Blog: CityRover II hits the streets

I know I shouldn’t be, but at £4k including warranty blah, blah, blah, I’m finding myself very tempted by a new CityRover.

Yes, I know what you’re all thinking, but if I were in the market for a new city car, and had no intention of moving it on in the short-to-medium term, I’d be taking a trip to Direct Cars in Sheffield. At this price, these cars start to make a compelling case for themselves. I still think the CityRover was rightfully lambasted in the press – not for its lack of ability, but for the arrogant pricing foisted upon it by a management team that still considered Rover a premium brand people would pay premium prices for.

Sadly, this marketing cock-up was hard to bounce back from, and although the CityRover offered plenty of plus points, such as stong performance, smooth styling, a commodious cabin and excellent paint quality, niggles with the interior build quality and a sloppy gearchange were allowed to overshadow the long list of positives. Also, in a market where you can buy a new Fiesta from £6500, a loaded CityRover for £8895, without the prospect of a discount simply wasn’t on.

Before the meltdown last April, MGR went onto the offensive and had a plan to try and turn things round. It involved a higher quality Mk2 version, realistic pricing and a decent marketing campaign. It might have been too little too late, but the product was said to have been improved enough to consider taking a second look…

The shame is, just about everyone within MGR knew what to do to make the CityRover a success in the first place. Indeed, the five-year 100,000 car contract had been built around a list price of £5000, and the numbers looked good. Dealers were also told to expect this level of pricing, and were excited at the prospect of having something new to replace the Metro with.

But in the end, greed got in the way, and the decision was taken to raise the price (allegedly taken by Kevin Howe), and the rest is history – MG Rover’s management squandered its last golden opportunity to do something good for the company’s balance books. At £5K and wearing Austin Metro badges, these honest cars would have definitely flown out of the showrooms.

Whatever the whys and wherefores of the CityRover story are, the fact remains TATA kept to its word and delivered MGR the Mk2 version. Of course, there was no company left to sell the improved cars, and it was down to PricewaterhouseCoopers to flog them off to dealers. It would be interesting to see what Direct Cars paid for theirs… I bet the wholesale price was a steal.

One final thought: TATA is about to start importing Indicas into the UK, and that means the CityRover will end up with full and continuing main dealer service back-up – something sadly you can’t say about the 25, 45 and 75…

Keith Adams

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