This article covers the whole Rover CityRover saga in 4 parts. Second Part CityRover Mk1 Part I

Rover City Rover (2003-2005): What comes in your mind when you hear the name Rover? I’m presuming Land Rovers or some other Rover cars like the Standard 2000 which was actually a Rover SD1. What doesn’t come in mind is this car. This is the Rover City Rover the British Counterpart of the Tata Indica which prefers tea & cookies over cutting chai & samosa.

Back in Worli 1995, Ratan Tata announces a completely Indigenous car built from scratch. Designed by I.DE.A in Italy what later in 1998 came to be known as the TATA Indica. The Indica was something never before seen, it was one of the most ambitious project of Ratan Tata. The Indica had a very European styling the overall design of the car was very curvy. Eighteen months since launch TATA Motors have sold 1 lakh Indicas but being it their first car in the real sense. But the Indica suffered from quality and reliability issues. Tata Motors figured the problems and recalled the cars to replace the faulty parts. In February 2001 Tata motors launched the Indica V2 with better build & quality. Although the Indica was successful in India Tata was losing money on it so they decided to export it.

7316kms away from Worli, Mumbai in Longbridge, Birmingham MG Rover was presented the Tata Indica V2. MG Rover realised that it has the potential to be the entry level Rover in the UK & European Markets. Rover didn’t have an entry level model since the Rover 100 was discontinued in 1998. It was Rover’s entry level model in the UK & European markets, although the Rover 200 had been developed in 1995 to replace the 100 but it was sold alongside the 100 until 1998. Then the 200 was given a facelift in 1999 and was called Rover 25 the new entry level model until the replacement model was developed. When BMW sold Rover they kept the Mini’s design and 100/Metro’s notional successor was the Rover 200/25 and it’s MG counterpart MG ZR, until Tata Indica arrived. With Indica in their hands MG Rover saw a opportunity to recreate the Metro without much investment & R&D.

The deal was quickly finalized with the following conditions:

•MG Rover would adjust the styling without changing any of the body pressings. This would allow bumpers and other body addenda to be re- styled by Peter Stevens’ design team.

•MG Rover would have a degree of freedom to adjust the chassis settings in order to tune the Indica to be more suitable for the UK and Europe’s roads.

•Economics dictated that the car would need to be built in India, and then reverse imported.

Under the codename RD110 the operations began. An engineers working on this project said, the problem with RD110 laid in its low quality interior, and apalling gearchange. And when they presented management with a programme to improve both areas, they were completely ignored. 

They felt the RD110 wasn’t being taken seriously, and during its original start-up as no British engineers were assigned to Pune only management made that visit.”

Then came the difficult part of naming the car, a car which had no relation with Rover & was being produced far away from UK and justifying a Rover nameplate to it is a big task. In the past Austin Rover had done this with the Triumph Acclaim & the first gen of the Rover 200 but those cars were successful. 

The name that was in the minds of the management was Rover 15 but that name was overlooked because the future products of the company will have names instead of numbers. Finally the marketing came up with the name ‘CityRover’, keeping in mind that this naming strategy worked for Land Rover & Range Rover in the past. A former company manager said that it was a good way of slightly distancing the car from UK built Rovers, while also positioning it quite effectively.

On the engineering front MG Rover could change very little given the tight budget they had. But despite that CityRover was not just a rebadged Indica.

To be Continued….

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