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On a recent visit to the UK, I had the chance to meet up with my two great uncles. My Great Uncles are twin brothers, they have never married, but have lived together all their lives, and they pride themselves on the fact that they’ve never driven any ‘foreign muck’. As far back as I can remember, my two great uncles have driven everything from BMC (British Motor Company) vehicles to the latest Rovers, and everything else in between, just as long as it was a British brand, made in Britain, and came in some sort of mustard, brown, or beige color. Some might say, they’ve spent their life driving class, notable automotive purchases by them would be include a TR7, a Montego Clubman, a Maestro, and a Rover 45. My maternal Grandfather has a Rover 75 Tourer. A long story short, the older members of my family love their Rovers. One of my uncles mentioned something about those ‘Chinese made Rovers’ obviously he meant the MG range which was bought up NAC two years back, and the Roewe brand which NAC arch rivals SAIC started, and then took over MG anyway.
My uncles were actually quite worried – what British car would they buy next once their Rover 45 started to fade? There are no more mass produced ‘British cars’, unless of course you include foreign brands that manufacture in Britain, or British brands that are owned by foreign companies. The last British owned car maker might actually be Caterham, but I don’t see my late 60’s uncles driving a Caterham on their way to their daily pensioners lunch.One car that they could be driving in the next few years could be the RoeweSAIC design center in Leamington Spa, UK, but its made in China. In our book, the car is at least 90% British, sure it might have parts sourced in China, it may be assembled in China (for now, Longbridge production is looking likely) but its heart and soul are most definitely British. In a globalized world, does the nationality of a product even exist anymore, anyway? 550. The 550 sits on a shortened Rover 75 platform, it was designed by the
China Car Times had the pleasure of test driving a cherry red Roewe 550 earlier today, we left with a massive grin on our faces too.
As I set off, I was impressed by the quietness of the car, granted we were rolling slowly towards a junction but I had to look down at the RPM counter just to make sure the engine was ticking over, because you just couldn’t hear it at all from the cabin! We rolled out towards the junction, to a traffic light, then onto the highway. Setting off from the traffic light I left it in drive, but soon moved it into sports mode to gain control of the F1 flippers either side of the wheel. The gear changes in Drive were not totally smooth, and suffered from minor gear shock when changing up, quite a difference from the silky smooth CVT transmissions Im used to on my Nissans. The paddle shifters work very well, and the all important turbo kicked in as soon as we hit around 40kph, giving the car a noticeable boost. One minor niggle I found were the tiny wing mirrors, they may look sporty, but they aren’t very practical, and make changing lanes a dicey affair. The 550 takes corners with ease at low speeds, and higher speeds, with no noticeable body speeds, the sound of the engine once over 60kph is quite a nice growl for a smaller 1.8 turbo engine, the same engine that graced the Rover 75, Roewe 750, and MG7 1.8T, the 160BHP that the engine produces are not slack when it comes to strutting their stuff. The brakes on the model that I tested were a little spongy, although perhaps that is to be expected of a car that only done 300km in its short life as a test model. The handling of the 550 is quite impressive, once you’re on the open road the car is easy to open up, and will effortlessly hit high speeds, the small steering wheel is amazingly responsive, giving you the feeling that you’re actually driving a super mini and not a 4.5m long car.
In previous articles on China Car Times, the Roewe 550 has been talked up a lot, and truth be told, it’s a car that lives upto those promises. Its luxurios on the inside with its funky technological dashboard, imported German leather seats, excellent woodwork (better than the MG7’s!) and great quality plastics. It drives like any of its MG predasseors did, if not better, and the best thing of all? Its cheap. The model we test drove was on the market for 180,680rmb, this model with its refinements and quality puts a serious thorn in the side of its international competitors in China, chiefly those in similar price ranges and body styles, such as the Ford Focus, VW Sagitar (Jetta in Europe), VW Magotan etc. If there were a car that would push China forward as a mass car producing nation, it would be the Roewe 550. The 550, with the help of SAIC’s international design teams, has side stepped those ‘awkward generations’ that Japanese and Korean car companies found themselves in when it came to making cars. The 550 is a car that will prove to European customers that when China utilizes its greatest assets, it can produce a car that can win over the competition, and more importantly willing buyers. But would my aging uncles buy such a car? Probably not, the amount of technology in the car is quite frankly baffling, gone are the retro designs of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, ex-Rover designers are certainly strutting their stuff for SAIC in Lemington-Spa, and we cant wait to see what they bring out next. If anyone in Europe wanted a car to replace their Rover 45, or even MG ZS, then the Roewe 550 will be that car, albeit possibly as an MG5.
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