affiliation with the badge on the grille and how it reinforces your own perceived social identity.

    For example, I will readily admit to be an enthusiast of the Rover marque and love its association with offering a sense of wellbeing, timeless designs and refinement. My own identity suggests that I really does not give a jot with how the rest of the population perceive the brand or how they perceive me because of my enthusiasm for it. However, I have no desire to own a Rover Metro or CityRover, even though in reality they are probably rather competent in what they do based on low running costs and small car practicality. Yet the R8, R3, 75, and even the humble Streetwise I do have time for.

    As for MG? I have owned an MG Maestro since I passed my test in the early 1990s and now also drive an MG ZR turbo-diesel. Both are great fun to drive and they have a personality. I would probably love them just as much if the Maestro had been called a GTi rather than MG and the ZR as the Rover 25 Sports Edition (or something similar). However, I have no affiliation with the MG brand as other MGs do not hold any appeal with me, while the actions of the two main MG clubs in deciding what they consider to be worthy of wearing the ‘illustrious’ octagon, together with the attitude of their members, killed off any interest I might have had. The MG6 does not appeal to me because of its styling and packaging (I would likely say the same if it wore a Rover badge) and I perceive current MGs as white goods in line with a Kia or Hyundai. However, the reality is they are probably as well engineered as a previous MG such as a ZS or ZT.

    Again, I do not see the MG brand as having a strong association with my own identity and its values. All of which says that some form of badge snobbery might be present although it clearly must tap into certain facets of my social identity and associated social norms. Very interesting all this!

  10. Hang on a minute – a 75 Tourer is dismissed as being “too big around town”, but a Citroen Picasso is a perfect size?

    I think I need some new glasses.

  11. @LOL

    He stated that he doesn’t want a 4×4 SUV. For some of us, these saloon replacements with the styling grace of a tonka truck don’t appeal.

  12. All I can say is good on you. It’s refreshing to hear someone from outside of the UK enjoying their Rover. 175K really is an achievement also. May you and the Tourer enjoy another 100 thousand kms/miles!

  13. Got to be the new Honda Civic Estate. Designed in Europe and built in Swindon, including its engine. Ugly but bags of space and if BMW had not muscled in it might even have had a more elegant Rover 45 equivalent….

  14. vicar of longbridge sold the 45/civic tourer and got himself a 75 tourer.. but i have seen another ”roverised”civic estate around…shame they didnt produce them!

  15. All these raised bonnet lines because of safety regs. It would appear Issigonis was right all along with TIS packaging which caused the same thing. WRT to future MG purchase , tempting though the prices are I too would like to see an upscaling in local content and manufacturing before I am tempted to part with my hard earned readies

  16. I belief the engine of the Rover 416 Tourer is a Honda engine and not the famous Rover K-series.
    I know this because my dad used to work at a Rover dealer in The Netherlands for more than 40 years. We have British blood into our vains.

  17. Will M @13

    ” For some of us, these saloon replacements with the styling grace of a tonka truck don’t appeal ”

    Know what you mean – appealing in a ‘Tonka’ fashion but not as an executive saloon.

  18. Alexander, could you find a low mileage Honda Civic tourer/estate in Germany and add some Rover 45 styling touches ?

  19. @Edwin Kleijwegt – Comment 18:

    The engine used in the R8 400 Tourer from its launch in March 1994 until early 1996 was indeed the Honda 1.6-litre.

    However, from March 1996 when the remaining examples of the R8 programme – the 200 Cabriolet and Coupe and 400 Tourer – underwent a subtle revision, to sport the same dashboard fascia design as launched in the new R3 200 Series, the 416 then took on the 1.6-litre K Series. It retained this engine from 1996 up until the last examples were built in the third week of July 1998.

  20. The MG6 Magnette is a fine car, but it’s bulkier than the 75 and has no more space inside, except in the vast boot.

  21. Always liked the 400 Tourer and thought it had a more upmarket image than an Astra / Escort Estate. If you’re not intending to buy new, how about a Jag X Type Estate or R75 / MG ZTT? I’d rather have one of those than a Citroen Picasso

  22. All of us of a certain age from Rover owning families can associate with this blog.

    Today, car production in Britain is aimed at niche market products to suit the style conscious specialist buyer – there is nothing to appeal in the middle of the market.
    I still believe Honda needed Rover as much as Rover needed Honda, for on their own Honda has shown it does not understand the British psyche.
    We do not want a space-age Civic or an ugly CRV.

    The market is crying out for a stylish yet conservative, small to medium hatch and saloon which is highly competent in all areas.
    It does not need to be radical- just good.

    I am in the market at present for an R8 sized hatch, for the same reasons as Alexander- roomy enough inside but without big external dimensions.
    My current 3 year old British built Astra is a curate’s egg, the Civic likewise and the Auris forgettable.

    Unable to find a suitable vehicle built at home, I’ve reluctantly ventured into European makers showrooms.
    But, I am feeling a bit guilty doing so, is this normal?
    I’m trying to convince myself this is not so bad: as we now export most of the cars we build, so importing sizes we no longer make is ok?

    Actually the closest to an R8 in size, weight and feel is the current Audi A3.
    But whilst it’s cockpit is well screwed together, it’s no Rover.
    Compared to my 1990 214 GSI with duo-tone plastics, even the A3 feels cheap although it costs over 20k!
    The boot is smaller too!

  23. @ Darren – Cooment 25:

    Quote: “Unable to find a suitable vehicle built at home, I’ve reluctantly ventured into European makers showrooms.
    But, I am feeling a bit guilty doing so, is this normal?”

    Yes, it is and I would feel exactly the same if I had to do this. I think I would rather buy something like an SUV, which is not actually practical for my current needs, or buy an older Rover.

    @ Others:

    Sadly I could not recommend buying the Jaguar X Type estate as it really is not a long lasting quality product, but one that was built to a cost to meet the needs of the fleet market, judging by the problems a friend of mine is having with his. He has just bought a 2-litre X Type (1 previous lady owner from new, 60,000 miles, immaculate condition on the surface and full Jaguar service history). This morning it was driven to the local Jaguar dealer for a service and within half an hour they came back with very bad news. The rear suspension is badly corroded and needs replacing (a common fault), the rear suspension bushes are also perished (apparently a common failing because of the weight of the X-Type’s body) and the fuel injection system needs stripping down and new injectors fitting because the original ones are beyond cleaning because “it hasn’t been driven properly”. Even with a 20 percent discount on the price of parts it is still going to be a big four-figure bill. And that’s before he has to consider the problem of corroding paint and lacquer on the alloy wheels (again, a common fault) which is beginning to cause problems with maintaining tyre pressure. The door locking mechanism also failed as he arrived at the dealer (again, a…)and he had to climb out of the passenger’s door looking rather undignified. This evening he sits shell-shocked at the news and angered by the way journalists have waxed lyrical about the X Type.

    As he rightly said to me this afternoon, I thought journalists had said the X Type was one of Jaguar’s best models? Clearly they can’t have looked beyond the panel alignment and quality of paint. Nor do they evaluate the car when it is no longer serving its role as a press demo or is outside of its warranty. I have had no problems with my 22 year old Saab 900 XS Classic which was also a low mileage one-lady owner car when I bought it nearly a year ago.

    I had to concur with him that perhaps buying another Volvo, an early S80, would have been a better step.

  24. @david, my uncles X-type estate has been totally reliable, and he has had it from new, so its getting on a bit now.

  25. The thing that put me off the X type were the horror stories mostly around the Ford diesel engines…


    “The market is crying out for a stylish yet conservative, small to medium hatch and saloon which is highly competent in all areas.
    It does not need to be radical- just good.
    I am in the market at present for an R8 sized hatch, for the same reasons as Alexander- roomy enough inside but without big external dimensions.

    Unable to find a suitable vehicle built at home, I’ve reluctantly ventured into European makers showrooms.”

    Not at all. Some European makers hit the spot – Skoda Rapid is almost a modern R8, Volvo worth a look too, both fill the bill of “stylish yet conservative, small to medium hatch and saloon which is highly competent in all areas”

  26. I drove an Avensis hire car the other day. Perhaps not as polished as a Passat, but easily as nice as i40, Insignia, Mondeo. Are they still built in Derbyshire?

  27. Will @ 28.

    Father has recently bought a V40, appears well made?
    But is no R8, it’s bigger and feels so, and it’s heavier too; making it less agile.
    I like a car that’s light on its feet, has an enthusiastic engine, compliant suspension and pin sharp steering.
    But the biggest disappointment with Volvo is the tight footwell and lack of footrest?
    Skoda seems low-rent, I want a car that has the potential to last as long as my R8 has.

  28. Darren @ 30.

    Skoda seems low rent? Well, othert than showroom appeal my 2006 Fabia certainly seems to be lasting better than my 1999 Civic.

  29. Early Skoda with the 1.9 diesel are indeed low rent minicab fodder but good for interstellar mileages if looked after. Not particularly nice inside though. New shape Volvos are pretty awful for space efficiency, the new V60 is totally dreadful. A huge car with no boot space, no rear legroom and nowhere to put a spare wheel.

    Mrs E is after a replacement for her Mk6 Golf and wants something slightly smaller that will still seat 4 adults. Guess what? The new Golf is wider and longer, as is virtually everything else she actually likes.

    X-type — no thank you very much. Many documented problems with suspension, brakes and Ford diesel engines. Never mind the cramped foot well, lack of boot space and lack of rear legroom — compromised due to 4WD chassis — wasted space on the diesels which are all FWD. The Jag I never wanted to buy after sitting in one. Known problems very expensive to fix.

    Swindon built Accords are pretty good but almost (if not all) petrol engines.

    Avensis — mmmm nice in beige (zzzzzzzz). Exciting as porridge. Big car but again not great in terms of interior space.

    Previous model Volvo V40 are pretty reliable but long in the tooth now. Honda Civic Tourer, yes, solid and compact for the interior space. Quite a few one elderly owner, low mileage ones about. Reliable bangernomics.

    Personally I am considering a late model Merc 190 with the 2.0 petrol engine. Will go nicely with my daily drive C Class.

  30. Tony @ 32.

    You’re right the new Golf is wider and longer and feels so.
    The latest Audi A3 sportback is a little smaller than the Golf but feels a lot smaller.

  31. Yep… modern cars seem to grow with each generation. Illustrated by the fact that entrances & sizes of parking bays seem to get narrower with every new car I buy!

    I think I am right in thinking the badge at the top of this article is the Vanden Plas item(?) looks good.

  32. Why bother replacing it? Looks ok to me – I own a 2001 Rover 25 Advantage, originally British registered, re-registered in France (only needed to change the headlights)

  33. on the local web page there is a blog about the new supermarket car park spacing .for the english assebled 206 estate I have there is loads of space .I did not wont ak series engined 214 car

  34. Alex very good article but if thats a mark”2 Rover 416 the reason you”ve 175k miles on the clock is because its a”Honda concerto 1.6L engine under the hood not that wretched 1.6L “K”series The Mark 2 Rover series(1989~1995) had 1.4L”K”series & Honda”s 1.6L..The next generation of 200s&400s switched to “all”K”series engines mid 96 (after honda took their 20% stake in rover back)

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