Cityrover Mark II: Last-chance hatchback for Blighty

An Indian-made batch of CityRovers is your final chance to buy a small British-badged car, says Sean O'Grady
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Here, friends, is Britain's cheapest new car, from a manufacturer that no longer exists. The CityRover Mark II. Unregistered and yours for £4,599 on the road from Motorpoint, which seems to have grabbed all the remaining stocks of this car.

The model you see illustrated here and which I took for a brief test drive is the CityRover in Select trim, which means electric windows all round, leather-rimmed steering wheel, air conditioning and, as with all CityRovers, a reasonably perky 1.4-litre engine and five doors.

An even cheaper Select model which did without electric windows and air conditioning was on sale for less than £4,000, but they've now sold out.

Now you may well have thought that, despite recent hopeful developments at MG Rover, that the old dog had pretty much barked its last some months ago, but you'd be wrong. The CityRover Mark II is the last hurrah. Indeed, it was never officially launched.

The detail improvements to the old CityRover that had been prepared by Rover's partner Tata, which made the car in India, were due to be released to the market just when MG Rover was going bust. The improved cars themselves, a few hundred of them, were on a ship travelling from India to Britain when the receivers were finally called in to Longbridge.

After a certain amount of toing and froing these limbo cars have found a new owner - the Motorpoint group of discount car dealers. Thus it has come to pass that a car supermarket has inherited the "launch" of MG Rover's last new(ish) product. Humiliating.

What's new? Well, the price has been halved, which is good. Otherwise, not much. The last CityRovers come with a few improvements, such twin airbags, better instruments, new wheel trims and badging. I also thought that the interior seemed better bolted together than the last time I rode a CityRover, but that may be just wishful thinking on my part.

Lucy Dornan, who does public relations for Motorpoint told me that most of the buyers of this car were "older people" who might in the past have bought a Metro. Now this is their - and your - last chance to buy something small with a "British" badge on it. Indeed, the City Rovers even had little Union flags on their tailgates.

The truth is that this CityRover is not very British. It's a rebranded Tata Indica, made in India principally for emerging markets. That means that the basic construction of the car is simple and you do notice how high the ride height is and how soft the suspension, presumably to cope with India's rougher highways. Ideal for road humps and some of Britain's rougher highways, I should add.

On the road the CityRover is surprisingly refined, considering, and doesn't feel underpowered in the way a Proton Savvy or Chevrolet Matiz does, to mention two budget rivals.

Those Tata corporation origins have one other unexpected blessing: apart from bits of cosmetic trim, you ought to be able to find spares and service for your CityRover relatively easy. This is due partly to the fact that the CityRover was a pretty straightforward design in the first place, but it will be more to do with Tata itself coming to the UK before too long with its original Indica, plus its estate derivative and various pick ups and SUVs.

So you can soon take your CityRover into a Tata dealer to have it serviced. If you're worried about the warranty, Motorpoint will sell you an "off-the-peg" package, although that raises the price quite a bit.

The most galling thing about the CityRover was always the high pricing that MG Rover executives, in their wisdom, lumbered it with. Motorpoint is selling the cars for not much more than half that price. Maybe MG Rover's management should have asked the likes of Motorpoint how to sell cars.

CityRovers can be found at Motorpoint outlets in Derby, Glasgow, Newport and Burnley; 0870 1254321 www.motorpoint.co.uk

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