Launched in October 1980, the MiniMetro was billed as a ‘British car to beat the world’. While that might have been quite a bold claim, the new hatchback certainly held its own against foreign rivals such as the Renault 5 and Volkswagen Polo.
Thanks to the age-old A-Series engine under the bonnet, four-speed gearbox and front and rear subframe design that were all borrowed from its smaller namesake though, cynics had the MiniMetro down as little more than a Mini in a posh dress. Truth be told, it represented a massive advancement over the Mini and was a more than worthy successor, as the MiniMetro was originally intended to be. It rode better, was more comfortable, had a better driving position and was far more practical. Like the Mini, it handled well and was easy to maintain, so if you wanted to be brutal, you could say the MiniMetro took its namesake’s best attributes whilst sorting out all its shortcomings.
Quite a few people agreed, too. The MiniMetro proved a hit as soon it arrived in showrooms, car buyers lapping up its varied model range, spanning the sparse base model to the HLS, and the reliability and economy of its proven 1.0- and 1.3-litre engines. In 1981 it lost the Mini part of its name, while the following year the line-up was bolstered with the arrival of the peppy MG version. Diehard MG fans might have thought the go-faster version was an ‘insult to the badge’ and it was more ‘warm’ than ‘hot’ hatch, but the MG Metro looked the part and went well too, its 1275cc motor being breathed on to create a usable 72 bhp and pushing it from 0-60mph in 10.9 seconds.
Better still, the Metro got even quicker in 1983 with the arrival of the MG Metro Turbo. Strapping a turbocharger to the ancient A-Series engine wasn’t particularly kind and it was still sporting a four-speed gearbox, but it proved effective and the forced-induction fed Metro scorched from 0-60mph in 9.3 seconds and onto a heady top speed of 112mph.
The performance versions, plus a mild facelift and the availability of five doors and additional trim levels, ensured the A-Series-engined Metro remained a best-seller right until its K-Series-powered replacement arrived in 1990.
Production ran into seven figures but today, early Mini-powered Metros are a now a rare sight. Rust and old age have sadly seen the vast majority go the way of the scrapyard. However, with a fast-growing following, the Metro is increasingly being seen as a classic and it certainly makes a good argument for its new-found status, being more practical and affordable than a Mini. What’s more, they don’t cost the earth to run either.
Trim and some body panels are scarce but mechanical parts are plentiful and cheap, whilst they’re also frugal and capable of regular use.
Are you convinced or perhaps you already own a Metro? Maybe you grew up with one? Let us know your stories and comments below.