Classic CARmentary: 1998 Chevrolet Metro LSi Coupe

Another in a series of my reviews that appeared in the online version of African Americans On Wheels, a now defunct automotive magazine that was included as an insert in the Sunday newspapers of major cities.

You may be surprised by this, but of all the cars I drove during my sprint at the magazine, this is the one I remember most fondly.  Part of the reason is that I love small cars and always have.  Nothing makes you really feel that you are part of the driving experience better than a small car.  In a big car, you’re just along for the ride.  Also, living in crowded Metro D.C. (pun intended), a small car makes getting around much easier.  During this week, my wife was taking an MCAT preparation course in DuPont Circle.  I had to pick her up every night because it took too long to get back to Arlington on the…er…Metro, which involved changing trains and they didn’t run very often at night.  The small size combined with the larger four-cylinder engine made it downright fun to maneuver in, out and around traffic as well as find a space in front of the building to wait.  Not as much fun to drive as my sister’s old CRX, but close.

This was another review with minimal changes, which demonstrates that I got the hang of this format pretty quickly.  The small changes she made were all improvements in my opinion, so I’m posting this exactly as it was posted on April 28, 1998.  I’m not sure why there was nearly a one-month gap between reviews, but I think there may have been some later reviews that never ran since I submitted them every week.  She even let this review go 19 words beyond the 350-word limit!

The Chevy Metro is one of the most honest cars on the market. It’s not a truck masquerading as a car, a compact pretending to be a luxury car, or a wagon looking like an SUV. The Metro coupe is an inexpensive sub-compact (almost micro) commuter and damn proud of it. Its only nods to comfort and convenience are a rear-window wiper/washer, air conditioning, and a kickin’ stereo system — all optional.

The look is angular and upright, with a tall roof that extends almost to the rear of the car to provide a generous amount of headroom. Commuters should be small. The Metro and as its Suzuki Swift twin hold the title of the smallest cars sold in America: 149.4 inches long, or a foot shorter than the 2-door Hyundai Accent, its closest competitor. But thanks to its handy hatchback design, there’s 22.5 cubic-feet of cargo space with the rear-seat folded, large enough to hold a 27-inch TV still in the box. The back seat is best for children, but two average-sized adults can fit back there for short trips.

The five-speed transmission shifts smoothly, and the clutch is light (a three-speed automatic is optional, but hurts gas mileage considerably). Power steering is not available on the coupe, so it may be too heavy for some. The 79 horsepower four-cylinder engine provides surprisingly sprightly acceleration while still getting some 40 miles per gallon (a three-cylinder is standard in the base coupe). If safety is your concern, dual front airbags are standard, and antilock brakes are optional.

The Metro’s major weaknesses become evident on the highway, where engine and road noise are extremely high. It doesn’t stack up as road worthy for extensive highway commutes. The ride is poor, and high winds tend to knock it around. Also, the vibration that comes up through the gas pedal can be tiring. Highway commuters may want to look elsewhere.

These sacrifices are bit much for some, especially those who are partial to large cars and sport-utes. As such, sales of small cars have fallen drastically in the past few months, with the Metro being hardest hit. Too bad, because the Metro is a fun, thrifty around-the-town commuter with a low price.

For more information contact 1-800-CHEVY-70


Type: 2-Door Hatchback
Engine: 79 horsepower, 1.3 liter I4
Transmission: 5-Speed Manual
EPA Mileage: 39 city/43 highway
Tested Price: $12,215

There is truth to the “27-inch TV still in the box” comment.  My wife and I packed all of the wedding gifts we couldn’t use into the Metro and took them down to Service Merchandise to exchange for a 27-inch Sony Trinitron CRT television.  When we backed the Metro up to the loading dock, the warehouse worker took one look and said, “That won’t fit in there.”  “Give it a try,” I responded.  OK, so we had to move our seats almost all the way up, which made driving home quite the adventure, but it still fit.