When planning this road test we knew there was one car that had to be here: the Rover 214.
- Years: 1989-1995
- Price new: £8,775
- Engine: 1.4-litre 4cyl, 105bhp
When planning this road test we knew there was one car that had to be here: the Rover 214. Rewind 27 years and 1,399 issues of Auto Express, and the British hatchback was our first-ever cover star.
Back then the Rover was still a year from launch, so our artist’s impression was based on spy shots. Looking at the renderings alongside the final production car, it’s clear we were spot-on. There’s the same chiselled profile, crisp lines and large glass area. It looks a little plain alongside today’s bold designs, but the 200 Series was a gamechanger.
Designed in partnership with Honda, the 200 looked far slicker than its predecessor, and was powered by a new, lightweight 1.4-litre K Series. It was no surprise when the Rover went on to be a huge sales hit.
Even today, the 214 feels lively. This Si model is owned by former Auto Express staffer Craig Cheetham and has just over 30,000 miles on the clock, so the K Series is still smooth and eager, while the unassisted steering is direct and delivers decent feedback. Perhaps the biggest shock is the ride, which is as supple as many modern executive saloons’.
Rover is no longer with us, but hopefully cars such as this will still be going when Auto Express hits 2,000 issues. Of course, that will be a very different test.
Click the links below for the other 1,400cc cars that have made our list.
In this review
- 1IntroductionAuto Express celebrates 1,400 issues by driving our favourite 1,400cc cars from the last 25 years
- 2Reliant Scimitar SSTReliant may have been most famous for its three-wheelers, but it has also dabbled in sports cars.
- 3Caterham Seven K SeriesClassic looks and modern tech are an enticing mix in a sports car, and the Caterham Seven Classic has them both.
- 4Volkswagen Polo BlueMotionEco-focused superminis are common now, but even in the late noughties that wasn’t the case
- 5Mercedes A140It’s easy to forget how influential the original A-Class was. Mercedes’ first people carrier was tall, but had a short wheelbase.
- 6Audi A2
- 7Volkswagen Golf GTE
- 8Vauxhall Nova 1.4SR Boxy styling and blistered wheelarches inspired a generation of car fans in the eighties, and the Vauxhall Nova SR was the aspirational warm hatch for young drivers who wanted thrills without the bills.
- 9Fiat Panda 100HPThe Fiat Group has used 1.4 power several times in its history
- 10Abarth 595C