It’s been an interesting few weeks for the Rover 600 which I’ve had the good fortune to be smoking around in. Purchased for the price of a nice weekend away in Scarborough, the commodious saloon has done everything that’s been asked of it and quite a lot more besides. It’s whisked me around the home counties on various jobs without a bother, backing up my recently-formed opinion that this is the best used Rover money can buy in the real world.
Not because it’s exciting or interesting – because clearly it isn’t – but because it’s so damned dependable. I get in, check the mirrors, turn the key and away it goes. Trust me, after some of the cars I’ve owned, this is a very big deal indeed. It’s not perfect, of course: the seats lack support and the performance is acceptable for a two-litre saloon – but only if you’re prepared to wring its neck and it hardly sounds pleasant when you do that. A T16 motor would do the job so much better, although it’s rather heavier, and would make it understeer even more.
In terms of dynamics, I’m not entirely convinced about the 1-2-1 damping. It’s soft and comfortable on less challenging roads, but does seem to fall apart when things get rough. As for the steering – feel, what feel? Fuel consumption’s okay, but hardly brilliant – on longer runs, it’s been doing 32mpg but, on commuting days, that plummets to 26mpg. However, as I’d bought this as a care-free no-brainer saloon to jump into, I’m not complaining too much really – at least everything works, which is magical on a car of this age!
There’s one huge downside, though – and that’s the way other people treat you on the road. Okay, I live in the chav-central part of the East Midlands, but I’ve been tailgated, cut-up and raced from the lights far too much. Given that I bought this as a car to drive while my brain’s in neutral, that’s a big downside.
Interestingly, I’ve recently bought a Volkswagen Golf TDI Mk4 for similar money – which is a fair bit tattier – and am not subjected to the same daily tortures. It’s enlightening, for sure – and slightly depressing. After all, if you own a Rover 600 in France or Italy, you’re seen as someone with a refined taste for understated elegance. In the UK, you’re seen as a loser. It’s certainly taken the sheen off owning this great, rational, bargain saloon…