Rover has a limited budget to develop new models so the company is desperate to get as much value as possible out of existing models. The Streetwise is based on the Rover 25, which has been on sale since 1995.
Rover says the Streetwise opens up a new market sector for them and they are positioning the Streetwise with its robust looks as a lifestyle vehicle.
Therefore they took the Rover 25 to gym (and a plastic surgeon) to create a new niche model. The result is the Streetwise with muscular SUV looks. But as we all know looks can be deceiving...
According to Rover the Streetwise, with its big black bumpers, roof rails and raised suspension, is an "urban on-roader". And it is not a 4x4...
But what is an "urban on-roader" then?. Well, it is just another fancy PR and marketing phrase to describe a car which is able to tackle everyday road conditions, nothing more, nothing less.
So in short it is a normal road car - full stop.
As mentioned the Streetwise has some SUV appeal but doesn't have any kind of 4x4 setup. It features large and attractive 16-inch wheels and raised suspension for greater ground clearance and a higher viewpoint.
For extra toughness and durability, it has robust moulded bumpers, wheelarch protectors and rubbing strips all in a scratch-resistant dark grey-grained finish.
Beefy roof bars rounds of the car's SUV look and according to Rover it can carry loads up to 65 kg.
Inside, the Streetwise has its own specially-designed seating and trim treatment, with individual front and rear storage plus individual sports-style seating for four. Yet it retains a practical and versatile 60/40 split folding rear seat squab.
Although the Streetwise's interior is an updated version of the Rover 25's cabin, it still seems dated. Despite some modern trimmings you still get a bit of a 90s feeling and the quality of material used is mediocre.
The Streetwise offers acceptable cabin space but headroom isn't the best in the business. It is also not easy to find a comfortable driving position with the driver's seat placed too high and the steering wheel a bit low.
As mentioned there are two individual seats at the back. This looks funky but some people may find it impractical. Fortunately it is still possible to split the rear seats in a 60/40 configuration. The boot is also of reasonable size.
Standard equipment includes:
electric windows in the front
electric heated side mirrors
front-loading CD/audio system
ABS and EBD
remote central locking
alarm and immobiliser
front and rear foglights
A sunroof is optional at about R6 000.
At first the Streetwise will be available with two engine choices, a 1.4-litre petrol and a 2-litre diesel. Both models have five-speed manual transmission.
1.4-litre petrol modelPower: 76 kW at 6 000 r/min
Torque: 123Nm at 4 500 r/min
Top speed: 174km/h
0-100km/h: 11 seconds
Comibined fuel cycle: 7.3l/100km
2-litre turbo-dieselPower: 74kW at 4 200 r/min
Torque: 240Nm at 2 000 r/min
Top speed: 178km/h
0-100km/h: 10.6 seconds
Comibined fuel cycle: 6.01l/100km
Both the petrol and diesel Streetwise models are not class-leaders when it comes to driving it.
The 1.4-litre lacked a bit of oomph especially in Gauteng with its high altitude. The driving experience can be described as mediocre but it will probably make a nice city cruiser.
As expected the 2-litre diesel was a better performer but it isn't as poky as the German diesel cars. It also was a bit vocal and I won't describe this engine as rapid.
The overall ride is firm but composed and it absorbs uneven road surfaces with ease. Road grip is also good and it seems if the suspension setup does a good job.
Body control and cornering is also acceptable but the car's steering feels a bit on the heavy side, especially at lower speeds.
Perhaps the new Rover Streetwise is a bit pricey for what it offers but it is an interesting alternative in the very competitive hatchback segment.
In terms of looks it definitely offers something unique and image conscious buyers will just love its SUV appeal.
Although it is obvious that the Streetwise looks like some hatchback on steroids it is actually quite a funky look.
The car's technology and material quality is a bit dated, but Rover did a good job in creating an exciting looking car.
So if you ever fancied an SUV for its looks but could't afford it and are also more interested in parking on pavements rather than bundu bashing, it is worth looking at the Streetwise.
Streetwise 1.4 SE: R169 950
Streetwise 2.0 TD SE: R197 950