There comes a time in everyone's life when you have to die. For a car, twenty years is a pretty good innings. The Metro, after two significant revamps, just couldn't compete in an increasingly competitive market. As a quality feel has become an increasingly important part of the motor vehicle experience, even for small cars, the Metro's doors just couldn't provide a heavy enough clunk sound when you shut them. This was particularly an issue for Rover, which desperately wanted to have a Quality Carmaker image. BMW, then owners of Rover, just didn't see the Metro in this light.
Oh, and the Metro got the worst ever NCAP crash test rating. If you were gonna crash a Metro, you'd better crash it into a Mini.
There was no cash and no time to develop a replacement. Bye bye Metro. (Sniff!)
Small is still beautiful
Another reason the Metro couldn't compete was that it was just too damn small. It wasn't that it had shrunk, but that other cars in its class had grown bigger. The Fiesta of 1979 would fit into the glove compartment of a 2001 Fiesta. People don't want really small cars any more. Except of course they do - hence the creation of a whole new class of "city cars", smaller than the increasingly chubby "supermini". All right, there had long been tiny cars built by Fiat and strange far eastern companies, but when VW, Vauxhall and Ford (Lupo, Agila, Ka) move into the market, you know it's arrived. It will be interesting to watch these cars gradually swell over time. In 10 years time, when city cars are as big as superminis are now, there will have to be yet another new class of cars just to cater for those of us who actually quite like being able to drive through city streets without worrying about parked cars 6 millimetres away on both sides. What will they call them? Micro cars? Didi cars? Supermini-city cars?
The Metro is dead! Long live the Metro!
So, the Metro ( by now called the Rover 100) died. To be replaced by the Metro ( properly the Rover 200)!
The Rover 200 already existed, had done for years, and was being priced and marketed as being in the market sector one above the Metro, that is, against the Ford Focus rather than the Ford Fiesta. It is pretty damn small as a Focus competitor, but quite big as a Fiesta competitor, so they cut the price by several thousand pounds. And it looked quite smart too, especially when it was revamped as a Rover 25 (they gave it new headlights).
It had originally been designed as a Metro replacement, for goodness sake, but the marketing people at Rover had said let's see if we can get away with selling it as if it was as big as a Ford Focus. The thing is, they were successful. For years the 200 was Rover's biggest selling car, and presumably they must have been making a packet on it (assuming they aren't now selling it at a loss). Childless couples across the land who decided they didn't really need that much space parted with their hard-earned cash.
I know we did. Here's a picture of our car.
Of course for those of us who paid out money for a Focus sized car that subsequently had the resale value of a Fiesta sized car, it was a bit of a bummer.
The parent buries the child
Ironic, this. The Metro had been intended to replaced the Mini, which was already getting on a bit when the Metro was launched in 1979. It didn't happen. The Mini continued to sell (if not well, then well enough). (The Metro killed the sales of the slightly bigger Austin Allegro though. Not surprising.) So BL continued to build the Mini alongside the Metro, the Mini inheriting the revamped engine designed for the Metro. The Mini's particular charm, and the eccentricities of the Japanese who love it apparently, mean that even now, getting on for forty years after it was created, meant that the Mini was going strong up to last year. Or going, at any rate. That's truly astonishing. Forty years! A stunning testament to the design genius of Alec Issigonis (or the eccentricites of the Japanese). Now of course the Mini IS going at last, to be replaced by the MINI. A new design, now owned by BMW. Good luck to them - it looks horrible and costs a lot. Still, you make more money out of expensive "style" cars than practical affordable transport for the masses. Go buy a Daewoo Matiz, that's what I say (unless Daewoo go bust of course).
The Metro's life as commemorated by BBC Online.