1997 Rover - Austin 600 620Ti 2.0 16v turbo from UK and Ireland
Stealth performance saloon that costs peanuts
Front CV joints at 80k.
I was looking for something cheap, comfy and anonymous to ferry me 20 miles each way to the station every day, and not attract any attention when left there. I set a budget of a grand, and did a search on Autotrader. This came up and caught my eye instantly.
It fulfils the brief perfectly. It's a biggish, comfy four seater with low noise levels, a good quality feel to the interior (it's a Honda Accord basically), and superb half leather Recaro seats that support in all the right places. It has everything I need as standard including decent air-con, and a full complement of electrics. It cruises at 80 on the motorway with very low noise levels, and with bags of power in reserve. More on the power later.
It rides quite firmly, but not uncomfortably. Handling is not the last word in sophistication or feel, but it's competent, predictable and safe. Steering a little overlight, but quite accurate. Brakes are good. Torque steer can be an issue in the lower gears, particularly on bumpy surfaces, but it's not too bad.
The best bit of the car is completely hidden from outside. The plain "600" badge, anonymous three box shape and complete lack of go faster agenda (twin tailpipe apart) makes it hard to believe that a lovely 200 bhp turbocharged four nestles under that plain bonnet. The performance it delivers is fantastic - proper sports saloon grunt, with the midrange muscle that only a turbocharged engine can provide. It's refined and smooth, yet squeezes you firmly into the seat when you open it up. There's little lag, and so far top reliability.
Parts and servicing are not a problem, and the CV joints it needed at 80k were available from stock at the local motor factors for a reasonable price. Thieves ignore it (looks like an OAP special), it does an easy 30 mpg driven sensibly, and it's been very reliable. Build quality is as good as the Honda equivalent and the trim nicer. Frankly, for a £1,000 car it ticks an incredible number of boxes.
I've always loved fast cars that look anonymous, and the 620Ti is one of the absolute best. It confuses the hell out of the little kevs in their tarted up Corsas and Saxos, and is a source of amusing irritation for the "out of my way" brigade in 3 series and A4's. A flex of the throttle sends them backwards at an amusing rate of knots. Even the big engined (non-M) 3 series can't pull away from it.
Bought as a cheap tool to run into the ground, but I've kind of fallen in love with it. I've even serviced it, I like it that much. On a £1000 car I'd normally fix faults only.
If were to blow up tomorrow, I'd probably go out and buy another one. The funny thing is though, my mechanic tells me the 600 is as solid and reliable as the Accord it's based on, and the 2.0 turbo engines only give trouble if modified or neglected. I had compression and oil pressure tests done when I got the CV joints fitted, and they're perfect.
One of the best kept secrets on the road. Highly recommended.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know
Review Date: 9th May, 2007
Gearbox issues are not down to a design fault--look it up. Neglect and abuse cause them to fail. The plastic caged bearings supporting the diff will eventually go, but depending on the mechanical sympathy of the owner they can last a long time before failing, and steel caged bearings are available to upgrade them as/when they need it.
The 600 was undoubtedly one of Rover's best-built cars. The 'T' series engine is very strong and reliable, although the head gasket tends to weep oil at higher mileages (fixable by a later gasket design if you are bothered).