Unexceptional Classics

Unexceptional Classifieds: Rover 416

by Antony Ingram
21 January 2022 2 min read
Unexceptional Classifieds: Rover 416
Photos: eBay

Price: £3995
Mileage: 38,123
Condition: Ready for its brochure photoshoot
Seller: eBay

We’ve had a run of family cars recently in our Unexceptional Classifieds series. We make no apologies for this, partly because… well, we make the rules here, but partly because the family car is, almost by definition, the most unexceptional of vehicle types.

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This week it’s a post-1995 Rover 400 joining the Golf, Civic, Favorit, 309, Escort and more from the last month or two. Specifically, a Rover 416 from the model’s first year, and a very well-kept example at that.

We’ve not inspected too many ourselves, but while some contemporaries can look a little rough around the edges when they turn up for sale, these 400s often seem to be in quite nice condition. Perhaps the subtext here is their generally older and gentler user base, or perhaps they simply wear their miles well, but with only 38,000 on the clock this car probably hasn’t spent enough time on the roads to display any significant signs of use.

Like many of Rover’s cars from the period the second-generation 400 was initially well-received and then gradually faded into the background in the face of newer rivals. Autocar even went as far as comparing a Rover 416 to the similarly new and similarly upmarket E36 BMW 3-series Compact in 1995, and the Brit acquitted itself well.

But in the years that followed, the arrival of cars like the Renault Megane, Mk4 Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, fourth-generation Vauxhall Astra and others each bumped the 400 down the group test pecking order. Refreshed in 1999 to become the Rover 45, it never quite got the attention it deserved from the by-now cash-strapped MG Rover, finally trudging on until 2005.

It’s not without merit though, particularly with more than quarter of a century to age gracefully. The 45 has made its predecessor look perhaps a little bland, though the 400 has also aged better than the five-door Honda Civic developed alongside it. Old Rovers are often advertised as having Honda engines, but with a manual gearbox, this 1.6 is a K-Series – only the autos got Honda’s single-cam D-series.

As a very early car, the seller wishes to draw your attention to first the traditional Nightfire Red paintwork, and then the unique interior trim of this Rover 416. While the beige trim and the wood panels have since fallen out of fashion, the Paisley pattern to the seats was arguably never in fashion – but details like that are the things visitors to the Festival of the Unexceptional really appreciate. The only notable ageing inside is the floppy fabric on the rear doorcards – something these cars share with their Honda counterparts.

A quick MOT check shows that it expires in February, so you should be able to use that to bargain on the price. The previous test in September 2020 looked a bit scary, though the defect notes suggest lack of use rather than misuse – something that would be consistent with the low mileage. Nevertheless, probably worth peering around before you lay down the cash.

It comes with a stack of paperwork though as well as three sets of keys, so this 400 will probably be of some interest to that small but growing band of 1990s Rover enthusiasts – and ideal for bringing the family along to the next Festival of the Unexceptional.

Read more

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