Shoestring Motoring : The Rover 618 & 620

Eddie’s been busy again down in the South West!

This time the Rover 600 seems to have got our automotive truffle hounds attention…

600 press

The idea of Shoestring Motoring is a simple one. Cars that cost next to nothing and equally the same to run are often sold on for the same initial outlay, sometimes even more. This then becomes a free car – so long as you don’t end up haemorrhaging heaps of cash. As most of us know, the 600 was many cars produced from Rovers fruitful collaboration with Honda – only this one is a little more than just that. Yes it has the Honda attributes of a keen chassis and rock solid driveline, but gains some badly needed class and visual appeal… if albeit slightly artificially painted on.

“Performance is very good – even in base 1850cc form and they cruise all day at warp factor eight without even so much as a bead of sweat”

The last models were built in 1999 but there are still a good few trundling around in everyday use and as cars go, there’s really not much against them so far as a daily smoker matters. The engine and gearbox are both cracking units though neither the 1.8 or 2.0 are noted for their fuel consumption… in fact… drive them hard and they get quite thirsty. But for plodding along they’ll return at least mid 30’s mpg and providing the selector cables aren’t worn and stretched, the gear change is light and slick. Performance is very good – even in base 1850cc form and they cruise all day at warp factor eight without even so much as a bead of sweat.

Interiors are well made and comfy. Super slick gearchange and swift performance even in base 115bhp 1.8 form. Not a bad drive overall but pre 96 cars had lifeless steering.


Interior space is good enough and the seats are really quite snug and supportive – even if they don’t visually give that impression. The “trad” Rover bits like a splattering of walnut, deep pile velour and a bit of chrome here and there may look a bit naff compared to something like a Rover 75, but with eyes half closed it grows on you and looks a damn site better than the rather dull Accord which the 600 series was based on. Round the back theres a decent sized boot and some models feature a folding rear seat backrest for extra practicality though rear legroom is snug compared to modern equivalents.

“…road holding is good but the ride can be choppy and the steering is as vague as a confused pensioner if its an earlier car”

Later post 1996 cars feature colour coded this n that’s with revised suspension settings, road holding is good but the ride can be choppy and the steering is as vague as a confused pensioner if its an earlier car. Under the bonnet for DIY nerds is fairly easy and all your consumable parts are on the shelf at your motor factors – so long as the cambelt is in good fettle, they run on and on and on. Its not uncommon for these to rack up stupid mileage with regular servicing and the gearboxes seldom give any cause for concern.

600 engine
If its been looked after 300,000 miles is not uncommon. They sound like a spin dryer full of pebbles when cold but they settle down once warmed through. Most DIY service jobs are straightforward. Look out for raggy radiators… boiling coolant kills them stone dead!


Some items are not so simple – replacement of the front discs require above average spannering skills, but all models except the Ti have better than average wear rating. There’s a 2.0 turbo diesel too that offers fantastic economy and decent performance, but be wary of a stiff gearchange and noise in neutral – this signals impending transmission failure. The Rover “L series” diesel is also capable of silly mileages too but they don’t take kindly to a lifetime of being slogged around the town.

As a cheap hack, the 600 excels in most areas. Keep `em peeled for raggy wheel arches and rusty brake pipes. Again, on the subject of brakes, the rear callipers require correct adjustment on the handbrake and the latter was never known for its efficiency – keep a brick in the boot.



They’re comfy, fast and mega reliable. Perhaps an ideal antidote for the normal knackered Mondeo or money pit Laguna… the usual cheap banger saloon fare. Good levels of equipment and run out models often featured leather trim too.

Cracking performance with an engine that refuses to die means that banger motoring can be an eye opening enjoyable experience. Plenty out there from caring older private motorists but some enthusiast vehicles can be hilariously overpriced.

A hell of a lot of car for the money folks!

What’s Good: Cracking performance – They cruise well – Snug and comfy seats – Well equipped – Utterly flawless reliability of Honda running gear – Decent boot – Better than average build quality – Tremendous value for money these days – Still look half decent in the right colour – They rarely go wrong.

What’s Crud: Rear wheel arches get raggy – Some trim items getting tough to locate – One or two repair jobs require knowledge and patience – Early cars aren’t so convincing inside – Rear brakes often get bodged and broken – Image is not the best… very much a banger these days – Can be thirsty when driven hard.

Pick of the litter: 620 diesel or 1.8 / 2.0 iS models

Runt of the bunch: 2.0 turbo is very costly to run and avoid 2.3 Honda engines

The Lowdown:

  • 1.8 / 2.0 / 2.0 turbo and 2.3 petrol options
  • 2.0 Turbo diesel
  • 5 speed manual or 4 speed auto
  • 4dr saloon only
  • produced from 1993 to 1999





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