The Austin Metro became a huge success in Britain with over 1 million sold in its ten year production run, in fact the Metro out sold every other car in the UK throughout the 1980s except for one, the Ford Escort mark III (1980–1986).
Although described as an all new mass production car many of the internal parts of the Metro were actually carried across from BL’s other models, namely the Mini’s 998 cc and 1275 cc A-Series engines, much of the front-wheel drive train, the four-speed gearbox and suspension sub-frames. The Metro also used the Hydragas suspension system found on the Austin Allegro but without front to rear interconnection.
The Metro progressed through the eighties with further options such as the more refined Van den Plas luxury model and the sporty MG Metro, both adding to this hatchback’s success story. By the late eighties the Austin name was removed and the car was known as simply Metro, although badges were still longboat shaped as all Rover badges were, depicting a potential re-launch that came to pass in 1990, with the Metro becoming the Rover Metro together with revisions to the body and an all new K-Series engine.
- British Leyland’s reputation for reliability sadly wasn’t always the best, however the Austin Metro did improve throughout its production history and so early models tend to be less refined than the later ones. When it comes to corrosion the Metro suffered badly like many other cars in the eighties so check in all the usual places such as wings, arches, sills and door bottoms. Fortunately body panels are still widely available.
- The Metro’s A-Series engine is a reliable, well built and above all tried and tested having been used in the Mini for many years. These 998cc and 1275cc units are capable of high mileage providing they have been properly maintained so check the vehicles history for evidence of this. Similar to the Mini, Metros can suffer in damp weather, however this is usually down to spark plugs and poor maintenance, again a car that has been looked after well should have the relevant history to prove this.
- Transmission problems are quite common as again this came from the Mini and was never the best design anyway. The Metro can jump out of second gear due to worn synchromesh rings and suffer with clutch judder. Make sure transmission lubricant levels are good and stay that way.
- The Metro delivers a very respectable ride and handling thanks to its Hydragas suspension as used on the Austin Allegro. This system has proved very reliable with only minor fluid leaks from the pipe connections being a potential problem. The condition inside the car is generally down to the previous owners, although replacement parts are still readily available.