It may have predated the groovy Citroën Cactus, but the 2003 Rover 25 Streetwise was the wrong car at the wrong time. Words Tony Middlehurst.
The Streetwise was Rover’s plastic-bumpered attempt to woo the ‘yoof’. It went as you’d expect…
MODERN NOT CLASSIC
Classic or not… We explore old car no man’s land
I’ve just been looking at some classified car ads from1962. Well, it keeps me off the streets – not a bad idea what with this nasty Coronavirus knocking about at the time of writing.
Anyway, if you’re still alive at the time of reading, congratulations, but you might feel a bit sick after looking at the 1962 ads for Aston Martins that I’ve just been goggling at. Here are half a dozen DB2-4s from Park Garage in Teddington – all of them low mileage, none more than £2000,most considerably less. A just-overhauled 1961 DB4 GT Zagato works Le Mans car for £3950. Stirling Moss’s actual World Championship DBR1 race car, also works serviced and immaculate, for an insultingly puny £1750.
Obviously, you could buy a three-bed house in London for seven shillings and sixpence and still have change for a world cruise and a nice lightweight suit from Daks in 1962. Even so, £1135 for a spotless 28,000-mile 1955 Aston DB2 drophead shows that dealers were once practically giving away cars that are now worth quite a bit more. A DBR1 that wasn’t even a Moss car sold for £17.5million in 2017.
What’s all this got to do with the Rover 25-based Streetwise? Well, just like those early 1960s Astons, it was ignored when it was new. And that’s unfair because it’s a far better car than many give it credit for.
‘YOUNG FOLK JUST SAW “ROVER” AND RAN A MILE’
It pioneered the rubber-flanked urban on-roader concept more than a decade before the Citroën Cactus came along, and while it could be argued that Greek design genius Antonis Volanis kicked off the leisure activity vehicle market in 1977 with his Matra-Simca Rancho, the market wasn’t ready to buy LAVs then. Nor was it ready to buy Streetwises in 2003, as it turned out, but That was a marketing mistake; Rover was desperate to attract youthful buyers, but young folk just saw ‘Rover’ on the bonnet and ran a mile.
Sure, the front-drive Streetwise wasn’t as tough as it looked, but then nor was the Cactus. The Rover was also a lot more honest than cars that had all the drivetrain technology to back up their Darien Gap-level off-roading pretensions, but that in reality would rarely encounter anything more challenging than a dropped kerb.
Audi’s A6 Allroad of 1999 brought all the toys but also all the grief of technical over-complication. Only buy a used one of those now if you’re happy to spend the purchase price all over again on keeping it going.
Unlike those swinging ‘60s Astons, a nasty ‘00s Street wise will never be worth any money. The most you’d ever manage to pay for one today would be £1500 – and your mates would still think you’d been mugged even at half that price.
This or an A6 Allroad? Umm…