I bought this car in a hurry after my last one was written off, despite all the bad things I'd heard and knew about Rover reliability and the K-series engine.
It had a full service history, had a recent cambelt change and recent head gasket, so I thought it'd be OK.
It was the most unreliable car I've owned, excepting an Alfa 33! This car just didn't like starting from cold, and it was a lottery as to how long I'd spend in the morning trying to get it going. It would just turn and turn, nearly catching, but not quite until, eventually it would fire up.
If I hadn't kept a jump box with me, it would've stranded me at least once. I had a service done, and they replace the (platinum tipped?) spark plugs as it may have helped, but did it? Er, no!
Apart from this it was OK.
These things do go like a rocket provided you rev the nuts off them, and feel pretty normal on performance if you don't; my wife drives a Saab 9-5 2.0t Linear and it could blow that out of the weeds no problem. In fact it was nearly as quick as my Nissan 300ZX Turbo, and regularly returned 32-34mpg. The gearchange is a bit like stirring soup though.
Handling was of the "lets make the ride hard as hell and then it might corner" variety; speed bumps were quite painful, especially after my last car, a Renault Laguna. Despite the ride, the handling was OK, ish, but the 200Vi is no Ford Focus or Pug 306, that's for sure.
Wet weather handling was quite fun, as long as you only used about 50% power; above that, it was hairy!
Didn't traction control exist when these things were built? Oh yeah, and the brakes were crap, my 20 year old Nissan 300's were far better.
Interior wise, the seat trim, in half leather and sort of suede/alcantara?, was nice, it had the obligatory bit of Rover wood stuck on the dash, and I think it still looked half modern. The driving position was comfortable, and it had very good all round visibility, with lots of glass area. However, Rover don't exactly build these things to last do they? It had as many squeaks and rattles as an old Lada (perhaps more!), and it strangely managed to feel solid and flimsy at the same time! Bonuses were a decent sounding stereo, not a bad sized boot, and decent rear passenger space for its size.
One more thing, why the hell are these cars so noisy at anything over about 75? I know they've got a cd factor of 0.35, which is crap for a modern car, meaning plenty of wind noise, but couldn't Rover have put some sort of sound insulation in so I didn't feel like the tappety VVC engine was in the cabin with me! Strangely, I never took it on a long journey.
Overall, I think these things probably suit someone who doesn't mind if their car is as unreliable as hell, who want something bloody quick and good fun, and don't mind the shame of wearing ear defenders whilst driving!
P.S : My neighbour has a 214 on an R-reg and the engine seized recently, and my mates wife had a 214 on a P-reg up til about 18 months ago and the head gasket went on it, what a surprise!! I'm not surprised Rover went bust; they sold these things new up til '05 as the 25 and the MG ZR.