Fancy a Metro in time for its 40th birthday in 2020? Here’s the AROnline guide on what to look out for…
- Years produced: 1980-1990
- Body style: Three- and five-door ‘Supermini’ hatchback, three-door hatchback ‘van’
- Engine options: 998cc and 1275cc A-Plus Series, 1275cc A-Plus Series (turbocharged)
- Transmission options: Four-speed manual and four-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
The Austin Metro was available as a 998cc manual and 1275cc manual or automatic. The MG Metro was available as a 1275cc manual, in both normally aspirated and turbocharged versions.
The smaller-engined models deliver excellent fuel economy and reasonable performance for their age and engine size. The larger-engined models, especially the MG versions, deliver good performance, the MG Turbo especially so, at the expense of a small drop in fuel economy. The ride and handling are both worthy of particular mention as being outstanding in its class at the time the Metro was current.
Here’s what to look out for…
Engine and transmission
The A-Plus Series engine, fitted to all Austin and MG Metros, is generally a reliable unit, capable of quite high mileages. However, look out for external oil leaks (very common and can be difficult to cure completely) and possible head gasket problems, which may be indicated by overheating, oil in the water and vice-versa. Engine ignition systems can also suffer from misfiring and difficult starting caused by damp, especially when components such as spark plugs and distributor cap are not in the first flush of youth. These problems are usually very cheap and easy to rectify, with all parts being cheap and readily available.
Don’t worry about a slight transmission whine in first gear – this is perfectly normal and due the design of the Metro’s gearbox. Checking the transmission oil level is simple, as it shares its lubricant with the engine. Also, some versions can suffer from very mild ‘clutch judder’. Worn synchromesh rings were a major problem; it meant the Metro jumps out of second gear, and this is rife, and can even happen on low mileage examples.
Suspension, steering and brakes
The Metro’s Hydragas suspension delivers exceptional ride and handling qualities, far better than that of its contemporaries. The system is generally reliable, but problems can occur. Check for fluid leaks at all the pipe connections, and also check that the ride height is correct and even. Any problems here are usually cheap and relatively simple to fix. Also check the upper and lower front balljoints for wear, and also the rear radius arms. Certain MG models also employ front shock absorbers – these rarely wear out.
- Check carefully the condition of the tyres – if the car has metric ‘TD’ tyres fitted, these can be expensive to renew.
- The steering is of rack-and-pinion design, is very direct and rarely gives trouble, save for occasional loose rack mounts and worn track rod ends.
- Both ‘Type A’ and ‘Type B’ use the same solid discs, and the difference between the two systems was in the calipers. This meant the two Metro types used different brake pads. Vented discs were introduced with the Turbo, and all used ‘Type B’ pads.
Body and chassis
The potential enemy of any Metro is… rust. And lots of it!
Check everywhere, but pay particular attention to:
- Inner and outer front and rear valances.
- Front panel behind the headlamps.
- Front wings, behind the headlamps, and in front of the A-pillars.
- Rear wheelarches.
- Door bottoms, particularly the rear doors on five-door models.
- Outer sills along their entire length.
- Rear heelboard, where the rear subframe mounts to it.
Both front and rear subframes usually last extremely well and rarely require attention.
There are good ones, and there are bad ones. The seats themselves tend to last reasonably well, though if someone of what you might call ‘ample frame’ has used them for any length of time, the seat bases can sag, and backrests have been known to collapse! Some of the many smaller trim pieces (particularly in Mk1 cars produced before 1985) can be brittle, but are fairly easy to obtain as used spares.
Usually reliable, but check everything as you should when viewing any car. All parts are cheaply and readily available.
The Metro is generally a reliable small car and, if chosen carefully and looked after, one that can remain reliable for many years. Due to their traditionally low value (that’s only now on the rise) and good availability, rusty examples are best avoided, unless they are of particular interest, such as a VP500 or Tickford example (below). A very clean Austin Metro Vanden Plas, Austin Metro GTA, MG Metro or MG Metro Turbo would probably be a good buy, and a sound investment for the future.