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Chevrolet (Geo) Prizm

tbrooks74tbrooks74 Posts: 1
edited December 2013 in Chevrolet
Last October I purchased a 1999 Chevy Prizm... the
3-speed automatic (what was i thinking?).

Within one month I had to take the car back to the
dealer to have the windshield wipers fixed since
the wiper motor died on my way home from work... i
live in seattle, this was a BIG problem.

Tires... the tires the car came with may work just
fine if you live in a flat desert and never have
to stop quickly. During the rainy season, the
tires will start spinning mid-way up a hill! Let
alone all the squealing and sitting in one spot if
you try to start going up a hill when the roads are
wet. I've slid through many an intersection
because the tires simply won't hold the road...
it's not like i was going 60 and slammed on them

Paint... you can actually chip it with your
fingernail. Several spots on my trunk have
discolored for no known reason.

Handling... forget about taking any sharp turns at
more than 10mph or you're gonna be in a ditch.

Power... this car has about as much oomph as a
slug. I can make it up the mountain passes at a
whopping 15mph... i realize this is partially my
fault for getting the 3-speed automatic.

Lights... for one thing, one of them seems to be
aimed to hunt for birds... taking it into the shop
for that next week... the lights illuminate about 5
feet in front of you, which is fine in the city
but very frightening out in the mountains with lots
of animals to jump out in the road.

Overall, I would not buy this car again if I could
turn back time. It's not a bad car, just not the
quality of car I feel I should get for the price.
If anyone else has had similar problems with their
prizm, I'd be interested to hear... feel free to
e-mail me at


  • regfootballregfootball Posts: 2,166
    bought a new Prizm in March. Zero problems. To address some of your comments....

    tires- Yes, cheap tires, but you could get a set of four good ones from the tire rack and then have them installed for total cost of about 200-250 bucks. Cheap car, cheap tires.

    paint- good paint job, but they probably did not put too many coats on. We'll see how it holds up. Does not have any flaws or orange peel.

    power- these days, virtually none of the cars in the 15 grand price range will have more than 120 horsepower. Any car in this range will feel undermotivated, especially with a 3speed automatic. My Prizm has a stick and actually feels quite lively and quick for a small car. The prizm motor is smoother and easier to drive (nice DOHC motor, yes it matters) than many cars in this price range, and should hold up a lot longer.

    Handling- could be quicker and more assured but i think part of it is the cheap tires.

    Lights- are your daytime running lights switching to full power at night? The full power lights are to come on automatically when you release the parking brake.

    Overall though, the car is quiet, rides nice, has nice dashboard and switchgear, and is better screwed together than a Cavalier or Neon, IMHO. You don't get much more than that for 15 grand these days, I'm afraid. Even most bigger cars like Grand Am's are over 20,000 now.
  • wenyuewenyue Posts: 558
    Maybe you should have gotten the Japanese brother of the Prizm. My 99 Corolla LE with security/keyless system(corolla top trim) has flawless paint job, 4-spd automatic is quiet and got tons of power if you are willing to rev the engine a bit (I rev the gears up to 4500 rpms some times for that kick in the back, most of the time, 3000 is my limit). My corolla LE comes with better tires too. :) Handling is ok, not great, I take my turns at about 20 mph with enough confidence thanks to the front and rear stablizer bars (but I can see how faster than 20 would be scary). My lights are first rate! Perfect set up with lots of illuminating power. All this and for $14317. Sorry, don't mean to rub it in.

    But I read reviews that said prizms's options are more expensive than the corollas, so in the end, a corolla could be cheaper than the prizm. Besides, on the Prizm, while the major components like the engine and power train may be Japanese parts, the small things like wind-shield wiper and door handles are GM parts. Quite frankly, I wouldn't trust GM stuff. Better pay the little extra money for genuine toyota finish and get that higher resale value. GM has that magical touch that ruins a car, even when 95% of it is already put together for them.
  • hfeng1hfeng1 Posts: 1
    Bought a 98 Prizm in Feb. 98. I read that the only
    difference between 98 and 99 are new paint colors so I figure it is OK here.
    My wife is the main driver of the car (it has a stick) and she likes it a lot. I like to drive it
    too primarily because the engine is so responsive
    (the automatic -- especially the 3 speed -- may not feel as responsive.) I live in the Silicon Valley and we don't have a lot of rain and slopes so it has been a pleasant, dependable commuter car for my wife.
    Recently I saw a local dealer ad about a new 99 base prizm selling at, after factory and dealer rebates, $9000!!! If I didn't already own one that is still pretty new and I know it will last me a long time, I would have certainly picked it up without hesitation.
  • 1) The Corolla is not merely the Japanese brother of the car, instead almost all Corolla's (something like 90%) are made in the same US factory as the Prizm. (If the door frame sticker says "New United Motor Manufacturing Inc." or "NUMMI" it is a California made Corolla.) Neither has more or less Japanese or Domestic parts, (except for maybe the stero) as the factory is jointly owned.

    2) In the '98 model, front and rear stabalizer bars were avail. in the ridiculously "LSi handling package", up until about July, when they became standard. The front stab. bar was not avail. in the base level Corolla either.

    3) If you look under the hood of a Corolla, you will also see a mix of US and Japanese parts. (i.e. a Delco battery). The base level trim (CE in the case of the Corolla) of either model has chintzy interior componnents. The upper level trims are identical, except for color schemes, logos, and the center console. (To accmodate a GM-style stereo.) Once you pop open the hood, the cars are completely identical, with not a single GM part in sight, except for the battery.

    4) For the 3 vs. 4 spd. tranny: the 0-60 times are virtually identical. What that overdrive gear does for you is save some RPM's at high speed. If you look at the gear ratios, you will find that the three speed is geared for more torque on all three of it's gears.
  • wenyuewenyue Posts: 558
    I don't know excactly how many components are different in the corolla and prizm, but there are some.

    For an obvious example is the trunk. The trunk lid of the corolla and the prizm is styled and shaped differently.

    I think where most of the internal machinery is the same between the 2. Once the major machinary is put in, the corolla and the prism go their seperate ways to different side of the plant. Toyota uses their own body pannels and Chevy uses theirs. This is just a theory.
  • regfootballregfootball Posts: 2,166
    Mescherp (response 4) is entirely right.

    It's amazing to see where people's bias falls, even when the car is the same, but one car has a Chevy badge on it and the other has a Toyota badge. All of a sudden the Chevy is "evil" and the Toyota is where its at. Just cause the Prizm has the Chevy badge does not automatically mean it is a second class product.

    I suppose the Isuzu Rodeo is a piece of crap to most folks and the Honda Passport is all fine.
  • wenyuewenyue Posts: 558
    Chevy Prizm is 95% the same as corolla. And is a good car as far as those 95% (important stuff) is concerned. So it's a good car, that will keep you on the road for a very very very long time. But of the 5% stuff that chevy puts on, it's not the same quality as that of the corolla. Even though those 5% are just some minor un-essential components, they are more likely to fail and made things little annoying once in a while.

    Example, the trunk of the prizm is not the same as the corolla, so I wouldn't be supprised if more prizm owners have problems with their trunks in the long term than corolla owners. But again, as I said, all major components are toyota quality. So if one would be willing to take those occational annoiance into perspective, then the Prizm is undoubtably an good car, and by no means a second rated product. A second rated product would be the cavalier, well, maybe that would be the 3rd rated.
  • My wife and I bought a new 99 Prism last month after 6 months of research. I can't tell your just how happy we are with this car. It is not an LSI but has many nice features including a $1500 rebate, CD player, cruise, and A/C. We love the 5 speed. 30 MPG around town and 38 on the highway. The fit and finish is outstanding. So far so good. I'll keep you posted as time goes on. I'm off on a 500 mile interstate trip next week. Well see just how it does in the mountains of West Virginia. I'm open to all
  • cpzhangcpzhang Posts: 16
    I read sth that prizm will be stopped by GM pretty soon. Has anyone heared of this?
  • enetheneth Posts: 285
    Yes. Apparently, Toyota has plans to use the Fremont, California plant to assemble a new small SUV (perhaps the successor to the RAV4) in place of the Chevy Prizm.

    The Prizm has never sold as well as the Corolla, partly because of marketing, but then again, it has far ousold its reverse nationality counterpart (the Toyota Cavalier), which Toyota has had extreme trouble selling in Japan.
  • ohhohh Posts: 7
    I own '99 prizm and it is a wonderful car (ok I drove it for just 4 months) It's amazing how quiet and smooth the car is. Acceleration and stopping power are very good too and so is fuel efficiency. I just hate it when ppl tells me what a great car corolla is and gets confused my prizm with "metro" =(

    Anyways, from waht I know prizm and corolla are identical except for radio and rear of the car. They are both manufactured by very same ppl and machineries in the same plant. So ppl who thinks corolla's so much better than prizm are obviously biased against anything under "American" brand name.

    It is true that options on prizms are more expensive than corolla, not to mention invoice prices. I settled for prizm because of $1900 rebate and I bought one with minimal options (rear defogger, radio/cassettes,ac) without any extra options such as power window/door lock/mirror. Corolla's Value Packages would have saved me so much comapred to prizm.
    It was a tough choice but it made sense to get prizm over corolla with minimal options.
  • kbell2kbell2 Posts: 1
    I just recently purchased a 99 prism. sometimes
    i notice when i am driving down hills it feels
    like the car is pulling or trying to hold it self back. I assume thats the way the way the transmission is suppose to work. if anyone has any information or a similar experience please post it.
  • ammo5ammo5 Posts: 1
    This Month My other half Ended up Wrecking her 1989 Toyota Camry. I Suggested the Prizm Since I Sell them. She is a very hard sell. She Did not get an LSI, But She got the Big 5 Options, Power Widows, Power Doors, Air Conditioning, Auto Trans (3-spd), and Am/FM Cassette. Also Had Tilt and Cruise. For an MSRP of 15680. I think if you get any car with all that for under 16000 Sticker your doing OK She did a Smart buy on her car so she got a $450 Cap Cost Reduction and a 2.85% interest rate . She Loves the Car and 6 Months ago she told me that she would never buy an American Car. I Think that she did OK
  • ohhohh Posts: 7
    I used to drive '88 chevy corsica prior to '99 prizm. It had minimal problems and only had brakes,rotors, tires, belt,battery, spark plugs and transmission fluid during last five years(usual maintenance stuff)

    I noticed that prizm manual asks to "lubricate" chasis component and check air filter every 6months. Are these necessary? I don't think i did these things with '99 corsica.
  • ohhohh Posts: 7
    How is 3 speed on prizm? Does it engine becomes loud noticeably at high speed? (70+mph)
  • haulmehaulme Posts: 1
    We are considering a new prism for our daughter for school and work. Any comments pro/con would be appreciated.
  • regfootballregfootball Posts: 2,166
    Get the Prizm with manual transmission and save the 800 dollars money. Don't get the LSi with a lot of options; it gets too spendy that way too. Make sure you get the 70 dollar tachometer because it includes a really nifty outdoor temp. indicator. Oh, and get floor mats and splash guards too.

    pros- fairly smooth and powerful motor for a car its size. Good mileage. The car seems to be well built and that makes me feel confident its worth the money. The factory stereo is tolerable. Nice gauges. Simple controls. Looks good for a small car. Comfortable seats.

    Cons-ABS not standard as in Cavalier, a bit tight inside (all cheap cars are), lacks an armrest in front or folding rear seat (base model price range), needs wider tires and wheels as well as stiffer suspension. Could stand to be priced more in line with the Ford Escorts; that is to say about a thousand bucks cheaper.
  • cyancyan Posts: 1
    Pros: Great gas mileage; comfortable seats; huge glove compartment; smooth drive; efficient; relatively quiet interior; passenger side air bag is a good distance away.

    Cons: Leg room is terrible if you are 5'4 or over; driver side visor can block your view and is very stiff; exterior dents easily because it is plastic,if you drive behind semis or live in the country expect dings; tilt wheel is a joke, it moves, maybe an inch, if that much; the seat does not move back very far, if you have a spare tire or a larger middle, your stomach may touch the wheel and you sit very close to the air bag.

    Overall, it is a good car for someone who needs a fuel-efficient car. I prefer the Malibu's styling and size. The Cavalier has a lot less head room and does not drive as smoothly as the Prizm.

    Good Luck!!!
  • rrockeyrrockey Posts: 1
    Purchased a new 1999 Prizm recently and it seems like a good car except for a noisy Nippon Denso 80 amp alternator (generator). Dealership replaced it and although it's not as loud, it's still noisy!!! Maybe a heavy-duty alternator is available that would run with less noise??? Appears more noisy with added electrical load such as the daytime running lights or AC.
  • regfootballregfootball Posts: 2,166
    Yes, I've heard it....but the alternator whine goes away after a few months, gradually.......
  • squeak6squeak6 Posts: 28
    .... I have had my 98 Prizm since Sept.... and for the most part its been ok to me.... its a 5-speed with only a am/fm radio & AC.... no rear defogger... (thumbs down).... I always check the gas mileage and I get about 31 mpg... I thought I could get more.... I try to fill it up to the top I can get about 13 gals in the tank and get about 383 miles.... I have 35.5K miles and I started to hear a thump only when I start it... I took it to the dealer and he could not find anything wrong... they also said that the gas mileage was normal.... and yes the tires are very cheep... when I go on a road trip and it rains I can feel the front tires spinning... I guess if I get some new tires and some STP gas treatment It will be an ok car..... *** how could I get better gas mileage? ***
  • occupant1occupant1 Posts: 412
    I need to start a thread like this. I have 2 cars that I drive on a regular basis. One is a 1995 Geo Metro with automatic transmission (rated 30/34) and the other is a 1992 Dodge Dynasty V6 (rated 19/26). Here is how to improve your mileage.

    a) Take your readings in the same way every time. Go to the same gas station and use the same pump and let the auto-shutoff do its job. The second time, figure your mileage, miles driven divided my gallons used. This way you eliminate human and pump error. And never top off your tank anyway, it fills your EEC canister with liquid gasoline and can be expensive to replace.

    b) Accelerate smoothly. Note I did not say slowly. Get up to speed with traffic but don't do the watusi on your pedals. Ease your foot onto the accelerator. So what if the guy in front of you moves fifty feet away. You'll catch him at the next light anyway, or maybe on...

    c) Brake smoothly. If you do it right you can coast to a slow roll as the light is red and then almost reach the car in front of you as the light turns green and traffic starts moving again. The less you use your brakes, the better your mileage will be.

    d) ALWAYS choose the highway over the city route. Your car will get the best mileage between 45-55mph on a flat surface in top gear. Period.

    e) Cruise Correctly. Do not step on the gas and let off to keep your speed. Touch the accelerator ever so lightly so that you keep it in overdrive (automatics) but not so lightly that you lose speed. Every time you move your foot the car compensates by adding more fuel or cutting it off. Try and keep your foot completely still.

    f) Reduce idling and turn A/C off. If it's summertime and the weather is fine, you can stretch right up and touch the sky...oops had to break into song. Idling uses about a gallon an hour, depending on engine size and type. A SOHC engine will use less fuel in an hour than a DOHC engine. A 2.0 liter engine will use less fuel in an hour than a 2.4 liter engine. But when they are moving, it changes everything. The A/C cuts 2-5mpg from your mileage, BUT having windows open at speed causes a greater drop than running the A/C.

    And tire pressure makes a difference along with hills, weather, and traffic. But the smoother you drive, the better your mileage will be. I can achieve 36mpg on the road in the Metro and 28 in the Dynasty because I drive smoothly. I get 24mpg in town in the Dynasty, way above the 19mpg city rating, because I try and coast as much as possible. Think...your car is moving, your engine is idling as if the car were means great mpgs!
  • hit a deer at 50mph, bounced off derr, rand down embankmet and hit tree. Still neither air bag deployed. anyone had simaliar??
  • Hi about a week and a half ago I got a 99 Chevy Prizm (base not Lsi) and it has A/C, 3-spd Auto Trans, Cruise, Tilt, Rear Defog, AM/FM CD, and Power Locks. I don't know what all of you are gripping about, true I have only had it a short time but I can honestly say I LOVE my Chevy Prizm. It rides extremely smooth, accelerates good, gets good gas mileage, great cold a/c, wonderful braking and stereo system is really good for a small car. I call my car a mini Luxury sedan. I am only 16 and this is my first vehicle, but I think it is great. We got a pretty good deal on it too only paid $14,000 when it was all said and done and that includes TTL and a rebate from GM, the MSRP was almost $16,000 so I think we made out pretty good. Would love to hear from other Prizm owners, my email address is

  • I have a 94 prizm with 3 speed transmission. It is definitly a reliable car. It had a noise in about the third month. Dealer relaced the some part in the exaust system. It goes away. I have 73 km on it now, just replaced the battery.
  • Had a 1996 GEO Prizm, auto, 3-speed, mostly used by my wife (she drives little) on a 3 year lease. Just turned it in and these are the facts;
    Reliability: Excellent. Took it to the dealer only once-the windshield wipers quit out of the blue one day. Dealer replaced the motor. No other problemas after that.
    Performance: A punk on a skateboard might pass you.
    Handling: Good.
    Body Style: A microwave oven looks better.
    Quality and Finish: Very Good. Especially liked the steering wheel. It felt tight and comfortable. Interior was high in quality (for the type of car, of course). Good fit and finish.
    Other stuff: Avoid the 3-speed auto if youre a frequent highway driver. It is annoying. Other than that it was a good car.
  • I had a chevy prism (96) it was a very dependable car , However the paint ( clear coat ) peeled off in many spots after 2 years. I waxed and washed this vehicles atleast monthly , so In conclusion I must say Chevy Paint Licks....
  • I bought my Prizm (95) used just six months ago and I am in love. The gas mileage is wonderful. Pick-up leaves a lot to be desired, but that's not why I bought the car. I havn't a single problem with anything on it. I hope this is the begining of a beautiful relationship.
  • Ok, yea I was the one saying why are all of you gripping in post #24, but now I am starting to gripe. The tires, god are EXTREMELY cheap, go ahead, roll the windows down while you are turning, I don't think you should be hearing that noise when you turn....btu anyways.. I was wondering if anyone else with a 99 Prizm has had the check engine light come on??? Mine came on suddenly last night right after I started the car...please email me if anyone has any suggestions.. Ill be happy to tell the story more in detail...
  • 39043904 Posts: 16
    My '99 Prizm has made a high-pitched, whine-like noise ever since I bought it. Dealer tells me this is normal?!?! Anyone else experiencing such a noise??
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