At its launch in May 1995, Rover intended to establish the 400 as the class-conscious choice amongst buyers who would otherwise have chosen Escorts or Astras. A five-door hatchback was on offer first, with a smart saloon version added in March 1996.
To be honest, you could probably guess at the 400's aspirations from the liberal use of chrome and walnut, intended to set Rover's mid-ranger further apart from the shopping car set. Plus, of course, there was that trademark chrome grille, stylishly incorporated into an imposing front end.
Under the bonnet, the hardware was virtually all Rover's own, with the bulk of the range made up of British-built award-winning 1.4, 1.6 and 2.0-litre 16-valve petrol engines. Only the 1.6-litre automatic had Honda power.
The first 2.0-litre turbo diesels were introduced in December 1995, with the range widened to include the saloon in March 1996. Air conditioning was added to most models in June 1997. The saloon models were identifiable by clear front indicator lamps (a styling tweak carried over to the hatchback in 1998).
The line-up received its last range of revisions in 400 form in May 1999, when the trim line-up was revised to run from SEi, to iE, then iL and iS (which for the previous two months had been special editions), then XL and Executive. At this point, the lower-powered of the two turbo diesels was dropped, with only the 105bhp unit retained.
The 45, replacing the 400, was announced in October 1999 with a distinctive four-headlight nose and numerous detail styling and mechanical changes. These include the availability of Rover's own CVT automatic transmission, in place of the previous Honda unit, and the V6 engine promised but never delivered for the 400.