Rover 45 (1999 – 2005) Review

Rover 45 (1999 – 2005) At A Glance


+Very light on fuel. Reasonable amount of kit. Tidy looks. The later ones make the better buys.

-Felt old and outclassed, even when new. Not that roomy. K-series engines can blow their head gaskets but many have been sorted by now.

With BMW at the wheel, Rover’s mid-size motor was given a new sense of purpose. Gone was the awkward job of marketing the 400 as more than a Focus but less than a Mondeo. Instead, the new 45 had just one job to do – beat the Focus. Talk about picking your battles…

The 45 was given an engine line-up and spec with which to do battle with its rivals. But there was a problem. Actually there were several, but we’ll just highlight the main ones. First up, it was out of its depth. The Focus was an astonishing car – game changer gets overused, but the Focus really shook things up. It handled brilliant and looked stunning.

Few car makers could match that, let alone Rover. You see, the 45 wasn’t actually a new car. It was quite heavily based on the 400 with a few tweaks. And the 400 shared its platform with the Honda Civic.

By all accounts, the BMW’s relationship with Honda was strained. Honda could’ve increase its share in Rover, but it didn’t – and felt betrayed when the long-cultivated Japan-British partnership was cast aside in favour of the highest bidder. The result? Honda charged BMW full price for its engines and refused to share its estate. It was Honda’s train set, and Rover was no longer allowed to play.

Still, adversity and the new German management bought out the best in Rover. Working with ZF, a range of CVT automatic gearboxes were available, and new derivatives of the K-series engine were available like the 2.0-litre V6. From launch, a 1.4-litre 16-valve and a 1.8-litre were also available. As were two diesels (a 1.8 and a 2.0) aimed at the company car market.

Launch trims ranged from base E, L, and S, trims, the mid-range XL and XS spec, and the Classic, Club, and luxurious Connoisseur. In 2004, the 45 was facelifted with new headlamps (and backlifted with a new rear spoiler) but the writing was on the wall for Rover and production ceased in 2005.

While some argue that 45 was (optimistically) the average buyer age, the car was actually a decent drive. The Civic platform had never really been pushed and BMW realised it could more than handle stiffer springs and dampers, a quicker power-steering rack and a few other tweaks.

But it wasn’t the most dynamic car in its class. Or the prettiest. Or the best-spec’d. It was a middle of the road car for more than middle-aged people who could often be found in the middle lane of the motorway. The 45 was… middling at best.

These days, it’s actually a tidy modern classic. They were (eventually) well-built and seem to have kept the rust at bay. More reserved owners mean the most cars haven’t been thrashed. And the well-documented issues with the K-series head gasket have been weeded out. In fact, they’re quite charming little things that are easy to drive and even easier to enjoy – especially the V6. Our thoughts? Try it… you might like it.

Ask Honest John

Does the Rover 45 have a Japanese engine?

"I've read that the engines in the Rover 45 vary in quality and that the Japanese engines were best? How can you tell? My parent's car is playing up and we're thinking of replacing the engine."
Only the Rover 400 got the Japanese 1.6 engine. Do you know much more about the fault that's causing the problems? Any engine swap is a fairly extreme course of action and will likely cost you more than the value of the car unless you plan to do all the work yourself.
Answered by Keith Moody

Can I change my Rover 45 from fuel injection to carburettors?

"Is it possible to change this car from fuel injection to carburettors?"
Yes it should be possible. We spoke to Dan of Dan ST Engineering, who said, 'On cars of this era you can likely retain the current engine management to run the ignition/spark and simply remove the injectors. This may of course flag up an engine warning light. The fuel injection pump will be too high pressure for carbs and therefore an EFI-carb fuel pressure regulator would be required.' Bike carbs (eg Mikuni) are always a popular fit but you'll need to budget for parts, fitting and setting up - all of which could well add up to more than the car is worth.
Answered by Keith Moody
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