AM Online

Driven MG Rover CityRover Sprite – on sale now


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There’s one major thing wrong with the CityRover: the price. Our model – the 1.4-litre 84bhp Sprite – costs £7,895 on the road, while the basic-spec entry level is £6,495: slash £1,500 off (and our spies claim some retailers are doing just that) and you’ve got a highly competitive car.

Just don’t try to kid anyone that it’s a credible alternative to the Fiat Panda, Ford Ka, Peugeot 106 or the Hyundai Getz. File Rover’s entry-level car instead in the Perodua Kelisa, Suzuki Swift and Daihatsu Charade category.

The reason’s simple: at £5,000-£6,000, few people expect too much from the Kelisa, but they are pleasantly surprised by its reasonable build quality and sparky ride. Up the price by £2-3k, and expectations are much higher: the CityRover Sprite tested, despite being equipped with alloys, PAS and remote central locking (but not ABS or electric windows), does not deliver.

Based on the Tata Indica – a staple of the Indian market – questions have been asked of the build quality. The interior has poorly fitted plastic; the five-door body quivers at motorway speeds, the rear-view mirror nothing but a blur.

CityRover wallows round corners; the ride is crashy and not well suited to the UK’s rougher roads. On the plus side there’s plenty of leg and headroom for passengers.

Reports from retailers are mixed. Some claim strong sales to buyers who miss the old Rover Metro. Others say they are finding it difficult to shift – even with discount incentives. MGR is expecting to sell 8,000-9,000 units this year – to the end of May volumes stood at just over 4,000.

Sales could pick up, but only if Rover pitches CityRover as a genuinely low priced altern-ative to a quality used car.

Strengths: Roomy, five doors, deals avaliable
Weaknesses: The price versus quality
Opportunities: Bring first time buyers back to Rover
Threats: Better built rivals
The USP: New Metro
Price: £7,895 (Sprite)
Engine: 1.4-litre 84bhp
Transmission: Five-speed manual, fwd
Performance: top speed 100mph; 0-62mph 11.9s
Efficiency: 37.9mpg comb; 167g/km CO2
CAP RV (3yr/30k):£2,825 (37%)
Rivals: Rover says: Getz, 106, Ka We say: Kelisa, Charade, Swift, Kalos

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