THE MG METRO
WHETHER you consider the MG badge on the up-rated BE Metro an insult to Abingdon tradition, or no more offensive than it was on those Farina-finned MG Magnette saloons and later Issigonis-concept MG 1100s and 1300s, the fact remains that in this form the Metro is a very fine little car.
I was reasonably impressed with the ordinary Metro after trying it briefly at a time when everyone was very critical of how it had turned out. After now covering more than 1,000 miles in an MG Metro, I am captivated. With the old long-stroke push-rod 1,275 c.c. engine uprated to give 72 (DIN) b.h.p. at 6,000 r.p.m., while poking out a torque figure of 73 Ibib. at 4,000 r.p.m., there is ample acceleration and a top speed of just about “the ton”, to liven up this safe-handling little package. The increased power comes from larger valves, wider valve-timing from a new camshaft, a cr. of 10.5 to 1 (yet there’ was no “naming-no” after the ignition mascot), and a new, twin-outlet exhaust manifold.
The Moulton Hydragas suspension, unchanged from that of other Metros, gives the smooth ride and soft feel of this clever specialised space-saving system, yet permits fast cornering with little roll, even when the little MG Hatchback is fully laden. There is some considerable harshness if bad bumps have to be absorbed quickly but the compromise is excellent. The special rally-type front seats give good support and are comfortable, although the cushions can feel hard after about three hours’ continuous driving. The Metro’s aerodynanUcs have been improved, with a spoiler on the tailgate, the roomy interior and excellent luggage capacity of the normal Metro are retained, and the black-decored interior has an air of quality about it and possesses all those useful stowages that are a Metro feature. The door handles, window-winders, door “keeps” and manual choke are well-contrived.
The clutch and gear-change function impeccably, apart from a little baulking when bottom gear is required from rest, and reverse is very easily selected by lifting the substantial, stubby gear-lever towards you, its knob having a welcoming feel to it. The tiny (131/2″-diameter) leather-bound steering wheel furthers the sporfing aspect of this cheeky little motor-car, which will accelerate from to 60 m.p.h. in 11.6 seconds, while the easy 70 m.p.h. cruising equals 4,069 r.p.m. Cast-alloy wheels with five-inch rims enhance both the appearance and the notably-good road-clinging, the Dunlop 155/700R-12 SP-4 tyres on the test can never protesting. The brakes, applied by a slightly-inconveniently off-set, small pedal, were just sufficiently effective for this 100 m.p.h. baby-car, being of servo disc drum type. The rack-and-pinion steering, geared 31/4 turns lock-to-lock, is pleasingly light and very accurate, and has quick castor-return, with not a trace of “lost” motion. The noise level is “sporty” but not excessive for a small car and almost all the old Mini whine from those gears in the sump has been eliminated, is one much plagued with the old “kangaroo-hop” caused by careless take-offs. The instrumentation before the MG-Metro’s driver could hardly be clearer. The 1.h. tachometer, red-lined from 6,000 r.p.m. onwards, is matched by a 110 m.p.h. speedometer with decimal-trip and six-digit total mileometers, the tach. having an
inbuilt digital clock. Between these main dials is the panel containing uncalibrated fuel and heat gauges, and six warning lights, plus a seat-belt reminder. The fuel gauge was slightly prone to needle-float, but when at “red-warning” well over a gallon remained in the 6.6-gallon tank. This has a filler beneath a flap on the off-side of the body and the tank is rather a slow filler, especially as one is advised not to fill to the top of the
filler-neck. Two stalk-controls extend conveniently from beneath the steering-wheel, that on the left working the indicators and horn, and the right operating wipers and washers, while the lamps are controlled from a tiny steering-column switch, which works the opposite way from the sunilar one on a Rover — causing loud shouts of “Put yen ‘eadlamps out” the first time I parked. . . The running economy of this brisk and fun-promoting MG Metro is very real. I did repeated checks of its consumption of four-star petrol, while driving as quickly as I wanted to, and I always got better than 40 m.p.g. The figure with several cold-starts and some work was 41.3 m.p.g., the worst 40.3 m.p.g., and I have no doubt non-sporting drivers get around 45 m.p.g. In course of these fuel-consumption checks the MG went happily and comfortably Wimbledon to Mid-Wales in 31/2 hours, all at 40 m.p.g. The test car had a glass sun-roof could be opened to admit a little extra fresh without removing its panel, and the heating ventilation system, with a fairly-quiet fan, adjustable fascia vents, and a control arrangement, is effective and easy understand. The test-car’s black finish with lining was also very acceptable. A sporting within is provided by red safety-belts, a red running through the black and grey cloth upholstery, and, of course, the MG badges. Three keys are provided; the ignition key’ fits tailgate but will not unlock it and it can only opened with another of the keys. Under
bonnet all is familiar to Mini / Metro fans with the exception of the new ribbed alloy rocker-cover. No oil was required during my tenure, and the oil on the very accessible dip-suck looked quite clean.
As on other Metros, the four or five if required) minor switches are set out in a line within easy reach of the driver’s right hand. The equipment includes rear wipe / wash, rear mudflaps, two door mirrors, flick-action wipers, and rear fog lamps. A lockable cabby and a rather smaller turning-circle would be appreciated, the face-level airflow might be improved, and slight rain-seepage was noticeable at one point in the windscreen sealing. The drop-cabby will hold several Canon cameras easily, by the way! Altogether, I thought this MG Metro a topping little car, the engine being flexible as well as ‘Punchy” above 2,000 r.p.m. lets also entirely Practical, especially with the 12,000 mile servicing intervals and the 40-plus m.p.g. It is the best fun c.r from this manufacturer since the Mini-Cooper, and much more civilised. You can have one, as they say, for £4,799, or £5,076 with stereo / radio and sun-roof. — W.B.