The Rover R3 200 Series, and later the Rover 25, are a series of supermini cars that were produced by Rover Group, Later MG Rover Group from 1995-2005.
There have been three distinct generations of the Rover 200. The first generation was a four-door saloon car based on the Honda Ballade.
The second generation was available in three or five-door hatchback forms, as well a coupé and cabriolet (in relatively small numbers). Its sister model, the Honda Concerto was built on the same production line in Rover's Longbridge factory.
The final generation was developed independently by Rover on the platform of its predecessor and was available as a three or five-door hatchback.
The Rover 200, code named R3, was smaller than the Honda-based second-generation cars. This was due to Rover's need to replace the ageing Metro, which by now was 15 years old. Although some elements of the previous 200 / 400 were carried over, most notably the front structure, heater, steering and front suspension, it was by-and-large an all-new car that had been developed by Rover. Honda did provide early body design support because of moving production of the Honda Concerto from Longbridge to their new production facility at Swindon, freeing up capacity for 60,000 units at Rover. At this point, the car had a cut-down version of the previous car's rear floor and suspension and was code named SK3.
Lack of boot space and other factors led to Rover re-engineering the rear end to take a modified form of the Maestro rear suspension and the product was renamed R3. By the time the car was launched, Honda and Rover had already been "divorced" after the BMW take over the previous year.
The new 200 used K-Series petrol engines, most notably the 1.8 VVC version from the MGF, and L-series diesel engine. During the mid-1990s the L-Series was a very competitive engine, regarded as second only to the VW TDI in overall performance, and an improvement over the second generation 200's diesel engine, particularly in fuel economy while almost matching it for refinement.
The R3 featured a completely redesigned interior and dashboard to accommodate the fitment of a passenger airbag in line with new safety standards.
A face lifted version of the Rover 200 renamed the Rover 25 (internal code name Jewel) was launched in autumn 1999 for the 2000 model year. It was re-positioned and priced to compete with the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa, rather than larger cars like the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra. This version used similar frontal styling to the larger and newly released Rover 75.
Less than a year after the Rover 25 was launched, BMW sold the Rover Group to the Phoenix consortium for a token £10. By the summer of 2001, the newly named MG Rover Group had introduced a sporty version of the Rover 25: the MG ZR.
In 2003, MG Rover Group further maximized the use of the R3 platform by introducing the Rover Streetwise (marketed as an urban on roader) and a panel van based on the 3-door body shell known as the Rover Commerce
By 2004, the age of the Rover 25 / MG ZR's interior design was showing, so MG Rover gave the cars a restyle to make them look more modern. Most of the changes however were focused on the interior, which featured a completely new layout and fascia design. Trim levels were revised to i, Si, SEi and SXi, with high-spec leather-trimmed GLi, GSi and GXi models introduced for the 2005 model year.
Production ceased in 2005 when MG Rover went into administration. Production rights and tooling for the model, but not the Rover name, where purchased by Chinese car manufacturer Nanjing, the R3 lived on for a few more years in China being produced as the MG3 SW.