Motoring: The Verdict - Blast from the past

The Rover 75's sedate ride and wood-and-leather interior may seduce drivers with retro tastes, but were our readers impressed?
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Indy Lifestyle Online
You have to worry when a car company markets its new, make-or- break product as having been "rejected by focus groups". A brave strategy. Of course, Rover means to imply that if you buy its new flagship this sets you apart as someone who exercises old-fashioned taste in the face of overbearing peer pressure to buy German. Rover 75 buyers supposedly eschew hard-headed fiscal reasoning and let emotion and patriotism take over. But does the 75 warrant that loyalty?

We tested a light metallic-green, 2.5-litre V6 "Connoisseur", which comes stuffed with just about every extra you might find on a major BMW saloon. All for pounds 23,850. That's very competitive compared with rivals like the Audi A4 or the BMW 323.

Inside it apes a Jaguar. For me, leather and wood have no place in a modern motor, but Rover buyers demand herds and forests of the stuff and in the 75 their lust is sated.

This opulence is appropriate, however. The Rover 75 is, after all, not a knuckle-whitening sports saloon; it's a comfortable, refined cruiser to be driven wearing string-back gloves and a flat cap. Performance is merely adequate. Nought to 60 is 8.9 seconds, top speed 134mph, but to the over-50s who will fall for the 75, those figures will be as relevant as Britney Spear's chart position. In a Rover they are seeking continuity, tradition and well-being, and the 75 certainly cossets and cuddles well.

By far the best aspect of the car is its ride, which is almost as good as the significantly more expensive Jaguar S-Type. Though it leans round corners, bumps and crevices are a distant concern. Doubts remain about build quality. Structurally the 75 seems rigid enough but there were some ghastly, flimsy plastics inside the car. Cabin space was also disappointing.

The 75 can't afford to fail and I don't believe it will. It is a triumph in terms of ride and equipment levels. Despite what the ads say, I suspect the focus groups loved it.

Elaine Harrup

33, deputy hotel manager. Currently drives an Austin Maestro

Joan Harrup

59, Elaine's mother, waitress. Currently drives a Renault Safrane

Both from King's Lynn, Norfolk

Elaine: "I really liked it. It was easy to drive, I liked the dash and all the oval dials. It accelerated well, but is not that big for a car of this class. For the money I'd rather have a Freelander."

Joan: "I don't like the dials, it all looks old-fashioned, like something from 1936. I was able to pull one of the window switches out. It has too many gizmos - after 50 you're not interested in gizmos. I prefer my Renault."

John Cowan

26, broadcaster, from Barnham Broom, Norfolk. Currently drives a Vauxhall Astra

"She accelerated well but the handling was a little bit strange. It was pretty bad going round corners - it was a little bit like when you're steering a boat and you do a hard right turn. It did cruise quite well, however. I'd class it with a Ford Focus. As a repmobile it would be fine but the styling is awful and it has this horrible plastic on the dash. The chrome is quite nice. But it's not really my style. I would say it is probably aimed at the retired market, people who play bowls."

Tink Hastings

40, teacher, from Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk (holding daughter Morwenna, 18 months)

Jeremy Hastings

38, Tink's husband, photographer Current family car: a Citroen AX

Tink: "It's good value, very sleek, solid; a good British car but not really practical for my way of life - where do you put the wellies? This retro thing is popular now, but this is like an automotive Lava Lamp, and it doesn't corner well."

Jeremy: "The look is retro classic. It's nice for long, luxurious drives, although it wallows a bit. I thought it would be more expensive than it is."

Sue Bygrave

39, sales assistant. Currently drives an Austin Metro

David Howell

47, sheet metal worker. Currently drives a Vauxhall Carlton

Both from Norwich

Sue: "I liked the colour and it's a lovely drive. For a 2.5-litre engine it could have had a bit more oomph. I've got to sell a few more kitchens before I can buy one."

David: "I don't want a driving licence for this car, I want a marriage licence! I love it. It's got classic style. The seats would need a year to wear in and it's not too economical, but there were no rattles. It has to be as good as a BMW."

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