The Austin Metro was launched in late 1980 to a fanfare of patriotic trumpets; this was the British supermini that was going to single-handedly repel the foreign invaders. Perhaps it would have done if build quality had been better and the engines a little less prehistoric; there was nothing wrong with the design itself.
Build quality improved throughout the Eighties and slick marketing with numerous special editions kept the car constantly near the top of the UK sales charts. It never really realised its true potential however until Rover reworked the car in 1990 and replaced the Austin badge on the bonnet with its own.
From then on, the car began to enjoy a new lease of life. Once an also-ran in the supermini sector, the Metro, with its facelifted front and rear, its new K-series engines and clever Hydragas suspension, was suddenly catapulted to the top of the class. Initial engine choice centred around 1.1 and 1.4-litre models, with a 1.4-litre 16v GTi hot hatch flagship at the top of the range.
Visually, the changes weren't as great, though Rover did their best to re-package the car. Automatics soon followed and a 1.4-litre Peugeot-engined normally aspirated diesel model was added to the range at the end of 1992.
Initially, the entry-level three-door model was the C (though an even cheaper Quest variant was added in 1992). Above this, you chose between L and S in the 1.1-litre range, with L, S, GTa, GTa 16v, SL, GS and GTi the trim levels to choose from in the 1.4-litre line-up.
In January 1995, the Metro received the mildest of makeovers that saw it take on Rover's numerical model number system. The smallest car in the British company's range became the 100, and to mark the occasion, the former Metro received a new grille. The only new body shape was the low-volume cabriolet, introduced in May 1995. This however, lasted less than two years in production.
Mechanically, the car remained largely untouched. Several models were big sellers, such as the Kensington and Knightsbridge, as well as the later Ascot. Rover's clever marketeers realised that upping the level of luxury equipment, while keeping the price low, would ensure steady sales for this enduring little British institution which was finally phased out to be replaced by entry-level 1.1-litre Rover 200 models in the autumn of 1998.