Classics World’s Paul Guiness test drives and reviews the Rover 75 2.0 CDT CLUB…
For anyone who still thinks of the Rover 75 as a modern car, here’s a sobering statistic for you: October of next year marks the 20th anniversary of the model’s official unveiling at the British International Motor Show. And with the 75 being the last all-new Rover to go into production before the eventual collapse of the firm (known as MG Rover from 2000), it’s a model with historical significance – although perfectly roadworthy examples can still be found at bargain-basement prices.
Rover 75s in reasonable condition litter the classifieds, with prices starting from as little as £500 for MoT’d cars. But low-mileage survivors are starting to see some upward movement, particularly if they’re in top-spec Connoisseur trim or they feature one of the more desirable engine options. A diesel 75 still tends to command a higher price than a 1.8-litre petrol-engined model in the same condition, thanks to the all-round excellence of that ex-BMW oil-burning unit; but with two different power outputs available (114 and 129bhp), it’s inevitably the higher-powered diesel that’s most sought after now.
What we have here, therefore, should be one of the least desirable of all the 75 diesels, thanks to it being a 114bhp version of the CDT in only mid-range Club trim. It’s the kind of spec that might have been given to a high-mileage company car driver whose allowance didn’t stretch to the more expensive Club SE, Connoisseur or Connoisseur SE models. This particular car, however, is notable for having covered just 53,000 miles from new; and having had one owner since 2007, it also appears to have been exceptionally well looked after.
First impressions of the car are very impressive, with its original Wedgewood Blue metallic paintwork being in virtually immaculate order. The normally vulnerable bumper corners front and rear (body-coloured with chrome inserts) are remarkably undamaged, and there are no signs of any corrosion issues or even parking dings. The only two things worth mentioning are a minor scratch on the boot lid and a very small paint blemish on the bonnet, while the alloy wheels show minor signs of lacquer discolouration and the odd blemish. Realistically, however, this is an incredibly well-presented car – and certainly the best-preserved 75 I’ve seen in a long time.
The interior is just as smart, with the charcoal-coloured velour upholstery being virtually unmarked. The wear-prone side bolsters of the front seats show no signs of damage, and even the carpets both front and rear are remarkably unworn. The boot area also looks like it’s scarcely been used, with the original carpet remaining undamaged. Despite this being a fairly lowly Club-spec model, it’s a well-equipped Rover – coming as standard with electric windows all round, air conditioning, 15-inch alloy wheels, a good quality sound system and, of course, the wonderfully handsome wood-veneered dashboard and fascia that the 75 was renowned for.
ON THE ROAD
Out on the road this low-mileage 75 also impresses, with its BMW-sourced diesel unit offering decent performance (0-60mph took a reasonable 11 seconds when new) and excellent levels of refinement. Acceleration is aided by the super-smooth five-speed manual gearchange; and although the clutch is fairly heavy, it’s at no point unbearable in heavy traffic.
The 75 was never intended to handle like its MG ZT cousin thanks to the Rover’s softer, comfort-focused suspension settings, and yet this front-wheel drive exec still offers good grip and relatively little body roll. Thanks to its low mileage, it still feels taut (by 75 standards), with no worrying suspension clonks or general sloppiness that you might expect in a car that’s seen more life.
Diesel-engined Rover 75s tended to be bought by high-mileage motorists and so it’s refreshing to discover one that’s covered an average of just 3500 miles per year – and has obviously been very well cared for. With superbly-presented bodywork, excellent paintwork, no signs of corrosion and an immaculate interior, it’s one of the smartest 75s we’ve seen at this kind of price. And with all the advantages (fuel economy, reliability and refinement) of BMW’s four-cylinder diesel engine, this particular 75 looks like a great choice for anyone seeking a long-term modern classic for everyday use.
ENGINE: 1951cc turbo-diesel
TOP SPEED: 120mph
GEARBOX: five-speed manual