We've all suffered the same experience. A friend, neighbor, relative, or co-worker plops a valise full of baby photos in front of you to admire.

You take a peek at the first one and immediately the hair on the back of your neck stands on end and your earlobes start to quiver. You're forced to say, "How beautiful," when what you really want to say is, "Does that thing come with cloven hooves and a tail?"

That's the same reaction we've had these many years to the Chevrolet Geo Metro. Beauty, they say, is only skin deep, but ugly goes all the way to the bone.

The Metro's only saving grace was that it kept capturing the government's top mileage rating, although to be blunt, the fuel-economy champ has never finished among the 10 top-selling vehicles in the industry. Not even the top 100. Nay, not even the top 200.

In addition to being ugly, Metro had one other fault that kept us from recommending it. The car was spartanly equipped when it came to safety equipment. There were no air bags-not one.

For the1995 model year, you can look at a Geo Metro sedan without quivering in disdain. And with dual air bags as standard and anti-lock brakes an option, the argument that the thing was about as safe aspeddling a 10-speed along Interstate Highway 55 doesn't hold true any longer, either.

Notice that though we said the sedan is pleasant to look at, the coupe still makes the hair on the nape of your neck stand at attention. But one out of two isn't bad.

The 1995 Metro four-door sedan is the new little charmer in the Geo line, replacing the 1994 hatchback sedan. It features an all-new shapely design similar to that of the '95 Chevy Cavalier with a trunk to hold and hide your cargo. The coupe, however, still looks like amis-shapen blob with a hunchback, er, hatchback, that exposed all contents to passersby.

In previous years the car's high-mileage rating has attracted a handful of fuel conservationists. But, it also was a car you could easily be talked out of because of the absence of the protective bags in the sedan. There were lots of people more concerned about arriving home, or having their kids arrive home, than that the homecoming be accomplished on only a half tank of gas.

With a mere 93.1-inch wheelbase and scant 164-inch overall length, you had to be enamored with high mileage to have the nerve to venture out on the open highway among all those big bruts in a vehicle as tiny as a Geo Metro.

To be honest, even with the new sheet metal, the Metro sedan is not muscular. The shape changed and so did the size-2 inches more length, 2.3 inches more height-but the dimensions still are petite enough so that you must have a little derring-do to take to the roads in this miniature machine. But for 1995 at least you have driver- and passenger-side air bags in front of you. The '94, instead of bags, had a Saint Christopher statue on the dash with his hands over his eyes.

As added protection, the sedan offers optional ABS, though we wish a car this small would offer the system as standard. Surely there will be a number of people who will pass on ABS because of the dual air bags. Not a wise decision.

ABS costs a hefty $565, but if you should skid on snow, water or ice and find yourself in a ditch, the bill for the body work-to the car and you-will top $565.

We test drove the '95 Geo Metro sedan, a pleasant machine that deserves to be considered among those shopping low price and high mileage, with an ample dose of safety hardware for good measure.

The sedan is offered in base model and upgraded LSi. We drove both. Power is supplied by a new 1.3-liter, 70-horsepower, fuel-injected, 4-cylinder, which replaces a 1-liter, 52-h.p., 3-cylinder. A 5-speed manual is standard; a 3-speed automatic is optional.

Run up a hill and the 1.3 starts to run out of breath, especially witht he 3-speed automatic, whether there are initials after the name or not. Press the pedal to the floor to build momentum and you experience a lot of transmission noise. The engine/transmission, which don't jump away from the light, do provide you with above-average fuel economy-29 miles per gallon city/33 m.p.g. highway with automatic, 39/43 with manual. If you expect more than low-cost travel from the little engine, you'll be disappointed.

And don't expect sports car ride and handling, not from a car that sports 13-inch wheels, which are an improvement on the 12-inchers that had been standard before. Even with the 13-inch toy tires, you'll swing wide and lean in corners and turns instead of gripping tight and snapping you back into a straight line. The LSi offers a 14-inch tire upgrade. Take it.

One other gripe we had is that it seemed the brake pedal had far too much play. You want far quicker stopping response in a car as small as this.

Some notable goodies include immense head room front and rear and rear seat backs that fold as one piece (base model) or individually (LSi).

The LSi differs from the base model in that it has body-colored bumpers (charcoal gray on the base), dual power sideview mirrors (right-hand manual on the base) and remote trunk/fuel filler door release (not available on the base), larger composite halogen headlamps, tinted windshield, vinyl seat back pockets, cargo light in the trunk and cloth door trim (vinylon base).

Standard on both cars are power brakes, child safety rear door locks, intermittent wipers, Scotchgard cloth fabric treatment, full carpeting, trip odometer and bodyside moldings.

And there's one other feature worth noting-daytime running lights to make it easier for other motorists to see you, a valuable warning signal in such a small vehicle. The lights (using reduced 60percent power to the high beam headlamp) illuminate automatically when the driver turns on the ignition and turn off when the ignition is switched off or when the driver switches on the headlamps.

Base price for the Metro sedan is $9,395 and for the upgraded LSi $9,795. Both include the $310 freight charge. Rather than advertise a low-ball price with an + that some people don't notice or can't read that states "plus freight," Chevy is including the charge in its ads for 1995. Class move.

Among popular options, air conditioning runs $785, ABS $565, automatic $500, power steering $260 (available in the LSi only) and rear window defogger $160.

>> 1995 Chevrolet Geo Metro LSI hatchback Wheelbase: 93.1 inches Length: 149.4 inches Engine: 1-liter, 55-h.p., 3-cylinder Transmission: 5-speed manual EPA mileage: 43m.p.g. city/48 m.p.g. highway Base price: $8,385. Price as tested: $10,795. Add $565 for ABS, $785 for air, $521 for AM/FM stereo with cassette, $160 for rear-window defogger, $125 for rear-window washer/wiper, $199 for body-colored bumpers and bodyside moldings, $35 for floor mats, $20 for outside mirrors. Freight runs $310. Pluses: Dual air bags standard. Outstanding mileage. Minuses: Everything else. >>