History of the 1980 - 1990 Austin Metro
The Austin Mini Metro was first offered in October 1980. Based on the ADO88 prototype, the car was intended to replace the Mini as British Leyland’s small city car/hatchback.
The Metro was initially offered as a three-door hatchback with the A-Series (A Plus) 998cc, four-cylinder OHV engine (marketed as the Metro 1.0) or the more powerful 1,275cc, four-cylinder OHV (marketed as the Metro 1.3). The car used front-engine, front-wheel drive layout, a four-speed manual gearbox and hydragas suspension. The cab was spacious and offered great visibility, and the car was immediately popular with buyers. Lady Diana Spencer’s use of a Metro whilst engaged to Prince Charles certainly didn’t hurt sales.
Three trim levels were initially offered for the Metro 1.0: base, L and HLE. Two were offered for the Metro 1.3: S and HLS. In 1981, a 1.3L was offered for fleet sales and an Auto, with specifications as per the HLS but with automatic gearbox.
In February 1982, a Metro 1.0 City model was offered. It sold well, and in 1986 the 1.3 gained a City X model. In April 1982, a luxury Vanden Plas model was introduced, with spec as per the HLS but with velvet upholstery, a tinted sunroof, walnut door mouldings and a digital clock. The following month, an MG-badged MG Metro was released, with spec as per the HSL but with MG badge on the radiator, body stripes and steering wheel, alloy wheels, a plastic spoiler on the rear windows, an electrical-tuned four-speaker radio cassette. In October 1982, the top-of-the-range sporting MG Metro Turbo was added, with Garrett T3 turbo and boost control, stiffer suspension, air dam and wrap-around rear spoiler. In October 1984, a five-door configuration was offered for both 1.0 and 1.3 models. In June 1987 the car lost its ‘Austin’ badging, gaining simply a ‘Metro’ badge on the grille and steering wheel. In 1990, the car was superseded by the Rover Metro, a modified version of the original Metro.
Today the Metro is a cheap, practical and instantly-recognisable classic. Parts (with the exception of some interior trim) are relatively easy to find, and the suspension and gearboxes are good. The engines are generally good as well, but cranks can be problematic and oil leaks/temperature problems should be investigated as they could indicate head gasket issues. Rust, as ever, is a common problem especially in the sills, around the headlamps and on the chassis (especially jacking points). MG and Vanden Plas editions tend to be more collectable than others.
Period alternatives to the Austin/ MG Metro are the Mini, the Ford Fiesta and the VW Polo.