The Metro Turbo’s power delivery was smoother and less laggy than in other cars
MG introduces the turbocharged Metro, Peugeot 205 makes its debut and Top Gear films Autocar
After British Leyland had killed off the MGB sports car in 1980, the MG brand lay dormant until sports versions of Austin’s new Metro and Montego arrived.
Soon after, BL engineers gave the A-Plus four-cylinder engine an innovative turbocharging system that let it hit peak torque at well below then normal turbo engine speeds: 85lb ft at 2650rpm.
Other upgrades were made to the engine (raising total output by 21bhp to 93bhp), clutch and suspension, while a second anti-roll bar was installed at the rear.
Our test started poorly, the MG jerky to drive in traffic, but things improved once we got going. Its delivery was smoother and less laggy than from most turbo cars and its 9.4sec 0-60mpg time beat all rivals’ bar the Ford Fiesta XR2.
The gear ratios we found were well chosen, but the ‘box was let down by a clutch that slipped.
At normal speeds, the MG was a very agreeable handler, having light yet responsive and feelsome steering and fairly stiff reluctance to roll and willingness to corner. Driven sensibly, it turned in easily for a front driver; when we chucked it about, it slid full-bloodedly but was easy to control.
However, straight-line stability was uneasy, it would buck wildly over bigger bumps and it bump-steered badly on country roads.
It was clear that the MG needed more work, then, while the Fiesta XR2 had all of its entertainment value but none of its drawbacks.
Austin Maestro, Fiat Uno, Peugeot 205 and more make debuts at Geneva
Plenty of historically significant models made their debuts at the 1983 edition of the Geneva motor show, alongside the usual array of curios and concept cars.
British Leyland’s next great hope, the Austin Maestro family hatch, “bathed in the universally warm reception it had won”.
A French rival was present in the form of the new Renault 11, a liftback relation of the two-year-old 9 saloon, the range-topper intriguing with an LCD instrument display and a synthesised voice.
Meanwhile, the supermini class looked set to heat up as the Uno was unveiled with Fiat making “no secret of its high hopes for the car to carry the marque back into contention” and the “good-looking” Peugeot 205 represented the “emerging of a new identity” as the PSA Group looked to climb out of trouble.
Also of note were the world’s fastest cabrio, by Rinspeed using a Porsche 911 Turbo; Opel’s precursor to the Vauxhall Astra GTE; a Cosworth version of the Mercedes 190; Ford’s extremely aerodynamic Probe IV concept; and a Mercedes 500 SEC modified by Sbarro for the Arabian market and “uncomfortably close to the borders of bad taste”.
Top Gear films Autocar’s road test
Our road test of the MG Metro Turbo was filmed for a segment on the BBC television show Top Gear. Presenter Sue Baker joined our John Miles and Michael Scarlett at the MIRA proving ground as they conducted their vital acceleration, handling, braking and fuel economy tests, including on the banked circuit with an array of gear attached – and a floodlight shining in Miles’ face! Rest assured, though, that all of the tests done twice, the figures not to be prejudiced by the weight of the hidden camera and sound men and all their gear. The episode isn’t online, sadly. We hope it survives somewhere at the BBC.
1983 Formula 1 season gets off to a fiery start
The 1983 F1 season began in exciting fashion at Jacarepaguá in Brazil. Nelson Piquet took a strong home victory, the turbo Brabham BMW proving the fastest of the new-rules cars. Behind him was the atmo Williams-Ford of Keke Rosberg – but he was disqualified for a push in the pits after his car caught fire. This also prompted one of the quotes of the season. “Get back in the ****ing car!” barrelled chief engineer Patrick Head. “What do you want me to do, burn off my bloody moustache?” came the racing Viking’s retort.