08/07/2009 05:57 | By RA

On test: Rover 25 1.1 review (2000-2005 model)



Rover 25 1.1

Overview:

  • Bodystyle:Hatchback
  • Engine:1.1 in-line 4-cyl 16v
  • Fuel type:Petrol
  • Transmission:5-speed manual
  • Date of test:June 2002

 

What is it?

Rover’s supermini. Formerly called the 200, it used to be marketed as a family car rival to the Ford Escort – but even at launch, it lacked the space to be taken seriously. Later, renamed 25 and marketed as a supermini it has helped Rover keep up with the trend for bigger and bigger cars in this sector. Available in three or five-door guise, the 25 has a sportier sibling too – the MG ZR, with firm suspension, racy trim and a far harder-edged appeal.

Where does it fit?

The 1.1-litre 25 represents the lowest level of the Rover car range. Yet despite its headline-grabbing low price, it still looks and feels like quality car – not one which has been built down to a price. As a largish supermini, it competes with cars like the Ford Fiesta, Renault’s good-value Clio and Peugeot’s ultra-popular 206. The Vauxhall Corsa is also a competitor, though the 25 has more appeal to private buyers than such mass-market rivals; the badge is, for some people, still a cut above others.

Is it for you?

If you’re after the ultimate in packaging efficiency, the 25 is probably not the car for you; it’s an ageing design, so although generous dimensions mean it’s quite roomy, it lacks the spacious or ingenuity displayed by newer rivals like the ultra-clever Honda Jazz. The headline-grabbing low prices of 1.1-litre models also mean equipment is lacking. Rover would prefer buyers to concentrate on the ‘quality’ feel and slightly special image.

What does it do well?

For such a little engine, the 1.1-litre 25 performs surprisingly well. It accelerates well, has a 100mph top speed, yet still returns acceptable economy – though it isn’t as efficient as the new breed of ultra-efficient supermini. It rides bumps comfortably well, and is fun to drive too. Interior styling is conservative but attractive. Space levels are decent, and the driving position is fine for smaller drivers – all controls fall easily to hand, and they’re easy to use, too.

What doesn't it do well?

The 25 is getting on a bit now, and this is all too evident inside. The driving position is compromised or taller ones, who will feel cramped – almost as if the car is too small. Refinement is also not the best, and while it drives very well, it doesn’t display the serene finesse which characterises newer rivals. Equipment levels are stingy, and the image of the car is not to everyone’s taste; like the 45 and 75, it seems to offer more appeal to mature drivers.

What's it like to live with?

Pretty painless, providing you can get comfortable behind the wheel. Servicing is cheap, insurance ratings are low, and although fuel economy is not as good as rivals, it is still very acceptable given the car’s performance. Similarly, although second-hand values are a little below average, they are still decent. What’s more, build quality is good, with reasonable trims and a solid feel. Even reliability promises to be strong, thanks to the well-proven mechanicals.

Would we buy it?

It’s not the most obvious choice, but as a competitively-priced supermini, the 25 could make sense if you like its style. There’s no denying that the design is getting on a bit, with a compromised driving position and poor space efficiency, but it’s still an enjoyable car to drive, which is refined and viable enough as a small family’s budget car. The image may put some people off – they’re who the sporty ZR is aimed at – but don’t ignore the cheapest 25; it may well surprise you with its abilities.

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