What's New for 1998
The Geo badge is replaced with a Chevy bowtie. Styling is updated front and rear. The LSi's four-cylinder engine gets four valves per cylinder for more power and better acceleration. Second-generation airbags are standard equipment. Wheel covers are revised, new radios, new interior fabrics and the addition of California Gold Metallic to the paint palette round out the changes.
General Motors calls the Metro "the small car with big ideas." Big dreams, more likely. What we have here is transportation in its most basic form. The Metro hatchback and sedan are bargains on the new car market from a financial perspective, but they don't offer much value in comparison to other vehicles in this price range.
What else is even in this price range? The Hyundai Accent is, and it offers consumers more for the money. True, Hyundai's reliability record is unimpressive, but current indicators point to improved build quality in the Accent and other recent Hyundai models. In contrast, the Metro comes across as an underdeveloped tin can. Even Ford's underwhelming Aspire seemed to be a better, though uglier, buy, until it expired last year. We'd also investigate the Kia Sephia, which feels more substantial than the Chevy.
Metro sports dual airbags, and in the way of standard equipment, the base hatchback comes with very little. LSi models add little more than a few convenience items, but this trim level is the ticket to many almost necessary accessories such as a rear wiper/washer, remote exterior mirrors and an automatic transmission. A wimpy 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine powers the base hatchback; LSi's get a 70-horsepower four-cylinder under the hood that has been improved for better acceleration for 1998 by the inclusion of two additional valves per cylinder. While more sprightly than last year, the Metro LSi is still no drag racer. The base hatchback is pathetically sluggish.
For 1998, the Metro is spruced up with a Chevrolet badge and revised styling. General Motors evidently feels that the Geo brand has run its course, and is grouping all of last year's Geo models under the Chevrolet banner at dealerships. Fascias front and rear are restyled, and so are the wheelcover selections. New radios, new interior fabrics and a hot new gold paint color finish of the improvements this year.
The revised engine in the LSi helps the value equation somewhat, but not enough to sway our opinion. Why? A fully loaded LSi sedan can top $13,000. That's Chevy Cavalier and Ford Escort territory, folks, and they are both in a different, and much better, league than the Metro. Our advice in this segment? Try an Accent or a Sephia. If a Korean-assembled car doesn't sit well with you, get a nice used car. Chances are you'll be happier with it.