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.

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge
arts + entsJK Rowling to publish new story set in wizard's world for Halloween
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites those Star Wars rumours
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
people

Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
tv

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

News
i100
Life and Style
tech

Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into conflicts
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'
film

"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier

Latest stories from i100
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

    General Cover Teacher

    £120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: The Job:SECONDARY teachers need...

    Behaviour Support Work

    £60 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Behaviour Support WorkerThe JobTo...

    English Teacher, Aylesford School

    Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad Education is working in...

    EBD LSA required - Vale of Glamorgan

    £60 - £65 per day + plus free travel scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The J...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker