Geo Metro revamped with stylish yet economical sedan version
Date Posted: 5/10/2005
The sea, colored like cobalt when reflected off a vivid blue sky, set this test-drive scene while zipping up the Pacific Coast Highway through that elite mecca of Malibu, home to movie stars, industry moguls and, with such apparent wealth, some of the most expensive cars on this planet.
So why, you may wonder, was I passing such fancy fenders in subcompact confines of an eensy-weensy econo-car?
Pepperdine University, perched high over Malibu Colony, happened to be the venue for "Metro University," Geo's site gimmick for auto writers to introduce the Geo Metro Sedan. This new cheap wheel set will no doubt become a hot ticket for students, as well as commuters, whose car budgets amount to something far less than that of Malibu's residents.
The new 4-door Metro, replacing last year's 5-door hatchback in a shapely format which includes a genuine trunk and conceals a 70 hp 4-in-line engine, ranks as that rare sedan whose base price slips below $9,500.
Metro also generates superb fuel economy figures.
But my drive up the PCH in a "Scuba Blue" edition of the 4-door Metro confirmed that this Geo also stocks an asset I had not anticipted: Reasonable peddle power.
The first variation tested, with snappy 5-speed manual shifter, popped off the line at each of the PCH's infinite series of stop lights. In second and third gears, it still behaved aggressively when racking revs up to higher rpms.
By the time I shifted into fourth, that crisp response diminished somewhat, but by then -- and subsequently into fifth overdrive gear -- I had bumped the speed limit anyway.
The optional 3-speed automatic transmission dims this liveliness only slightly but takes a bite out of Metro's fuel economy figures.
Beyond the low base price and thrifty engine management, I liked the new sedan's cute styling cues.
The front hood slants sharply forward to a pair of corner-mounted aerodynamic headlamps which remind me of high-arching almond eyes dotting Metro's face with that below-bumper vent in a low oval of a mouth.
A high stance of glass ringing the entire passenger compartment gives Metro a tall appearance, but the new car's roof is actually higher -- by 1.6 inches -- than the predecessor hatchback.
It's also longer, due to the addition of that trunk compartment which extends beyond rear window glass in a flat decklid ledge before diving into body-colored back bumpers.
The trunk pares less than 0.2 cubic feet of storage space from the former hatchback's rear bay, and Metro's new rear seatback folds for additional cargo room.
Inside, in a layout with twin bucket seats up front and that rear bench, you won't feel squished and crammed into a mobile sardine can because Metro's designers managed to deliver the impossible: Elbow room.
Measurements for people space inside this car enlarge headroom by a full inch, and rear seat legroom remains as fair as it was in the hatchback. The interior width increases by only fractions, but up front the buckets with firm side bolsters appear ideally placed to keep you from bumping against either a fellow rider or the door panel.
Some of the most important enhancements for Metro Sedan cannot be seen.
For instance, the structure of this subcompact gained front and rear crumple zones and a steel safety cage to encase the passenger compartment, plus new side door beams. Further, the A pillar now consists of a single strong and rigid piece, while B pillars were strengthened to impart rigidity and might to the overall structure.
Standard safety assets include dual airbags, front seat head restraints, firm anchors in the rear to secure a child's safety seat, laminated safety glass for the windshield and breakaway dual exterior side mirrors.
Anti-lock control for brakes, perhaps the most important of all safety items, is available for $565.
Mechanical hardware standard for both trim levels ranges from a 4-wheel independent suspension set-up featuring MacPherson strut design to front and rear stabilizer bars and crisp rack and pinion steering.
Navigating sharp canyon sweeps of S-curves across the Santa Monica Mountains just east of the coast highway provided a lesson in Metro's sporty ability to manage twisty road maneuvers. Never mind that a mega-bucks Ferrari tailed me with driver anxious to pass; I powered through these curves, hitting each apex as if I too steered an exotic.
Metro also stocks something novel for its low price: Daytime running lights. Mandated for all cars later in the decade, these lights remain on during daytime locomotion yet don't tax the electrical system the way full nighttime lights do. This becomes a bonus for safety, and the surprise is that daytime running lights, like dual airbags, show up as a regular item on an economy car.
Metro Sedan begins with a base unit listing for $9,375, including destination fee. The LSi version, containing a split-folding rear seatback and upgraded seat fabrics with vinyl trim added, comes to $9,795.
Metro lists for a thousand less dollars ($8,395) in 2-door hatchback coupe variation, Geo's ultimate economy car. Equipped with a minute 1.0-liter 3-in-line engine, which produces 55 hp, and a 5-speed manual transmission, this baby Metro earns fuel economy numbers that reach 43 mpg for city driving and 48 mpg on the road.
Metro's coupe in LSi trim for $8,695 permits upgrading to the aluminum-block 4-cylinder engine employed by the sedan. With Metro Coupe LSi, you may also specify the 3-speed automatic transmission.
Air conditioning, a choice with all Metro models, sells for $785 but taxes these wee engines.
Other options for the sedan include power assistance for the steering system and power door locks.
All models contain thoughtful interior perks, with a new 1-piece instrument panel, convenient dials and buttons, full carpeting and stain-resistant fabric upholstery, plus a new 1-piece headliner which, with added insulation throughout, dampens noise in the cabin.
All Metros also offer peace of mind with a 3-year or 36,000-mile limited warranty and toll-free 24-hour roadside assistance program.
Participating Geo dealers may even provide courtesy transportation during Metro service and repair work.
| Vehicle Specifications:
| 1995 GEO METRO Specs
||Subcompact coupe, sedan
| Model Options:
||Subcompact coupe, sedan
| Overall Length:
||Coupe: 149.4 inches
Sedan: 164.2 inches
| Engine Size:
||SOHC 1.0-L I-3
SOHC 1.3-L I-4
| Gas Mileage:
||1.0-L: 43/48 mpg
1.3-L: 39/43 mpg
||$ 8,395 to $ 9,795