Roewe 750

5 Jun, 2007 1:00am Mark Andrews

The Roewe 750E is proof that Chinese car manufacturers are capable of producing more than simply cheap imitations


The Roewe 750E is proof that Chinese car manufacturers are capable of producing much more than simply cheap and nasty imitations. Combining a distinctive new look with a capable chassis, the 750E has the feel of a premium product. Although the safety equipment will have to be improved and build quality issues ironed out before the model makes waves in the UK, Roewe is certainly on the right track with this car. Only one thing remains untested - the firm's pricing policy. That could make or break the 750E's debut.
We've taken the wrong way on a test drive... but it was no mistake. That's because Auto Express has had exclusive access to the new Roewe - pronounced 'wrong way' - to see if the Chinese car can compete with the UK's best family saloons.

Our drive of the Rover 75-inspired 750E also comes hot on the heels of our first taste of the MG7, from Nanjing Automobile Company, which is also based on the British car.

Roewe's model, however, is built and engineered independently of the Nanjing-owned MG model. The 750E is a redeveloped 75, and is to be made on a dedicated production line being constructed by the manufacturer.

Two versions of the newcomer will be available, and they can be identified by their different front grilles. Top-spec models like the car we drove get a larger, more aggressive nose, while the base model in our main pictures looks more conservative. At the rear they are exactly the same, though, and the old 75's tail-lights have been revised.

On top of these tweaks, there's a bigger boot and a longer body - both of these changes have been made to improve the Roewe's practicality. But while overall length has increased by 116mm to 4,865mm, the kerbweight has gone down by 5kg to 1,585kg.

With no official test model available, we picked up our demonstrator from a franchised Roewe dealer in China, and were instantly impressed by the generally high standard of build quality. Our only criticism concerns the panel gaps, as the fitting of the front wings was inconsistent among the models in the showroom.

Inside, the cabin has been neatly trimmed and, as we swapped from the front to the rear seats, it became clear that there's more room for passengers than in the Rover. This is due to a 100mm increase in the wheelbase, taking it to 2,849mm.

Buyers initially have the choice of only two variants: the entry-level D or high-spec 750E. A third, the 750i, is set to join the line-up later in the year. Only one interior trim and five colours are available, although the cabin in our 750E is very tastefully finished.

The electrically adjustable seats, trimmed in cream Canadian leather, are supportive and comfortable, while wood detailing is fitted to the steering wheel, gearstick and doors.

Rear seats are comfortable and feature a large armrest, which folds down to reveal a drinks-holder and cubbyhole. But the centre passenger has to make do with a lapbelt - and that's not the only surprising omission from the model's kit tally.

While there is an LCD display in the centre console for use with the reversing camera and DVD player, sat-nav costs extra. You get MP3 and Bluetooth connectivity, but the cabin is fitted with only two airbags. The Roewe sales executive told us this was to save money, which was then reallocated to cover the cost of steel strengthening in the doors!

Under the bonnet, the 750E uses an improved version of Rover's old 2.5-litre V6. This is mated to a five-speed triple-mode automatic transmis-sion. The engine gives a reassuring growl when pushed, but is otherwise smooth and fairly responsive. Other powerplant options are due to be offered in the UK, while a hybrid model is also under development.

On the road, the Roewe provides a comfortable ride, even over bumpy, pothholed road surfaces. As with the old 75, the Chinese model has light and accurate steering. Driving aids such as Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Vehicle Stability Control have been included, too.

When the 750 initially goes on sale in the UK next year, it will wear a SsangYong badge until a network of Roewe dealers is established - a process scheduled to happen in 2010. And on this evidence, British buyers have plenty to look forward to.

Key specs

We drove the high-spec 750E, and it handles uneven surfaces impressively. But the chrome exterior trim is unlikely to suit all tastes.
* Engine: 2.5-litre V6
* Power: 181bhp
* 0-62mph: 10.2 seconds
* Top speed: 137mph
* Transmission: Five-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
* Economy: 44mpg (claimed)
* Standard equipment: Two airbags, climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels, reversing camera, LCD screen on centre console, DVD player
* Price: £16,000 (est)
* On sale: 2008