ROVER Cars have been slowly but surely making a mark in their home market of late, clawing their way back to the forefront of the British domestic car industry. Led by impressive sales of the revamped 200/400 series and the top-of-the-line 800, which is Britain's best-selling executive car, the Coventry manufacturer is enjoying a new lease on life. Fresh design and engineering ideas and stringent quality control, learned virtually at gunpoint from offshore competition, plus effective marketing, have put Rover on its feet again. Initial forays into the territory were somewhat tentative, as local dealer Dodwell Motors knew as well as anyone that Hong Kong was a very different market from Britain, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. The Rover 800 that had enjoyed so much success domestically did not sell all that well in Hong Kong, so instead of bringing in the 200 series sedan, Dodwell elected to begin again last year with the eye-catching convertible from that series, the 216 Cabriolet. Sales exceeded all expectations, with more than 200 units sold, and by the time the zippy little 220 Turbo Coupe came along last spring, confidence in consumer acceptance of the ''new'' British make was well established. Rover's latest model to be introduced in the territory, the 416 GSi, is its first entry into Hong Kong's highly competitive mid-sized sedan market. Distinguished from the 200 series by a small, but stately 800-style grill, the four-door aims to impress with practicality and all-round good looks, while incorporating features that will also appeal to executive tastes. Apart from the subtle exterior appointments, such as the grille, extra brightwork and stylish wheels, the upscale touches come primarily from the interior, where leather seats, electric sun roof, polished burr walnut trim and a lovely, three-spoke leather-bound steering wheel impart that little extra. Windows, door locks and mirrors are electric, while air-conditioning, stereo cassette and anti-theft alarm system are all standard. A full-sized tachometer is provided, and this and the speed indicator are positioned to be clearly visible through the upper half of the adjustable steering wheel. The driver's seat offers height options selected with a mechanical lever and both front seat backs are fitted with an adjustable lumbar support. As yet, airbags are not available in Hong Kong. There is true family-size roominess inside the 416 GSi and the rear seating area holds adult passengers with ease, not forgetting about elbows, knees or size 10 feet. In fact there is more headroom in the rear than there is forward, and taller torsos in the front will want the seatback somewhat reclined for that reason. Carrying through on the family theme, the boot is cavernous, despite a tyre beneath the floor, and the sill is cut full down to the bumper for easy access. Developing 111 horsepower from 1,590 cubic centimetres, the four-cylinder, 16-valve engine uses multi-point fuel injection and delivers its power to the front wheels via a four-speed automatic transmission and, from behind the wheel, the powertrain sounds and feels smooth and efficient. Acceleration is not overwhelming and although some sort of ''sports'' setting may be a welcome performance enhancer, the 416 GSi has more than sufficient power to feel at home both in tight city traffic and out on the freeway. Rover injects specific body shell cavities with sound dampening foam and all doors have double sealing strips. Rigid, box-section construction keeps chassis and body noises to a minimum. The result is a restfully quiet interior which is intruded on only when the powerplant is revving in the upper ranges. Despite a certain degree of body lean in harder cornering, the independent suspension feels reasonably taut and spirited driving does not tend to overly ruffle the GSi's feathers. Pushing the sedan hard into tight corners eventually results in understeering, but backing off the throttle puts things quickly right. Perhaps the best handling feature is the light and responsive steering, which not only communicates well, but gives a sense of unerring control when hustling through twisty sections. Disc brakes are fitted to all four wheels and the standard ABS braking system places a sensor at each wheel. The modulation could barely be felt and pedal pressure remained consistently firm. Conditions were on the damp side during the road session but the set-up did a good job of delivering no-thrills panic stops. The Rover 416 GSi is a most capable sedan for those looking for a European alternative in a class largely dominated until recently by Japanese products. The list price, which includes a two-year warranty, is $199,800.