MG Rover 45

It might not be in its first flush of youth, but the Rover 45 is still a respectable second-hand purchase. Launched in 1999, the 45 replaced the Honda Civic-based 400, and from the outside looks very similar. Apart from the front grille, bumpers and headlights, the bodywork is much the same, but improvements under the skin included a revised interior, different engines and claimed better build quality.

It might not be in its first flush of youth, but the Rover 45 is still a respectable second-hand purchase. Launched in 1999, the 45 replaced the Honda Civic-based 400, and from the outside looks very similar. Apart from the front grille, bumpers and headlights, the bodywork is much the same, but improvements under the skin included a revised interior, different engines and claimed better build quality. There are some niggles, but the 45 is largely reliable and offers tremendous value for money, as initial depreciation is fairly steep. Then there's the MG ZS. Of all the cars transformed by Rover's engineers, this motor is perhaps the most remarkable, as it turned the originally rather dowdy 45 into a fire-breathing super saloon. In 160bhp 2.5 V6 form, in particular, the ZS is a scorching machine and has excellent performance and handling. Second-hand supplies of the hot models are now beginning to filter through, while there are plenty of ex-company 45s to choose. But which is best for you, and how do you make sure you don't buy a dud?Checklist * Be wary of blown head gaskets on 1.4 and 1.8-litre models, which use the Rover K-Series engine. Look for a gooey white deposit on the dipstick. * Don't worry if the car uses quite a bit of oil in warm weather, it's a trait of the 1.4 and 1.8-litre engines. * Loose trim is common, and rattles from behind the dash can be nearly impossible to fix. Erratic alarms and fiddly locks can also be irritating. * Listen out for knocks from the front suspension. Bushes can work loose, causing suspension parts to collide. * Boot support struts can fail, particularly on ZSs because of the weighty spoiler. Most are still under warranty.Glass's View The 45 holds its value well, although prices are levelling off now the model is showing its age, says trade bible Glass's Guide. Smaller-engined cars keep their worth best, while V6s depreciate heavily. MG ZS values are still strong as demand exceeds supply, especially for the fiery ZS 180. Unlike with the 45, four-door ZSs are more popular than five-doors because of their dramatic BTCC car-like styling.Life With a 45... Patriotic Andrew Chalke has always owned Rovers, from early Metros through to his current car, an MG ZS 120. "I like to support the country's economy," said the 38-year old systems administrator from Leeds, West Yorkshire. "I think by spending money on a Rover you're helping to keep the firm in business and lots of people in good jobs." But buying British wasn't Andrew's only reason for choosing the ZS. "I had a 200 and was about to replace it with a new 25 when I heard that the ZS was coming along. I held on and waited for the MG, because it looked perfect for me," he said. "Despite what people say about Rovers, my ZS has never missed a beat and all my previous cars have been reliable," he added. "My only complaint with it is that the interior design looks a little outdated now, and some of the fittings feel low quality, but these are really minor niggles." Andrew has owned his vehicle for a year now, and says he'll happily choose another, but will be going for the 2.5-litre ZS 180 when the time comes to replace his beloved 120.

Verdict

If you're a keen driver, go for the MG ZS. The differences between it and the Rover 45 are more than visual - an MG is much more satisfying to drive. Avoid diesels unless they're cheap, as there are far better oil-burners around for the same money. If buying a 45, try the 1.4, which is quick and offers great economy and low insurance.

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