Road Test :

It's called a Rover, but don't be fooled. The Metro is back, says Roger Bell

Rover is fighting a rearguard action with its ancient supermini. A budget facelift and a change of identity have turned the 14-year-old Metro, launched before Ronald Reagan became US president, into the Rover 100 series. Don't be fooled by the name

(which brings the Metro into line with Rovers 200 to 800). Behind the cheery new face are telling legacies from the early Eighties, including a boxy body carrying unsightly roof gutters and non-flush windows. The driving position is not of this decade, either. Such anachronisms date a car that's fallen behind in looks, packaging and roominess, if not in safety, quality, character or price.

In certain respects, the test 111 GSi five-door shows the door to younger, trendier rivals. Take refinement. If any competitor is mechanically smoother and quieter, I cannot name it. The Rover-designed K-series aluminium engine (soon to spawn a V6 derivative) packs a soft punch but hums through the gears with turbine smoothness. Economy, not vigour is its forte, witness returns of 40mpg in the urban cycle, and 60mpg at a steady 56mph. Few petrol-powered cars can better these figures. Even when cruising at the legal limit - little more than a quiet canter - the abstemious 111 gives close to 50mpg. The alternative 1.4 sacrifices some of this commendable frugality for a bit more zap.

Performance is especially feeble when lugging in top; to get the best from the 111's free-revving engine you must exercise your left limbs and stir the gears - no chore as the shift of the Peugeot-derived gearbox is as quick as a switch. Steering's also easy, even without power assistance, so the 111 is undemanding to corner and park. It's modestly entertaining, too. Despite the paucity of power, the car's agility and nifty responses make it an endearing chum. Even in suburbia - the 111's natural habitat - the car's spirit is quite infectious. Pity its ride is marred by an underlying jiggle on all but the smoothest roads.

It is just as well that Rover is aiming the 100 at younger buyers, mainly women; awkwardly high sills make getting in and out tricky for the elderly, and the heavily sprung doors tend to slam on your legs. The car's age (and Mini influence) are further betrayed by a knees-up driving position that handicaps the tall. Knee-room in the back is particularly cramped. Although Rover shrugs aside this problem - it asserts that most journeys are made with vacant back seats - the fact remains that the short-wheelbase 100 is not nearly so spacious as modern rivals such as the Fiat Punto, Vauxhall Corsa or VW Polo.

There's nothing wrong with the 100's fit and finish judging by the well- equipped GSi; quality has no doubt benefited from Rover's association with Honda (which continues, despite the BMW buy-out, with the Civic-based 400 replacement, out later this

year). Side impact beams are now rifted to the doors, and a driver's airbag is a £245 option. New seats, wheels, trim and security (there's an alarm and a passive immobiliser) are included in a raft of improvements that will probably see the 100 through to its all-new replacement near the turn of the century. If space is not a priority, the Metro - sorry, Rover 100 - still has something to offer as a commuter car. It is hard to imagine anyone disliking Rover's latest number, dated though it is in looks and packaging.

SPECIFICATIONS

Rover 111 GSi five-door, £8,095: (100-series prices from £6,495). Engine: 1120cc K-series four-cylinder with eight valves; 60bhp at 57OOrpm. Transmission: five-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel drive. Performance: 0-60mph in 13.7 seconds, top speed 96mph. Economy: an easy 40mpg on unleaded.

COMPARISONS

Citron AX 1.1i Echo, £7,710: Keenly priced lightweight with good performance/economy. Disguises age well. Since effective update, feels less flimsy, better made. Handles well, fun to drive - but lacks Rover's quietness and refinement. New model less than a year away.

Fiat Punto 55SX five-door, £7,424: For style and accommodation, the car to beat at this keen price. More powerful 75 from £8,O74. Punto is much roomier, trendier than dated Rover. Compared with previous small Fiats, quality high and rust-proofing outstanding. Ride and handling indifferent.

Ford Fiesta 1.1LX five-door, £8,570: Since effective Escort makeover, Fiesta is weakest model in Ford's range. Styling dated, inside and out compared with latest superminis. Performance poor, handling indifferent. Lacks 100's spirit and poise, outranked by younger competitors. Strong on passive safety - driver's airbag is standard.

Nissan Micra 1.OLX five-door, £8,115: Don't be fooled by Noddy-car looks. British-made Micra vies for class leadership with accomplished ride and handling, benchmark quality and refinement. Performance of 1.0 indifferent. Go for 1.3. CVT has the best small-car automatic transmission on the market.

VW Polo 1.3L five-door, £8,149: Old Polo was desperately dated. New one sets standard for looks, packaging, refinement, big-car ride. Carry-over engine disappointing (1.0-litre alternative worse). Car's appeal lies in its comfort, maturity and quality. The supermini to beat, except on performance.

Sport
Lionel Messi pictured after reaching the final
world cup 2014
Sport
Lionel Messi and Thomas Muller have shone brightest for Argentina and Germany respectively on their way to the World Cup final
Sport
Brazilian fans watch the match for third place between Brazil and Netherlands
Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: Dutch pile on the misery in third place playoff
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

    £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

    C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

    C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

    £60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

    Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

    £75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?