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You Think the Mitsubishi Mirage Is Bad? Try the Geo Metro

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author photo by Aaron Gold September 2016

I'm one of the few automotive journalists who refuses to trash the Mitsubishi Mirage. Some people think it's because I'm a contrarian (I am not!); others assume I'm a miserly glutton for punishment, but those aren't the real reasons. No, the truth is I've had hours and hours of seat time in the Geo Metro.

For those who don't remember (or those whose reaction to intense trauma is to block it out), the Metro was the entry-level car from Geo, GM's cheap-car brand, back in the days when GM thought it best to segregate their foreign cars from the domestic lineup, apparently as a way to hide their realization that the best way to compete against Japanese cars was to buy and resell them.

The Metro had a 1.0-liter 3-cylinder engine that produced something around 55 horsepower, 20 or so less than today's Mirage. These were the days when 4-valve heads and multiport fuel injection were novelties, and the Metro had neither. It did have an innovative built-in speeding-ticket protection system: If you turned on the air conditioner, it wouldn't go faster than 65 miles per hour.

I worked for a major rental-car company that suffered from an infestation of Metros, nearly all of which were painted red or white, which came in handy, as we used to race them against each other. The car wash we used was one exit down Interstate 390, and as our cars had air conditioning and the optional 3-speed automatic (remember those?), you could make the entire drive at wide-open throttle without breaking the speed limit.

The Metro's lack of speed was hardly the worst thing about it. The interior plastics were one step above plastic wrap, the tires were so narrow they could get caught in cracks in the pavement, and the doors were so thin you could substantially increase the car's side-impact protection by putting on a heavy jacket. The Metro shivered at idle, deafened you at highway speed, and seemed to regard any attempt to change direction as a personal affront. It drove as if it was throwing a temper tantrum. It was, in short, the most miserable new car I've ever driven.

That's why the Mirage doesn't bother me. Seventy-four hp, side airbags and a continuously variable transmission? As the Monty Python boys used to say, "Looxury!"

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You Think the Mitsubishi Mirage Is Bad? Try the Geo Metro - Autotrader