The Rover 75 has a huge following, as does its badge-engineered cousin the MG ZT. Yet the predecessor to these is all but forgotten, even though it was a good-looking car that was comfortable, well built and has stood the test of time pretty impressively. It’s a shame really, because the Rover 600 promised much – although in terms of sales, it failed to deliver.
Launched in April 1993, the 600 was marketed by Rover as an exclusive model that relatively few people would have the privilege of owning. How prophetic that would turn out to be – just over 270,000 would be built in a five-year production run. The BMW 3-series outsold it by six to one, with the Audi A4 not far behind.
It should really have competed for sales in the mainstream company car sector. but Rover neither wanted nor expected the 600 to be as massmarket as the Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall Vectra, both of which offered buyers a much wider model range that encompassed hatchbacks and estates, as well as saloons. The 600 was based on the 1993 Honda Accord, with which it shared its engines, suspension, front doors, roof, the lower half of the rear doors and even the fascia. But thanks to some clever design you’d never have known.
At launch there were 2.0-litre (113bhp and 129bhp) and 2.3-litre (158bhp) four-cylinder Honda petrol engines but within a year these had been supplemented by a 103bhp L- Series turbodiesel and a 197bhp 620Ti, the latter featuring a turbocharged 2.0-litre T- Series powerplant. These later units were Rover products, but the 113bhp 1.8-litre petrol engine that was introduced in spring 1996 was another Honda unit.
As a classic, the 620Ti model is the one that everyone wants but these don’t come up for sale in good condition very often. If you do come across one, be very wary if it’s been highly tuned – the safe limit for its engine is just 200bhp yet some are taken significantly higher than this, jeopardising the conrods, pistons... and the owners’ peace of mind.
‘The 620Ti is the one everyone wants, but they don’t come up often’