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MotorMax: Back to basics to snap up a bargain.

Byline: STEVE HUGHES

ROVER appears to have turned the corner and is back on the road to recovery, if latest sales figures are anything to go by.

Although its sales are down massively so far this year, by more than 10,000 cars, the decline has finally been reversed.

Last month saw growth of about 35 per cent with about 18,000 new cars registered in just a single month, which is a spectacular performance.

Much of the credit for this must go to the sparkling new MG models, which are basically just the standard Rover range given a makeover. But while much of the attention is focused on these newcomers, anyone more interested in bagging a bargain than impressing the neighbours will get the biggest discounts off the standard models.

The MG ZR, for example, attracts a discount of just a couple of hundred pounds, whereas dealers are currently prepared to knock up to twice that amount off the list price of the Rover 25 equivalents.

Another point about the MG versions of the Rover 25 is that, in MG ZR form, the smallest engine available is 1.4 litres, which gets an insurance rating of group 8.

The Rover 25, on the other hand, starts with the 1.1-litre version, which is in group 3, and even the 1.4-litre Rover is placed in lowly group 4.

In performance terms the 1.4-litre version is the more impressive, but the smaller-engined model is surprisingly capable and more than adequate for those with small-car motoring needs. The secret is its 16-valve double overhead camshaft engine, which achieves more pulling power than that of any other car of similar size in its class.

This endows it with acceptable performance even when fully laden, and the 100mph top speed means that motorway cruising at 70mph is effortless and economical.

In terms of equipment you get just the basics, although there are plenty of optional extras available.

Standard kit is limited to power steering, a driver's airbag, split folding rear seats, and a radio/cassette. Extras include metallic paint at pounds 300, alloy wheels (pounds 400), electric sunroof (pounds 495), remote central locking (pounds 250) and a passenger airbag (pounds 150).

The list price of the basic car without any of those extras is pounds 7,995, which means an actual transaction price of about pounds 7,650, and then there's the same car with the E tag which, as in the pounds 8,585 Rover 1.1iE, also has central locking, power sunroof and height and lumbar adjustment for the driver's seat.

The Rover 25 is a car that has gradually evolved from a relatively ordinary runabout into a quality product. There is a reassuring feeling of solidity to it and it drives well, even in 1.1-litre form.

Despite being a small car, it is usefully larger than, say, Ford's Fiesta, which means that there is a little extra legroom in the back. The rear tailgate arrangement is useful, and there is a choice of three or five doors.

It's a very competent little all-rounder. My advice would be to get one that has already been registered by the dealer, and demand a discount of at least pounds 500 off the list price.

FASTfactsWHAT IS IT? Rover 25 1.1iHOW MUCH? pounds 7,995 HOW QUICK? 0-60mph 13.5 secs. Top Speed 100mphHOW THIRSTY? 42mpg CO2? 160 g/km

CAPTION(S):

TOP-QUALITY PRODUCTS... the Rover 25 and the MG ZRs of pop stars Atomic Kitten
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Nov 10, 2002
Words:585
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