The 58 MPG Geo Metro on the Edge of Forever


Harlan Ellison wrote “The City on the Edge of Forever“, which is Star Trek fan-speak for “Harlan Ellison is awesome“.  Mr. Ellison has been called a visionary futurist, and has written for The Outer Limits, The Man From UNCLE, Alfred Hitchcock, and – of course – Star Trek (it’s like “space navy”, whereas Star Wars is like “space Jerry Springer” with laser swords).

That’s right:  I’m a giant nerd.

My geekiness is irrelevant, though – what is relevant is that Jalopnik‘s Ray Wert has dug up a video of this respected writer and serious “futurist” shilling Geo Metros for General Motors.

Now, before you laugh and joke about the Geo being pushed as a futurist’s car, keep in mind that the Geo being advertised got an EPA-certified 53 mpg city and 58 mpg highway … that’s nearly 50% better than GM’s modern mpg champions, like the 42 mpg Chevy Cruze Eco. (Ed. – Under the new EPA standards, the Geo Metro XFi has a 43 city/52 highway/47 combined mileage rating.)

Maybe Harlan got it right all the way back in 1998, and the Metro really is the best car for – say, 2018. Too bad GM never tried to make an electric Metro. That is instead left to people with a little more vision and gusto.

What do you think, Gas 2.0 readers – any of you own a Metro?  How does it stack up against the new Fiesta or Cruze?  Let us know in the comments!


About the Author

I’ve been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.

  • My professor and friend, Rich Erlich, was Harlan’s friend, perhaps his only friend, for a long time. Great, but tortured man.

    • What qualifies the man as “great”? Not his Science Fiction, which is sometimes decent, but always hampered by his love of over-the-top prose. Nor his intelligence, which pretty average. Maybe you’re referring to his ability to insult people, or the size of his ego?

  • Don’t forget the the EPA has changed the way it calculates MPG since 1988. The modern MPG ratings are generally lower than the old ones and much more accurate as far as real-world driving conditions.

    We’re also dealing with modern safety and convenience requirements as well. I doubt the 1988 Geo would pass a 2011 crash test. And do they even sell cars without power windows and A/C anymore.

    • Safety requirements are one issue, but they’re nothing a simply-installed and nigh-invisible rollcage couldn’t overcome. As for “convenience requirements” I think that’s one of these:

      • A roll cage? Seriously?

        First of all, how do you fit a roll cage in a Geo Metro? Are you planning to market it exclusively to people 5’5″ and under? And how does a roll cage protect you in a head-on collision?

        • That depends on the cage design, really. As for the height issue, several people have posted on Gas 2.0 claiming to be 6’5 and fitting comfortably in a Geo – the advertisements of the day matched that and my ’93 Suzuki Swift (similar car) had gobs of room – certainly enough to spare 1-2″ of well-placed, high-strength metal.

          • I think that was me you referred to being 6’5″ and fitting comfortably in a Metro. (I actually owned two ’98s, but not anymore… had to sell them when I had to start taking the kids to school… didn’t feel safe for kids in back). Metros are amazing little cars. I actually fit better in them than I do in many larger cars. A correctly designed roll cage is not a bad idea for someone if they wanted to drive one and feel safer. I have to admit that was always a worry of mine even before the kids (even though the ’95 and later Metros were safer than previous generation because they had dual front airbags, side door beams, DRLs, and better handling).

  • I drove one for a day. Even though we were at 5,000′ feet, the car did not struggle with two of us in the car. It certainly felt cheap. Thin, quick to fade, plastic dash, console, and door panels. An exterior that was quick to fade and buckled when you leaned against it. But it did get incredible mileage. I filled it up, drove it all day, and was supposed to return it filled, but the gauge had not come off the full setting yet.

    As for convenience items, it had cup holders, and it was really easy to roll the windows up and down. The locks were also very easy to open and close. The radio was a nice rectangle, so it was easy to upgrade at J&R. I’ll admit, I never looked to see if it had A/C, but the heater worked just fine.

    • My ’93 had AC, and it would freeze you in Palm Beach, FL. Neat little car.

  • I am surfing eBay for one of these RIGHT NOW. Insane how expensive they get when gas prices tickle the $4 mark!

    • That’s par for the course. The same thing happened back in 2008.

  • The Metro was a very efficient, low cost car but most in the US today would find it underpowered, unsafe and cheap. The insurance institute’s crash test program meant that anything without at least a 4 star rating was unsellable so the automakers just threw steel at the problem, hence even small cars now weigh 2500-3000lbs. Cars can be both light and safe but not cheap. (see Lotus)

  • Speaking as another taller-than-Harlan former (ca. 6′ 1″)Geo Metro owner, I can vouch that the car was comfortable. Might still have it had my wife not accidentally hit a Toyota in early 2001–which totaled both cars, even though she was just leaving a stop sign in a 20 mph zone.

    However, as a happy Metro owner for years, I can certainly vouch that it never came =close= to 43/52 mph. Not within 10 mpg of either. (Painfully, it had about an 8 gallon tank–meaning most of those U.S. gas stations that had giveaways for fillups [“eight gallons or more”]needed to be avoided.)

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  • Marty M

    Hey, it’s 2013 and my 1992 Geo Metro XFI has 356,000 miles on it. My best mileage is 62.8. I will buy my next new car when the window sticker says 53 city/ 58 highway or better. I presume I will wait well beyond my death.

  • George Ranks

    My dad bought a few Geo Metros from the police auctions in Prince George’s County Maryland for $250 per car. He was able to scrap together enough spare parts to get 2 of them running. We had a 4 cylinder convertible and the 3 cylinder hatchback. Both cars lasted about 2 years, but the convertible was a death trap. It had problems with the brake line pinching off when the rubber hose would get too hot. My brother found out about the brake problem when he tried to stop at an intersection and went tearing through it instead at 45 miles an hour as he mashed on the pedal. He was able to get the Geo stopped by crashing it into some old woman’s a minivan.

    God help you if it snowed and you tried to drive the convertible. I spun that piece of crap around at least a dozen times in the 3 months I drove it. The top highway speed on the 3 cylinder model was 64 miles per hour, 54 if you were driving uphill and it burned a quart of oil every day. I’ve been driving for over 20 years, and I’ve never been in an accident in my life that wasn’t during that 2 year period when we owned those Geo Metros from hell.