Truly the last British Rover, as a year after this car’s launch in 1993, the keys to Rover were handed over from British Aerospace to BMW, after which their new German parent company began to reorganise the Rover product list by either replacing older variants with new stock, or upgrading previous models to make them look more modern.
Rover Group as it was known, which included the MG Marque, was formed in 1986 during the breakup of British Leyland by the Thatcher Government. In fear that the sale of any more assets would send stocks crashing and bankrupt the company, the Government was forced to sell Rover to British Aerospace on the strict understanding that the company couldn’t be sold on for at least 4 years. In that time the company found itself in a holding pattern, not releasing any new cars but simply recycling the existing models with a couple of facelifts.
The 600 had been in development for the best part of 8 years, with its original intention being to be a hatchback compliment to the Rover 800 of 1986, but these plans were shelved and a hatchback version of the 800 was instead placed under the same model. After several more years of development, popping over to Japan every once in a while to have a few negotiations with Honda, the 600 was launched in 1993 as the company’s first new product since the Rover 400, which for all intents and purposes was just a reworked 200.
The car is very much Honda in its conception, being powered by a Honda 2.0L Straight-4 producing 133hp, being fitted with Honda Suspension, a Honda gearbox, and being built on the same platform as the Honda Accord. In fact the interior as well is largely derived from a Honda Ascot Innova, the only difference being that the car was fitted with Walnut veneer and chrome. The rear seats were also a point of contention as apparently legroom was somewhat cramped.
But either way, Rover intended to iron out this flaws by way of clever pricing, and beating the competition was no easy task, especially when considering it included the Alfa Romeo 155, Audi 80, BMW 3 Series, Mazda Xedos, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Peugeot 406and the Renault Laguna.
Indeed the Rover 600 was able to sell with the initial price being £17,000, but at the same time the Honda Accord off which it was based cost £2,000 less. Again many questions from the British Leyland days of the early Rover 200 were raised again. Why buy a Rover when I can buy an equivalent Honda for less?
But in spite of all these problems, Rover was able to shift 272,000 of these cars during its 6 year lifetime, and was able to have it replace the 11 year old Austin Montego in 1995, before this car itself was killed off by the retro-styled Rover 75, which simultaneously killed off the Rover 800, bringing an end to the British-era Rover cars.