18 February 2005

This scoop shot, taken inside a styling studio, is the latest iteration of MG Rover’s new 45 replacement, seen here in Rover guise. Its existence suggests that development of the so-called new medium car – codenamed RDX60 – has resumed, and that the car has been redesigned once again in an effort to ensure it is up to date when it finally goes on sale. This now looks like being 2007, following a late 2006 unveiling, probably at September’s Paris show.

When the new medium car was first mooted over four years ago, it was intended for UK showrooms in April 2004. Instead, it’ll now be at least three years late, which will make maintaining sales momentum with the current range of cars an even greater challenge for MG Rover than it has been already. In fact, merely surviving until the arrival of the new medium car could prove at least as hard a task as developing new products.

But the fact that this prototype exists at all is a solid ray of hope for the struggling car maker, which is insistent that it will secure a joint-venture deal with China’s Shanghai Automotive Industries Corporation.

Shanghai Automotive has just appointed a public relations agency in the UK, which stated last week that the company was ‘confident the deal could be completed in time to protect the MG Rover Group’. That work on RDX60 has resumed is further evidence that the deal will be completed.

This computer-enhanced image reveals the clay styling buck of a five-door hatch, its styling as avant-garde as that of the TCV concept car (right) unveiled two years ago which now seems to bear little resemblance to what will eventually be launched.

MG Rover is reportedly anxious to ensure that the delays to RDX60 will not result in it revealing a dated car in 2006, which is one reason why it will also be a bigger car than previously planned. This is in line with the recent trend towards larger cars in the Ford Focus/VW Golf class.

The medium car is still based on the Rover 75 platform, but the need to meet more demanding regulations – not least for pedestrian impacts – means that the structure requires more development than originally planned. The result will be a building block that has a much longer and more flexible life. That will allow the creation of a new four-door saloon – bigger than the hatch and with its own styling, and sized to compete with the Honda Accord and VW Passat. Saloons are China’s staple and this car, probably out during 2008, will replace the Rover 75. The new saloon will be built in China, while the five-door pictured here will be built at Longbridge.

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