24th May 2021

MG Metro - The turbocharged trailblazer

The Metro Turbo was unveiled at the Birmingham Motor Show in October 1982 and was an important model for the brand: it confirmed MG’s commitment to making cars for 80s buyers instead of buyers in their 80s.

It was a far cry from MG sportscars of the past, but the country was at the cusp of a hot hatch revolution and the Metro was a forerunner. It built on the go-faster pretentions of the naturally-aspirated MG and was one of the earlier adopters of turbocharging. When it went on sale in ’83 it provided everything any discerning hot hatch buyer could want: bodykit, exclusive alloy wheels, red seatbelts and a digital boost gauge.

When it came to the drivetrain, in many ways MG kept to a tried and tested formula – which would end up being bother a strength and (literally) weakness. The by-then already legendary 1275cc A-Series engine ran with a specially-developed head designed to maximise the potential of turbocharging, and with a single SU carb and Garrett T3 turbo made at least 93bhp in road trim (there were rumours of many engines making closer to three-figures). This enabled 0-60mph in under 10 seconds and a 112mph top speed. Very strong figures for a hatchback in the 80s.

The three-door shell was treated to a deep front spoiler, wheel spats, rear spoiler and model-specific 13-inch wheels, behind which lived servo-assisted brakes with four-pot calipers and vented discs at the front. The front end received a visual tweak of the bonnet line in October ’84, when the interior dash was also lightly revised. The updated, ‘Octagonal’ side graphics were added in ’89.

Beneath the A-Series lived the originally Mini-derived four-speed gearbox. Never designed to withstand the power of a turbocharged engine, they soon garnered a reputation for being a bit fragile. Nowadays, rebuild kits with uprated components are available and five-speed conversions are also not uncommon. MG, however, had a genuinely revolutionary method for protecting the ‘box. To control boost at lower revs and limit the strain on the gearbox, MG designed a primitive electronic boost controller – a solenoid-controlled bleed valve that would limit the build-up of boost (literally as it sounds, leaking air through the diaphragm that regulates boost pressure). This ensured that peak boost of 7.5psi was only achieved at higher engine speeds.

Hydragas suspension was fitted, of course, and rumours persist that Lotus was originally involved with fine-tuning the setup for the Turbo. Regardless, the Metro Turbo is still a great fun drive and worthy competition to its GTi and Turbo peers.

Do you have happy memories of window-down whooshing turbo noises from your Metro, or are you a Maestro or Montego Turbo fan? Or perhaps you could never forgive the brand for shunning its sportscar roots? We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments.