Austin Rover: Maestro and Montego
- Sam Skelton
15th September 2023
Launched in the early 1980s, the Maestro and Montego had a shared platform and were designed to make BL competitive in the lower-medium and upper-medium car sectors. They replaced BL models such as the Austin Maxi, Morris ITAL and Austin Allegro as part of a renewal strategy by then BL boss Michael Edwardes. This fascinating book follows the development of both models as British Leyland strove to remain competitive in the volume car market.
Following the successful launch of the Mini Metro, it was hoped that the Maestro would consolidate and build on this advantage. Early signs were positive as the Maestro received praise for its roomy design and excellent ergonomics as well as some eye-catching technical developments, including an electronic engine-management system, solid-state dashboard and voice-synthesis warning and information system. It had first an A and then an R series engine and a new end-on transmission system. As with many BL models, however, build quality and reliability issues began to tarnish the car’s reputation. The MG Maestro Turbo made a positive impact as the fastest car in its class, ahead of competition such as the Ford Escort XR3i and VW Golf GTi.
Launched in 1984, the Austin Montego came with a new S series engine and class-leading features such as self-levelling suspension, large boot space and rear-facing child seats in the estate version, winning it a Design Council Award. It was also praised for its good driving position and steering. Like the Maestro, however, it was compromised by build-quality issues. In the fleet market, the Montego struggled to compete against rivals such as the Ford Sierra and Vauxhall Cavalier, largely because both Ford and General Motors were better placed to offer deep discounts than BL. By the time the Countryman estate was introduced with its Perkins 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine, the Montego had evolved into a highly desirable car.