Rover goes niche finding again.
My on-off love affair with the Rover 25 is on again.
And surprisingly, my admiration for the model’s been re kindled after driving the ‘Uriah Heep’ of the current range, the Commerce van.
Once, Austin and Morris car derived vans were the bread and butter of many a fleet – now I think the majority of them are being run as Unipart delivery vans.
That’s a great shame, because the small business needing a good looking, economical and sprightly van could do a lot worse then invest in a Commerce.
Why? Well, what would you prioritise if you were a small business looking for a new van? An attractive, well styled vehicle helps project a good image. The fact it’s made in Britain is another plus as would be a competitive price, generous kit, comfort, performance and economy.
The good news is that the Commerce ticks all the boxes and is Rover’s take on the thriving CDV market where Peugeot, Renault, Ford and Vauxhall are all after a slice of the action. The Rover beats them in key areas including load space, standard kit, performance – and the fact it looks good from all angles is another bonus.
I tested a two litre diesel from the MG R press office which came fitted with a number of useful extras including air con, electric front windows, a (very fiddly) Becker Pro satellite navigation system, front fog lights, useful load space grille and rear parking sensors, all adding £2500-odd to the £10,410 list price. Of course, you can deduct VAT so for around £10k on the road, the Commerce represents good value.
Despite being the largest car derived van in its sector, the Commerce is no slouch, accelerating to 60 in under ten seconds with that wonderful turbo urge in second and third helping it pull clear of any stragglers up front. Fuel economy in the low 50’s is feasible, with an incredible 67.3 mpg quoted for extra urban driving.
On the road, it’s not only its spirited performance that makes a good impression – the ride and handling are exemplary and braking gives no cause for concern, either.
Inside, hardwearing cloth seats, a well laid out dashboard, (including the invaluable Trafficmaster system for white van man – or in MG R’s case ‘Dover White’ van man) and sturdy load compartment means it should be able to deliver the goods in all senses of the word.
So, if it is so good, why has it taken MG R such a long time to think of it? It looks once again like another missed business opportunity – and Rover can’t afford to miss many more in the future. CityVan anyone?
Tested by Roger Blaxall