If the make “Geo” isn’t something familiar to you, that’s because the Geo Metro is actually a variant of the Suzuki Cultus brought to North America through the cooperation of both GM and Suzuki. Here’s where the story gets kind of muddled: it actually was a subdivision of GM’s Chevrolet division aimed to compete with the growing small import market of the 1980s. While few today actually remember the brand, it made waves in 2009 when its fuel efficiency was determined by Car and Driver Magazine to be comparable to the Prius—a full 8 years after production on the Metro ceased.
1985-1995: The contender
Ironically, when the Metro came out in 1985, it was sourced out from Suzuki’s facilities in Japan. For that reason, the first Metros were essentially, re-tagged Suzuki Cultuses. Options available were for a 3- or 5-door hatchback type of vehicle—the difference was that the North American version was slightly longer than the Japanese original. The engines they chose for these early Metros were either a carbureted or fuel-injected inline-3 turbocharged engine—truly fuel-saving, if somewhat underpowered.
It was only in 1988 that the official handle “Geo Metro” actually made its debut in the United States. Again, the irony of this import-beater was that it was still imported into America from Hamamatsu, Japan. Although much of the Metro remained as a carry-over from Japan, the body was remodeled specifically for the North American market. This, in a sense, made it somewhat unique.
1995-1997: The last generation and a name change
In 1995, the Metro came out as either a 3-door hatchback or a 4-door sedan—the main difference coming into this generation was a longer wheelbase platform for both configurations. This model maintained the inline-3 engine options of previous generations until 1997, when they were replaced. This first of these was a 1.3-L, multi-point, fuel-injected, 3-cylinder engine, and it came with hydraulic lifters and lash adjusters—plus a 30,000 mile service interval. The second was a 1.0-L, throttle body-injected, 4-cylinder engine.
Safety was greatly improved for this “last” generation: anti-lock braking, safety cage inclusion, and five strategically placed cross bars for impact-absorption were also placed in. Beyond the engine and safety features, second-generation on-board diagnostics were added to the mix to make monitoring a much simpler affair. After 1997, the car itself continued to evolve—it merely dropped the “Geo Metro” marquee and was called the Chevrolet Metro. The older Geos, however, still featured prominently, receiving an independent upgrade to full electric via Solectria, a Massachusetts company.