This new Streetwise is a perfect example of MG Rover making the best possible use of what it has. With its all-new, all-British entry in the Focus-Golf class, RDX60, still well over a year away, and sales across the MG and Rover ranges being compressed by aggressive competition, Britain’s last volume car maker has no alternative but to keep coming up with ways of freshening its range, and widening its appeal.
We’ll soon see the Indian-built supermini, CityRover, a car designed to appeal to the old Metro buyer. Importing that Tata-built model is a classic piece of opportunism – and it will probably work. In the meantime, we get Streetwise, the "urban on-roader" which sets out to convert a perfectly ordinary Rover 25 into a cool set of wheels for the younger owners.
It’s a dangerous game, courting ‘cool’ for commercial purposes. Commerce and cool are frequently like oil and water. And when I discovered that the £11,295, three-door diesel-engined S version seemed a pleasantly nuggety little car with bags of low-down torque (177lb ft at 2000rpm) and a general feeling of well-finished integrity, I was full of foreboding for what the 25-year-old driver would make of it. I’ve frequently discovered that he does not always agree with me.
Thus it was a nice surprise when the first 22-year-old I encountered reckoned he really liked the way the Streetwise looked. He didn’t blanch too much at the price either. Then a group of three were clustered around it when I left it in a shopping centre car park. They liked it as well, and one wanted to sit behind the wheel. These were good omens.