Okay, so by 23 December 1997, the Metro name had long since died, and the car that had been launched with such a fanfare in October 1980 had mutated into the Rover 100. We’ve postulated many times about how the Austin Metro saved BL when it was launched, and even aged 10, once it had received a K-Series engine and suspension updates, it was a class-leading steer. But 21 years ago today, the Rover 100 died. Did EuroNCAP kill it?
In 1995, the Metro was past its prime. It needed a meaningful update, but instead, it received the lightest of facelifts to become the Rover 100 (the name it had since 1990 in Europe). Despite feeling superannuated, the Rover 100 still sold well, and the dealers loved how loyal its customers were – they knew that the upcoming Rover 200 was never going to have enough small-car appeal to lure the loyal Metro clientele.
However, Rover’s management thought it knew better. Under BMW, work on the MINI was underway, and all that the 100 needed to do was keep in business long enough to maintain a place at the base of the range that could be reserved for the upcoming R50. Forget developing the 100, the dealers could shuffle potential buyers into a shiny new 200 if they wanted something newer. Like it or lump it…
Bad news for the Rover 100
This plan was, in the event, scuppered at the hands of EuroNCAP (The European New Car Assessment Programme) – which reported in its crash test that the Rover 100 fell a long way behind what was considered a minimum standard in passive safety. In fact, it was given a one-star front and side impact rating, which was, essentially, a disastrous showing.
Thing is, it wasn’t alone in having such a bad showing. The Fiat Seicento, Peugeot 106 and Renault Twingo also performed pretty shockingly, too. Remember, that this offset-front method of crash testing was brutal – and any car not specifically designed to pass the test would fail dismally. As it was, the Renault was heavily re-engineered, while the other two ended up soldiering on as they were. And since then, all new cars have been designed to do better at this form of crash testing.
Unfortunately for Rover, the story became a lot more widespread than the specialist press and it transcended the usual car magazines into the daily newspapers. Worse, the Rover 100’s performance made it to the early evening news on the BBC. Needless to say, this was disastrous for Rover and, within days, orders for the car dried up. Rover was given no choice other than to withdraw the 100 from sale with production ending on 23 December 1997.
The question is – was the car killed before its time by this EuroNCAP crash test? Or had it outlived its usefulness to Rover (and not its dealers) by 1997 anyway, and the company was happy to euthanise it?