What's New for 1999
After getting a makeover last year to mark its move from the old Geo nameplate to the Chevrolet model family, the Metro is a carryover product for 1999, save for the addition of two new exterior colors: Dark Green Metallic and Silver Metallic.
General Motors calls the 1999 Metro "the fun, economical compact car with a high gas mileage rating and low purchase price." Fair enough, being that most compact cars are economical and get good gas mileage. But what we have here is automotive transportation in its most basic form. The Metro hatchback coupe and sedan are actually subcompacts, and as entry-level products in the Chevy lineup they carry the lowest sticker prices, especially in base form. But as any good comparison shopper will tell you, a bargain is only a bargain in comparison to what else is available for the same price.
So what other vehicles are even available in this class? Chevy lists only two direct competitors for the Metro, both of them imports: the Hyundai Accent and the Kia Sephia. True, Hyundai's reliability record is unimpressive, but recent indicators point to improved build quality in the Accent, which has a longer list of standard equipment than the little Chevy. And for our money, Kia's Sephia feels more substantial than the Canadian-built Metro. In contrast, the Metro comes across as a tinny, bare bones econocar.
Metro does feature dual depowered airbags, but in the way of standard equipment the base hatchback comes with little else. LSi models add a few convenience items, but this trim level is the ticket to many much-desired accessories such as remote exterior mirrors, a rear wiper/washer and an automatic transmission. A tiny, 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine attempts to motivate the base Metro coupe with its 55 horsepower, but we know of some personal watercraft with more oomph. The LSi coupe and sedan get a 79-horsepower four-cylinder that was improved last year with the inclusion of two additional valves per cylinder. Still, the Metro LSi is no stoplight sprinter, and the base hatchback is pathetically sluggish.
For '99, General Motors was content to ride out the Metro's year-old freshening, which had included redesigned front and rear facias, restyled wheelcovers, new radios and interior fabrics, as well as new badging, courtesy of the Geo brand being replaced by Chevrolet's familiar bow tie.If a revised engine and exterior window dressing couldn't sway us last year, then obviously the new paint colors for 1999 aren't going to do much to change our opinion of the baby Chevy. Why not? Because a fully loaded LSi sedan can still top $13,000. That's Chevy Cavalier and Ford Escort territory, folks, and they are both in a different and, let's face it, a much better league than the Metro. Our advice in this segment remains to try the Accent or a Sephia. If a Korean-assembled car doesn't sit well with you, get a nice used car. You might be happier with it.