With the possible exception of the Mirage, even inexpensive modern hatchbacks offer things that just a few years ago were solely for luxury cars. But once upon a time, that wasn’t the case. Such cars were often called ‘econoboxes,’ because, apart from fuel efficiency, they didn’t offer much. And admittedly, there’s something refreshingly honest about that—sometimes. But as Doug DeMuro explains in his latest video, the Geo Metro Convertible isn’t one of those times.
The Geo Metro “was perhaps the stereotypical budget hatchback of the 1990s,” Autoweek says
It’s not around anymore, but Geo was a General Motors brand—kind of. Geo is the result of a joint venture between GM and several Asian automakers that saw the former bring in badge-engineered versions of foreign cars, CarThrottle and US News explain. It let brands like Isuzu and Suzuki sell more cars, and it meant GM got cheap, fuel-efficient vehicles without significant investment. And one of those vehicles was the Geo Metro.
The Geo Metro, later sold as the Chevrolet Metro, is based on the second-generation Suzuki Cultus, Hagerty and Autoweek report. Interestingly, Suzuki also sold the Cultus here briefly as the Swift, which survives in non-US markets.
Regardless, the Geo Metro was indeed very cheap. In 1993, a base-model XFi started at $6795, Automobile reports. That’s about $12,556 in today’s money, or about $2000 less than a new Mirage. And the Metro is indeed fuel-efficient, thanks to its low curb weight,1.0-liter three-cylinder engine, and five-speed manual transmission. Car and Driver saw a 1998 example return 42 mpg, tying a 2010 Toyota Prius.
However, as Doug DeMuro explains below, while the Geo Metro was cheap, it’s not exactly cheerful to drive. Or well equipped.
Even the Geo Metro Convertible is “hilariously pathetic,” Doug DeMuro describes
GM produced the Geo/Chevrolet Metro from 1989 until 2001, MotorTrend reports. The Geo Metro Convertible, though, had a significantly briefer run, lasting from 1990 until 1993. And at the time, it was the most expensive model in the Metro lineup. However, that didn’t stop it from being “capital-C cheap,” MT says, though not quite Yugo-level cheap.
For one, the Geo Metro Convertible has the same 55-hp 1.0-liter engine as the rest of the first-gen Metro models. It may be efficient, but it means 0-60 mph takes about 20 seconds, Car and Driver reports. DeMuro describes it as “dog slow.” Though admittedly, the efficiency-focused gear ratios in the XFi model meant it had even less power: 49 hp, Autoweek reports.
On the plus side, the Geo Metro Convertible was the only first-gen Metro with an airbag, CarThrottle points out. Note the singular term, though. And like many classic cars, it has little-to-no crash protection, making for excellent visibility and again, low curb weight. Plus, just like on my Miata, the soft-top is manually operated, meaning you can put it up or down at a stoplight.
However, unlike my Miata, the top storage area is covered by a cheap plastic panel that DeMuro notes “seems pretty flimsy.” And there’s no trunk-release button or switch in the cabin. If you want to get into the trunk, you have to get out and unlock it manually.
Speaking of the trunk, the Geo Metro Convertible has a trunk pass-through. But it’s not a removable seat or armrest panel. Instead, it’s comprised of two Velcro-ed ‘flaps.’ Doug DeMuro describes them as “vinyl curtains.” And while the roadster in the video has a luggage rack, that was an optional extra.
Inside, the Geo Metro Convertible demonstrates more of its cost-cutting origins. It doesn’t have a real center console and the seats aren’t supportive or comfortable. The side mirrors are manually adjustable, which was fairly common at the time. However, while the driver-side one has a proper adjustment ‘stick,’ the passenger-side mirror doesn’t. But, somewhat unusually, the roadster has A/C and a tachometer; my sister’s 2002 Focus lacked both.
It’s an “unlikely icon,” U.S. News says, and surprisingly not dirt cheap
Interestingly, as DeMuro notes in his video, there are still plenty of Geo Metro fans out there. And as interest in saving fuel as well as Radwood-era cars grows, the Metro is enjoying a bit of a comeback.
As of this writing, the 1992 Geo Metro LSi Convertible in the video is listed on Cars and Bids at $5300 with four days left in the auction. And RM Sotheby’s recently sold a similarly-equipped 1992 Convertible for $4400. Plus, while both these Metros are essentially pristine, even high-mileage $1000 examples are surprisingly durable, Car and Driver reports.
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