• Jun 15, 2010
Okay, we admit it, we're as smitten by emerging and flashy technology as much as the next green geeks. But sometimes we get so caught up in the vehicles of tomorrow that we forget to look back at the incredibly green vehicles that have come before. One of the best – and most lampooned – was the Geo Metro.

The Metro's mighty 1.0 liter three-banger was capable of putting up 50 miles per gallon or better all day long. But one year ago, a fella named Darin Cosgrove, founder of Ecomodder.com, coaxed his modded-up Metro to almost triple digit mpg at Watkins Glen, New York for the fifth annual Green Grand Prix expo and fuel economy rally.

Darin's list of mods is pretty extensive and they run the gamut from over-inflating his tires to disabling his alternator on the second half of the course to installing an aerodynamic Kammback to help discourage a parachute-like vortex formation at the back of the car. He also installed a shifter-mounted engine kill switch for "pulse-and-glide" engine-off coasting. Not exactly the kind of driving tricks and techniques we expect the average U.S. commuter to employ to save go-juice, but it's inspiring nonetheless.

By the time Darin finished the 79-mile trip around Seneca Lake, he'd managed to squeeze 99.7 mpg (U.S.) from the Metro. Astounding. Darin, we salute you and all the other self-described purveyors of 'fuel efficiency geekery' over at metrompg.com. Nobody is getting more bang for the efficiency buck than you cats. For the rest of you contemplating a new green car purchase, all we've got to say is this: 50 mpg for $1,200 – it's even a convertible.

[Source: Jalopnik]


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  • 14 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      I've owned two of these and one of my friends used to buy 8 or 9 at a shot and rebuild them. So I know these cars well and will praise their simplicity, functionality and inexpensiveness any day. My favorite thing about the 1 liter engine is that you can remove it from the car with your bare hands. It's heavy, but doable. Fun little car to learn to learn mechanics with. To me, they're a modern air cooled VW Beetle.

      What I won't praise is how rust prone they were and how the subframe would break just above where the direction would hook up, so one day you'd hit a bump and lose all your steering. I also wouldn't praise how paper thin the whole thing was. Sure it got good mileage, but damnnnnnnnnnnn... My friend and I would sometimes cut one of those cars into two to send it to the dump, and the stripped rear end (minus hatchback, glass, interior, rear end, gas tank and other stuff) was so light that he could lift it up into the truck by himself. Even the cheapest, smallest new car feels like a tank in comparison.

      I'd love to own one again, but you'll never see me drive it on the highway. That's for sure.
      • 4 Years Ago
      MetroMPG has been one of my favorite car sites for years... those guys are nuts!

      The Suzuki three-banger is a pretty good engine... we've seen 40 mpg out of the 800cc version in city traffic... and 35 mpg wringing its nuts off. And a 1000cc Alto/A-Star (the modern version of the Metro) got about 80 mpg on a recent 300 kilometer mileage run locally. A Prius on the same run, running at the same speed, only returned 58 mpg.

      • 4 Years Ago
      KISS :-)

      OT: how much of Prii fuel-saving is Cw...
        • 4 Years Ago
        Keep it simple? Yes. Now, if only Smart had studied the Geo Metro, before introducing their Fourtwo! Besides the lousy shifter, the Smart has poor gas mileage (for a 3 cylinder vehicle)- especially for a motorcar the size of a Kei car! The Metro, in contrast, though ugly, is simple, shifts decently, and gets outstanding fuel mileage, even in non-modified form! So, maybe Smart (and GM) could learn from this lesson: make it basic, get good fuel economy, AND, make the vehicle cute and/or stylish (do cheap cars HAVE to LOOK cheap?), Come to think of it, Ford has already learned this lesson, judging from their new Fiesta! Now, we need a one dollar a gallon gas tax, to wean the hogs from the trough!
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yeah they really effed up the SMART car.

        The engine is low tech and requires premium fuel, even worse.
        It pisses me off that the only kei car we get is a piece of trash.

        Toyota/Scion IQ will trump it. I would say that's the only ICE car i'm really interested in buying.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The prius achieves 50mpg highway because of its areodynamics while the gas engine runs constantly and the electric engine does very little.

        The hybrid drivetrain of the prius is only really utilized in slower stop & go city driving.

        This course follows a flat lake loop on rural roads(few stops) with only moderate speeds so I bet there are a number of cars including the prius that could get 60+ mpg stock.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The Smart car takes 95RON, so US mid-grade is fine.
      • 4 Years Ago
      He needs to get some rear window louvers for that classy 80s look.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Just noticed it's the Canadian Pontiac Firefly, not a Metro.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Awesome car for the money!

      I agree that Smart did a poor job with fuel efficiency. The Fortwo should get at least 60mpg considering its proportions.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I purchased one of these in 3 cylinder form new in 95. It was the most disappointment I have ever experience for a new car purchase. I concurrently had an Escort wagon purchased new in 94. The Escort was twice the car in power, size, features and driving pleasure. Invoice to invoice they were within a few hundred. The Metro was rated at 49mpg highway while the Escort was rated at 38mpg highway. In real life, on the same roads with the same driver the Escort delivered 42mpg in daily driving day in and day out, while the Metro managed between 43mpg and 44mpg. I even averaged 42.4 for 6 consecutive fill ups one summer on the Escort. After 2 years the Metro was involved in an accident which gave the opportunity to dump it and take the cash. I was never so happy to get rid of a car. The escort went on for 256,000 miles with no engine repairs and still delivered 40mpg the last 2 fill ups. Another accident ended my time with the Escort, but I always wished I could have kept it longer.
        • 4 Years Ago
        MMhmhm.

        Everyone raves about this car, but in reality it is probably one of the worst cars on the road if you disregard it's mpg.

        Underpowered, frame rusts easily, laughable interior, the list goes on and on..

        At least Honda did it right with the CRX. Now there's a car i want to see revived. ( The CR-Z does not count... )
        • 4 Years Ago
        My Escort got real-world gas mileage of 25 to 30 mpg- so your figures are VERY unusual. In contrast, my buddy's Metro got 40 to 45 mpg - the Metro was "cheap" inside, but, considering the era, not much worse than my Mazda! Both were slow cars- the Metro cost around $7,000 new, whereas the Ford Escort was around $12,000- although the REAL comparison (made by my friends) was a new Metro for 7K versus a USED Honda Civic for $6,000 - which is why the Metro died: most folks would rather buy a used (but better built) Civic or Sentra, than purchase a new (but slow and cramped) Metro. Had the Metro been stylish or interesting (say, like a cool looking retro-bodied coupe- think 2CV or Beetle or Saab 93, or a remake of a Morris Minor) then, maybe, it might of survived. But bland styling (and cheap alternatives) killed the Geo.
      • 4 Years Ago
      It actually looks pretty good with those aero mods too!
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