RAC Cars News


Metro 35/25

By raccars Published

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Did you know that this year is Metro 35/25? That's 35 years since the Austin Metro was launched and 25 years since the Rover Metro was launched. It's an exciting time for members of the Metro Owners' Club, who are holding a number of celebratory events to mark the double anniversary year. Just what is it that fans love about this neat little supermini, which is fast disappearing from UK roads?

In 1980, British Leyland introduced a 'British car to beat the world': the Austin Metro. Conceived as a replacement for the mighty Mini, the Metro was sold alongside it, after public response to the early Metro designs was weak at best. However, the Metro grew to inhabit a niche of its own, with the product range including, from 1982, the premium styled Vanden Plas specification. This posh Metro came with a two tone paint job, leather upholstery and oh so swish electric windows to accompany its cassette player.

There was even an MG badge slapped onto a high performance version of the Metro. This hot hatch's 95bhp may sound more lukewarm but for the time it was impressive, getting the lightweight supermini to 62mph in 9.4 seconds and giving it a top speed of 110mph.

In 1985, there was a rally version too, the Metro 6R4, barely recognisable from the outside and boasting a four wheel drive with a mid mounted 3.0 litre V6 on the inside. This gained the Metro a bit of cool at last, but Group B regulation changes brought the Metro's rallying career to a swift end. The same engine was later used in the Jaguar XJ220.

By 1987, British Leyland had done away with the Austin nameplate, but the Metro returned in 1990 wearing a Rover badge and up to date, curvier styling. There was also a more modern range of K series engines in 1.1 and 1.4 litre formats. However, a number of petrol heads enjoyed themselves immensely squeezing Rover's 1.8 litre VVC engine into the smaller car's engine bay.

In 1994, amid dwindling sales, the Metro badge was scrapped and the car renamed the Rover 100, which fitted in better with the rest of Rover's line up - the 200, 400 and 600 models etc. Unfortunately, this was not enough to bring the customers in and by 1997, the Rover 100 took its final bow. The dated Metro simply couldn't keep up with more modern competition, such as the Ford Fiesta, and was not helped by a catastrophic performance in crash testing. However, over its nearly 18 year lifespan, the Metro had built up quite a fan following...

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