The History Of Rover 414
The Rover 400 (later the Rover 45) is a small family car produced by the British automaker Rover from 1990 to 2005. The car was developed during Rover's collaboration with Honda, and all generations of the car were derived from re-developed Honda chassis, first the Honda Concerto and later the Honda Civic.
The original 400 Series, launched as a four-door saloon in early 1990, was simply a saloon version of the "R8" 200 Series hatchback, and like the 200, was based on the Honda Concerto. It used the same core structure and mechanicals as the Honda, but the rear-end redesign of the glasshouse and structure was unique to Rover, there being no Honda UK equivalent. Interior trim and electrical architecture were all carried over from the core, 5-door, vehicle.
An estate or station wagon version, the '400 Tourer', was subsequently developed by Rover Special Products, based on the extended floorpan of the 400, offering an alternative to the "sports touring" BMW 3 Series and Audi 80 small estates that had become increasingly popular, a first attempt to move Rover Group estate cars away from the utilitarian end of the market.
The diesel powerplant was supplied by PSA Peugeot Citroën in 1.8 turbodiesel and 1.9 normally aspirated configurations. Petrol Models made first use of the Rover K series engine (along with the MkII 200) in 1.4 litre form. 1.6 L models were powered by the Honda D series engine in both single cam and twin cam versions. 2.0 litre models were powered by the Rover T series engine in both normally aspirated and, in a limited run, turbocharged form giving rapid performance.
It had no official predecessor, though its launch coincided with a winding-down in production of the slightly larger Montego.
A mid-life facelift (also on the 200) saw the reintroduction of the Rover grille which had also reappeared on the R17 a major facelift of the Rover 800. This change was achieved without significant change to the remaining structure, but helped reinforce the family look and establish a certain distance from the Honda Concerto , and support the development of a less 'bread and butter' image for the small Rovers especially in southern European markets where sales continued to grow. This design change was a partial answer to criticism that many cars had become very anonymous during the search for better aerodynamics.
The second generation 400 Series, codenamed Theta or HH-R, was launched in the summer of 1995 as a hatchback and later a saloon. This time it was based on the Honda Domani, which had been released in Japan in 1992, as was the European Honda Civic five-door hatchback. It was no longer closely related to the 200 Series, which was revised independently by Rover but still shared many components with the 400. Power came from 1.4 and 1.6-litre K-Series, 1.6-litre Honda D series SOHC (Automatic gearbox only) and 2.0 L Rover T Series petrol engines, as well as a 2.0-litre turbodiesel from the more luxurious 600 Series.
The Rover 400 may have been marketed as a small family car, due to its similarities in size and engine range with models such as the Ford Escort and Volkswagen Golf, but Rover inserted some wood trim in the dashboard and priced the car in the large family car segment. A subsequent Rover-only saloon with a huge boot was developed for the 400, this was to help expand the appeal of the model up-market into the executive car segment and away from the perceived 'family-car' stigma in parts of the market where resistance to hatchbacks was and remains considerable. This was however not available at the initial launch of the HH-R family.
The 2nd generation 400 was initially popular, being Britain's seventh best selling new car in 1996, but within three years it had fallen out of the top 10 completely and had even been outsold by the Volkswagen Passat and Renault Laguna.
As part of the collaboration between Honda and Jaguar Rover Australia, a rebadged version of the first-generation Honda Integra five-door hatchback was sold in Australia as the Rover 416i. Produced from 1985 (five years before the R8 Rover 400) to 1989, the 416i was originally available only as a single model, but higher SE and Vitesse specification were later added. The three-door Integra was also sold in Australia as a Honda.
In the autumn of 1999, the 400 Series was facelifted (under the codename Oyster) and renamed Rover 45. Although instantly recognisable as the same car which had been marketed as an inexpensive alternative to other large family cars during the later part of the 1990s, Rover management now realised the error of their previous strategy and it was priced/ marketed as a small family car. From the summer of 2001, a hot hatch version of the Rover 45 was sold as the badge engineered MG ZS.
The 1.4, 1.6 and 1.8-litre petrol and 2.0-litre diesel engines were carried over from the 400 Series, but the 2.0 four-cylinder petrol unit was replaced by a 2.0-litre V6 from the larger Rover 75 — although this power unit was only available on saloon versions. The 45 came equipped with the better seating of the 75 and whilst the 400 models handled very well, the suspension was tuned to give much better controlled ride characteristics with quicker steering. This gave the 45, especially post-2003 models which shared suspension mods with the MG version, handling as good as most and better than some of its rivals.
The 45 was available with Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) supplied by the German manufacturer ZF Sachs AG which had also been previously used in the MGF. This particular design of CVT consists of an oil-cooled laminated steel belt (with external oil cooler) running on variable pulleys. MG Rover had many failures returned to the German supplier. With the retention of MG Rover's manual gearbox factory by BMW, Rover ended up purchasing their own gearboxes from BMW who hiked up the price so much that Rover subsequently went elsewhere for a supplier. This turned out to be Ford and later Rover 25/ 45 models up to 1.6 were fitted with a Ford gearbox. With all the changes that MG Rover had made to this model, the later versions had little in common with its Honda origins apart from the body shape.
Initially, the Rover 45 sold reasonably well thanks to its good equipment levels, comfortable interior and reduced prices. While the asking price remained modest, however, the Rover 45 began to lose its popularity in the face of more refined and modern rivals like the Ford Focus, Peugeot 307 and Renault Megane — the 45, being based on the 1992 Honda Domani, was a very outdated car in terms of style compared to its contemporaries by this stage, even though its dynamics from a drivers point of view were still equal to and better than some more popular rivals.
A facelift in the spring of 2004 was MG Rover's last effort to boost sales of the Rover 45, including a new front and rear end, a re-designed dash, revised suspension settings, improved equipment and lower prices, necessitated by the end of Domani production in Japan. Production of the car stopped in April 2005 due to MG Rover's bankruptcy.
The Rover 45 design is controlled by Honda, and the company is believed to have seized schematics and tooling relating to the 45 and ZS shortly before MG Rover was sold to Nanjing Automobile Group.
Nanjing planned the revival of production of the MG TF range at Longbridge and the MG 7 (previously MG ZT) in China early in 2007. The Rover marque was sold to Ford and subsequently to Tata Group.
Nanjing Automobile are expected to fill the gap left (by the Rover 45 and MG ZS) in the revived MG range with a new car called the MG 5. It is set to be launched in 2008.
Stocks of the Rover 45 lasted for approximately two years after the end of production.
From 2001 MG Rover had been planning to replace the 45 with an all-new model range based on a shortened Rover 75 platform. Collectively referred to as the RD/ X60 project (sometimes also written RDX60), the range was intended to comprise the following variants: RD60 (Rover hatchback), X60 (MG hatchback), RD61 (Rover saloon) and RD62 (Rover "tourer" estate). The RD/ X60 would have been larger than its rivals, and would have shared the Rover 75's praised "luxurious" ride quality. A preview of how the RD62 "Tourer" might appear was given at the 2002 Geneva Motor Show in the form of the Rover TCV (Tourer Concept Vehicle) concept car.
However, during the design process, MG Rover's design partner Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) went into administration — blamed on the financial needs of their Formula One team Arrows. MG Rover lost most of the computer-aided design work for the new vehicle in this set-back and, in simple terms, had lost £100 million overnight. Shocked at having lost so much, MG Rover ended up paying many more millions of pounds to the TWR administrators in order to have all CAD work returned. However this major set-back made them lose many designers, models and resources, and MG Rover could not afford to start all over again without cutting corners and did not have the financial resources to lay down the production tooling. Although they did not give up, designers from the company retold their stories, saying that the RDX60 progressed very little up until 2005.
However salvation looked possible in 2005 when a joint venture was proposed between SAIC (a large Chinese company) and MG Rover. However, SAIC took over a year to agree a deal and within that crucial time MG Rover had found itself with no money after bad sales of the face-lifted 25/ 45/ 75 and the release of the 75 V8.
After SAIC had bought the intellectual properties to some of MG Rover it released a concept called the Roewe W2. Itself based on the Rover 75 platform, it is reported to have derived from previous work on the RD/ X60 project. The W2 entered production in 2008 as the Roewe 550.
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