7 June 2004

MG Rover could sell a reworked version of Proton’s Gen2 hatchback by 2006, Autocar can reveal. Sized between the current Rover 25 and 45, the part-Lotus- engineered hatchback would replace the 45, and supplement the more upmarket new medium car planned for launch at the end of 2005.

MG Rover chief executive Kevin Howe, interviewed by Autocar at last week’s British Motor Show, said the company’s exploratory talks with the Malaysian maker meant ‘a plethora of opportunities have been narrowed down to a couple of vehicle projects.’

One of the possible car-swaps Rover is chasing is the just-launched Proton Gen2 five-door hatch, a Focus-class car, while the other would involve a project that is still under development, probably a supermini.

The decision ‘has to be brought to a conclusion within the next few months,’ Howe told us. He also revealed that the company has broadened the scope of the new medium-car project, codenamed RDX60, to include the development of a replacement for the six-year-old Rover 75.

If MG Rover and Proton decide to proceed, it could mean that the ageing MGR range will be revitalised, with a Focus-class car competing towards the lower end of that segment, or a supermini that would slot in above the Indica-derived CityRover to replace the Rover 25.

Though the Gen2 broadly competes in the same segment as the new medium car, it will supplement the RDX60, which is bigger and more substantially engineered than the Proton.

Longbridge is considering fresh front-end styling, including sheet-metal changes, and a revised rear end. The treatment is likely to draw on the design themes evident in the Rover TCV concept car (right). Our exclusive artist’s impression shows how sleek a ‘Roverised’ version of the Proton Gen2 could look.

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MG Rover is planning a more extensive overhaul than the minor changes wrought on the under-developed and Indian-sourced CityRover, though beyond the styling alterations it is not clear what these will be.

In theory, MGR could install its own updated K-series powertrain in place of the Lotus-developed 110bhp 1.6-litre Campro unit, although this would involve substantial extra engineering work.

Lotus, which is owned by Proton, has done much of the development work on the Gen2, including chassis tuning and engine design. The car replaces the Wira and is said to be one of Proton’s best efforts to date.

In return for the use of its cars, MG Rover will provide Proton with the Rover 75, enabling the loss-making Malaysian maker to extend its range upmarket. It is too early to be definitive about where a Rover-adapted Proton might be manufactured, but Birmingham assembly of Malaysian-supplied kits is a possibility.

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