Rover’s new Streetwise encapsulates the world’s obsession with all things SUV, but it’s just an ageing Rover 25 with cheeky styling bits, a slightly higher ride height and some interior tweaks.Rover’s new Streetwise encapsulates the world’s obsession with all things SUV, but it’s just an ageing Rover 25 with cheeky styling bits, a slightly higher ride height and some interior tweaks.

The Streetwise’s styling is probably its best attribute. Tough and funky are all descriptions that apply. Big unpainted bumpers give it a robust SUV look, the smart alloy wheels add some sportiness and other “lifestyle” elements, such as the roof rack and front fog lamps, round off a surprisingly handsome exterior.

The interior has not been left untouched either. The traditional rear bench has been redesigned to resemble two individual “bucket” seats. This may look very sporty, but we found that the side bolstering forces a rear passenger to sit in one position for an entire trip which, combined with a backrest that is too upright, doesn’t bode at all well for long-distance comfort. The bench can still split 60:40 though.

The Streetwise’s facia benefits from the addition of a redesigned hangdown section, with an aluminium coloured inlay housing buttons for the fog lamps, air-conditioning etc. MG ZR owners will immediately recognise the ageing switchgear and sometimes very brittle looking plastics. In fact, while the exterior cleverly disguises the car’s age, the interior immediately gives the game away.

Standard equipment on both models include; height-adjustable steering wheel, electric and heated door mirrors, leather steering wheel and gearlever knob, leather and cloth front bucket seats, electric front windows, air-conditioning, front-loading CD player, power steering, dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, rear park distance control and 16-inch alloy wheels. An electric sunroof is available on both models at an extra charge.

Rover’s ancient 25 (not available in SA) has always been a very entertaining car to drive, with crisp steering and confident handling. Considering this surefootedness its fluent ride may also come as a surprise. These positive traits are carried over to the Streetwise, notwithstanding the fact that it stands a fair bit higher in its shoes (ground clearance is 161 mm) while the steering does feel a bit heavy at low speeds.

Two engine variants will initially be available to South Africans, a 1,4-litre petrol and a 2,0-litre turbodiesel. We drove both variants at the launch in Johannesburg. The intercooled turbodiesel is easily the more impressive of the two. Developing 74 kW at 4 200 r/min and 240 N.m of torque at a low 2 000, it easily keeps up with fast moving traffic and should also be very economical. Rover claims a combined consumption figure of 6,01 litres/100 km, a 10,6 seconds 0-100 km/h time and a top speed of 178 km/h.

At the high Gauteng altitudes, the 1,4-litre engined Streetwise struggled. It develops 76 kW at 6 000 r/min and comparatively little torque of 123 N.m at 4 500. Rover optimistically claims a sprint time of 11 seconds and a top speed of 174 km/h. A fuel consumption figure of 7,31 litres/100 km is also claimed.

The Streetwise will appeal to motorists wanting the off-road look in a fun city-car package.