With the success of the original 200 series which was developed with Honda, and the replacement for the SD1 (The Rover 800 series) progressing well, the new car to replace the 200 series was given the go ahead. Rover and Honda were both keen to start development of this new car, and as Honda were keen to open up new markets in Europe but had little experience in designing for European tastes, Rover were allowed to lead the development of the car.
Honda were interested in the design as it progressed and made few changes for the European cars, leaving Rovers suspension layout mostly unchanged, but replaced this in their home market for their preferred double wishbone setup. They also changed some small paneling details and the rear light clusters, but other than that, most parts in the European cars were interchangeable (Unlike the Rover 800/Honda Legend).
While Honda stuck with the hatchback body style, Rover released the hatchback, a saloon version (The Rover 400 series), a 2 door version, a convertible, an estate and coupe version (The Tomcat) as they had designed the floorpan with flexibility of the model range in mind. This worked in Rover's favour as the whole range was a success and allowed sales to remain high even as the platform was coming to the end of its sale life.
Overall the design of all the different variations were well received by press and public alike and with a range of engine options, from a 1.4 liter petrol up to 2 liter alongside diesel options, there really was something for everyone with this new range.
So successful were Rover with the car, when Honda decided they needed a diesel car for the European market, they asked Rover to make the car rather than ship engines and gearboxes to Honda's facility. As a result the Honda diesel concerto of the time is really a Rover diesel with a Honda badge on it, using Rover parts and panels and not the Honda panels of its petrol brethren. In fact, the Honda Diesel and the Rover Diesel were manufactured on the same production lines at Longbridge.
When the range was replaced by the 'Theta' themed Rover 400 series, a new smaller car was being designed to replace the Metro which was going to be called the Rover 100, however the Metro was kept in production and the new car designated the Rover 200, which was fitting as it was developed from a shortened version of the R8 Rovers floorpan.