It was a cold Thanksgiving morning. Silence dominated the air and breath was visible as crisp, smokey wiffs of steam. Sticking out against its wintery backdrop, the red Metro stood poised, ready to pounce and take down every road it sees.
The Metro is a genius of automotive engineering. For example, the hubcaps on the front set of wheels are a different, more aggressive type that grab the air better for better acceleration and on the ground aero-handling. The rear hubcaps have five thrust vectoring ports for enhanced cornering speeds. And then there's the vehicle's lightweight construction. The engineers managed to fit all the car one could need into a 1700lb-ish package. To quote Mr. Clarkson: "Simplify and add lightness."
I'm really only partially joking. The Metro's greatness comes from its flawless representation of the "keys and a heater" ideal: Low complexity, high simplicity. Of course it has more than a heater and its own keys, but compared to vehicles myself and many others are used to, it's a very simple vehicle. This particular example was in an interesting condition. The body had its share of dings and rust spots. The front left wheel is missing a lugnut, and the engine was put in during its time with the previous owner. Oh and there's a significant exhaust leak right out of the manifold.
But despite all that, the engine runs and the car rolls forward under its own power. That power comes from a 1.3 liter inline four. It's a surprisingly peppy powerplant. It's very responsive and torquey. Of course it doesn't have much to move around, but it was still better than expected. Oh and it has the cutest little radiator. Serioulsy, It's the size of folder.
More interesting though, was the three speed automatic transmission. And by three speed, it really means one speed because putting the transmission in "D" puts the car into third for some unknown reason. Obviously this isn't supposed to happen, but it made for an interesting driving experience. Getting off the line was slow but not unbearably so. It only sounded strained for a few seconds. This is possible because third gear isn't an overdrive gear, which also made for some droney highway driving.
Taking the Metro into the twisties was a ton of fun. It has an unassisted steering rack which felt absolutely awesome. The Metro is easily the slowest car I've driven and easily the most fun car I've driven. There were a few occasions where the front end broke loose at 25 miles per hour. The fact that the limit can be reached so easily (and safely) is what makes it so much fun.
Going down the ever steep Piedmont Avenue was no more interesting or boring than any other vehicle. However, getting on the highway was very interesting. The lack of a driver side rear view mirror was awkward and difficult to get used to. And then there was the engine speed. Going just above 50 miles per hour the engine was sprinting at 4300RPM. Holding a constant speed, it's not too bad, but anytime more power is needed the engine drones and sounds a bit winded. Also, even though I liked the simplicity of the Metro, cruise control would be nice. Let's just say highway driving is this vehicles weak point.
Wheel position driving straight
Going up Duluth's steep hill was easier than expected. Even with the car in third, it got going quick enough and worked itself up the hill nicely. It was clearly an effort for the car, but an effort it was somewhat confident in handling.
Inside, the metro is pretty standard 90s. Plastic for everything. Nothing to complain about here. Nothing to be impressed with either.
I've known of the metro for as long as I've been interested in cars. To me it was just a junky little car that probably had a couple horsepower and barely lasted 20,000 miles. But now, after experiencing one I realized how wrong I was. The Metro is a wonderful car. It not only could use more respect, but deserves it. Go drive one.
1996 Geo Metro Hatcback 2dr ~ 191,000 on body/unknown on the engine
Seats 4 (Including driver)
Engine: L72 SOHC I4 70HP@5500RPM 74ft-lbs torque@3000RPM
Transmission: 3 Speed Automatic
EPA Gas Mileage Figures: 26 City/31 Highway
Photos by TheJacobJones
This review was conducted in various areas of beautiful Duluth, MN. I wrote this because I love automobiles and love driving and writing about them. Hopefully you enjoyed the review. If not, well that sucks and hopefully you enjoy the next one. Feel free to give me some feedback in the comments.