Cute. Inexpensive. High mileage. Top-down freedom.

That`s the Geo Metro convertible.


That`s also the Geo Metro convertible.

And one ``tiny`` on the negative side of the ledger offsets a whole bunch of positive features on the other side.

How small is a Geo Metro convertible?

It`s built on an 89.2-inch wheelbase and is 146.1 inches long. To enableyou to draw a mental picture, the Geo Metro convertible is about the size of acouch.

The Geo Metro drop-top seats two. That makes it cozy as well as cute. The top is manually operated. You lift it from the hinge with one hand and drop itinto the handy compartment in back. Then you slip the plastic swivel coverover the top and you have one smooth, neat-looking package.

To replace the top you reverse the order. The added step is having toslam the top down into the hinge along the windshield. After a few attempts atrehinging the top, you`ll be known among friends as ``Knuckles,`` becausethose that are left are swollen so much.

The car is cute, at least the one we drove was, with its all-yellow bodyand black top. It looked a bit like a ladybug. Yellow is the safest color for such a small machine, since it is impossible not to spot that color in eventhe most congested traffic. And yellow seems to stand out at night.

The convertible is powered-make that put into motion-by a one-liter,three-cylinder, 55-horsepower engine. The model we drove was teamed with afive-speed manual. Thanks to the weight (1,753 pounds), the fuel-injectedthree-cylinder seems to respond more quickly than you`d expect from so little displacement.

The mileage rating is 41 m.p.g. city/46 highway. It`s 32/37 withautomatic. The ability to pass the pump will make you feel better about theone-liter engine.

The car`s real attraction is price-a sticker of only $9,740 beforeoptions and $10,916 after the extra-cost goodies are added. The options on thecar we tested included air conditioning for $720, AM-FM stereo with cassetteand digital clock for $441 and color-keyed floor mats for $15.

Standard equipment includes Scotchgard fabric protector, intermittentwipers, dual sport mirrors, power brakes, 13-inch steel-belted all-seasonradials and side-window defrosters.

This is not an Olds Cutlass Supreme convertible, currently our favoriteamong affordable drop-tops (sorry, at $97,000 the Mercedes 500SL is out of theaffordable league unless you`re an unindicted commodities trader).

The qualm is size. If you think an 18-wheeler looks huge when pulling upbehind you as you`re zipping along the Edens at 55 m.p.h. in your Buick ParkAvenue, imagine the feeling of helplessness when put in the same situationwhile in a Geo Metro munchkin.

The changes for 1992 include new front and rear fascia, full-widthtaillamps and full wheel covers on the convertible.