This zippy lightweight hatch flaunted a responsive engine and surprisingly good build quality
Sam Sheehan
15 December 2016

Walk into a Rover dealer back in 1990 with £9500 and you could drive away in a shiny new Rover Metro 16v GTi.

The new-for-‘90 model replaced the MG Metro and sported a naturally aspirated K-series engine with twin-cams and a lively 95bhp. The little British hatchback went head-to-head with the likes of the Peugeot 205XS and Ford Fiesta 1.6S.

“Top speed is an impressive 113mph, but if you want a kick-in-the-back acceleration, look elsewhere,” is an early comment in our 8th August 1990 road test. “Despite Rover’s 9secs dead claim for the 0-60mph sprint, we could not better 9.8sec.”

While its outright pace might have trailed its closest rivals, the Rover engine’s character and quick responses were pleasant traits. “You can trickle away from near standstill in all but top gear, yet it revs to the 6500rpm redline with verve and enthusiasm,” we say.

The car’s performance handling was sweet too, partly thanks to the fitment of anti-roll bars. “This Metro is now very definitely grip-orientated. Deploying 185/55 section Pirelli P600s at each corner of a car weighing under 2000lb means you can squirt through bends with indecent haste,” we continue.

But this strong grip only served to highlight the engine’s lack of power, meaning corner entry speeds were almost always met with significantly lower exit speeds.

Nevertheless, the overall package was still impressive. We closed with “It may not be such good value for money as other Metros, nor as comfortable, but it still takes up its place in the ranks of the junior performance hatches as the car to beat.”

A class-leading Rover? Suddenly 1990 feels like a long time ago...

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Comments
15

15 December 2016
Autocar was licking the r.piece of Rover. To describe the Metro as 'the car to beat' in the junior performance hatch class after describing it as being uncomfortable and poor value for money against other Metros, having an engine that lacked power, being unable to meet Rover's 0-60 time by nearly a whole second, and telling readers to look elsewhere if they wanted kick-in-the-back acceleration - absolutely beggars belief. I suppose consistency is seen as a virtue though.

19 December 2016
You need to compare it to what else was available at the time, when it was launched it was better than much of the competition, it did get leap frogged very quickly, but for a short while it stood out. the TBi engine was OK, the later MPI engine really added some sparkle to the car.

15 December 2016
It was called Rover 100 in other markets I believe (and in the U.K. later in life?) but was really a heavy and clever facelift of the old Austin Metro. You can see the ancient body shell. But it got decent reviews and sold well. Around 1996 I borrowed one for a few days - a 'luxury' Vanden Plas. It was awful. But possibly a duff example.

15 December 2016
What a shame they had to make do with asthmatic A series engines in most versions. My memories of the K series engine aren't much better. They were far to vocal, but the Honda 1.6 in the Rover 216, now that was good. What a shame the complacent car dealers showed such a lack of interest in shifting metal. Their indifference back in back in the early nineties led me to buy my first Japanese car.

16 December 2016
Rubbish, theyre talking about the 1990 facelift which was K series only and had the suspension connected correctly (unlike the pre 1990 version), it was widely acknowledged to ride and handle exceptionally and led the class for a few years, despite the flaws it had due to the 10 year old bodyshell.

17 December 2016
typos1 wrote:

despite the flaws it had due to the 10 year old bodyshell.

The car was a great update and showed how good Rover's engineers were in making a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Unfortunately, they didn't strengthen the bodyshell sufficiently and the car suffered appalling press after it miserably failed the NCAP crash test. Rust was also a killer in not-much-later life.

19 December 2016
The Rover 216 had a Rover engine, the 213's were Honda engines.

15 December 2016
fun and highly regarded by many. I remember the advert in which the Metro was 'Roverised'. Glad I didn't have a crash in it though.

15 December 2016
I had one, and it was a rocket! Easily quicker than Autocar gave it credit for - perhaps Thiers was below par?

I miss Rover, I had lots of them, and there's nothing like them now. Cue the abuse I know, but I liked the wood trim and comfy nature.

15 December 2016
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