Chevrolet (Geo) Prizm



  • infinia1infinia1 Member Posts: 174
    i'm going to have them checked then at next oil change. thanks hethmarie. and i FINALLY found a hood deflectot after searching everywhere for 2 months! otherwise still troublefree for me.
  • squeak6squeak6 Member Posts: 28
    I just hit the 150,000 mile mark on my 1998 prizm.... the only problems I've had are just with the A/C ($1,000) and starter ($400)... other than that its been a pretty good ride... I'm still getting about 300 miles on a full tank before the gas light comes on...

    any suggestions on what I can do to keep her running strong???
  • carlrjrcarlrjr Member Posts: 35
    Feel free to post a link or contact info for the hood deflector... I've also noticed that it's hard to find accessories for the Prizm.
    Thanks in advance.
  • infinia1infinia1 Member Posts: 174
    it took me over a month to find one, and this is the only one i could find anywhere! it's lund part# 78526. i ordered from a local accessory store for $50. i did find that lund part number available on some internet sites but the cheapest online was $75. that part number fits all current generation prizms, 98-02. some lund catalogs may only list 98-01 but mine is an 02 and since the hood never changed i took a chance and ordered it and it fit perfectly! now i have the only one in town with a deflector. carlrjr-do your rear seat belts retract properly? mine need help to retract. i'm having the dealer look at them soon.
  • carlrjrcarlrjr Member Posts: 35
    I haven't heard my kids in the back seat complain about the seat belts, so I assume they are working fine.

    I do, however have a soft grinding sound only when I turn to the right that I will have the dealer investigate during my next (free) oil change and tire rotation due in a few miles. The grinding sound can be heard with my foot on or off the brakes, so I'm concerned enough for them to investigate since I only have about 7,000 miles on the car so far.

    My Prizm's initial quality has really impressed me; the soft grinding noise is the only thing I've found to gripe about since I purchased the car. The ride quality and mileage are excellent -- every tank has been 34-40 mpg since day one, and I drive the car like I stole it.

    I'll post my dealer's findings after my visit.
  • mahnomahno Member Posts: 2
    I have just bought a '99 Prizm. It was perfect at the time of delivery, but two weeks later from time to time I can hear squeaking/grinding noise from the front right end,it happens only when turning right at very slow speed. Does anybody know what could be the problem here?
    The noise appears every other turn and when I took it to a shop surely enough it did not come up. The mechanic said: "There is nothing wrong with the front end of your vehicle".
    I want to know as much as possible about this problem before I take it to the shop again.
    Corolla has a TSB "SUBJECT REGARDING STEERING RACK END NOISE". Could this be the answer? If so
    how can I get hold of this bulletin?

    Other than this problem the car is perfect for city driving. Smooth and refined.
    At freeway speeds it gets really loud with the 3-speed automatic. I would not recommend 3-speed auto to anybody driving significant distances on the freeway. Under 65mph it is very quiet, at 70mph it gets loud but I can put up with it, and at 75mph the engine noise becomes unbearable. I should have bought a 5-speed std.
  • steine13steine13 Member Posts: 2,834
    I bought a '98 base Prizm in Oct. 98 and drove it for three years... it developed a grinding problem in the front that was fixed by adjusting the "backing plate", basically a partial cover of the brake disk.
    I think. It being new, I didn't crawl underneath myself but had the dealer do it.
    I sold it and alter got a '93 Corolla, which I agree is a more pleasant car; feels more expensive than the later ones... and it is making noises too, when turning left or right... grinding/squeaking is about right... my mechanic says it's the wheel covers, which are pretty beat up from curb scraping at 180k miles... the brakes etc. are fine... i'm ignoring it. Yeah, it's bothersome, but it seems to be a "feature".
    -MathiasEast Lansing, MI
  • happycarhappycar Member Posts: 17
    How to buy a Japanese car with a American price? Buy the Chevrolet Prizm, a Toyota Corolla clone,with the GM Mastercard points. That's what the told me. I find it hard to believe some of you are having with your new Prizm. If the rental car companies buy these cars, they can't be that bad.
  • carlrjrcarlrjr Member Posts: 35
    I promised a report after my dealer inspected a grinding noise from the rear on slow left turns:

    Dealer duplicated the noise and removed, cleaned and reinstalled the rear brake shoes on the left side. That seems to have done the trick; it's been over a week and I haven't heard a sound.
  • happycarhappycar Member Posts: 17
    Correction on #611. I find it hard to believe the number and extent of problems some of you are having with your late-model Prizm under fifty thousand miles.There is enough quality control nowadays to minimize any major misshap.
  • happycarhappycar Member Posts: 17
    It seem like a pardox to say that the Chevrolet Prizm is problem ridden and the Toyota Corolla has Toyota's typical A-1 quality.This Chevrolet is not really American,it just carries the American name and is based on the Japanese cars high standard. Both of these cars share the same platform.
  • happycarhappycar Member Posts: 17
    When I picked up my 2002 Cavalier with only seventeen original miles on it, I drove it home and jacked it up, removed the tires, and with the parking brake off, tried to rotate the rear drums. Guess what, whoever adjusted them at the factory, made them super tight. I loosened them up so the shoe barely scrap the drum while rotating the drum. Now I can back-up out of my grassy driveway without touching the gas pedal. Without looking at your car, I hope this helps the person with the MPG problem on the Prizm.
  • happycarhappycar Member Posts: 17
    I always exceed the EPA's gas mileage guide that's posted on the window at time of purchase with all of my new car from day one. I drive 100% freeway traffic, forty miles a day. The trick is no jack rabbit starts. Carry no junk in the trunk. And the hardest part of all, no exceeding the posted speed limit. So if I can do it, ya all can do it.
  • mahnomahno Member Posts: 2
    The Chevy Cavalier used to be sold in Japan and other neighboring countries as the Toyota Cavalier. (Check out this New Zealand site

    Now think about "legendary" Toyota quality.
  • jj713jj713 Member Posts: 1
    Anybody have repair probs with this? Are you happy? I'm in the 3-days-to-back-out period trying to decide.
  • firephoenix777firephoenix777 Member Posts: 59
    how can i tell if the car has a 3-sp or 4-sp auto tranny without test driving?
  • landrews2landrews2 Member Posts: 1
    I am thinking of purchasing a 1994 Prism, 5spd. manual with 140,000 miles for $ 1400. It's been well maintained. Only one problem I need some suggestions on. The owner replaced the battery because it was 5 yrs. old, now on starting it clicks twice then starts right up. Any suggestions, does something need to be reset? Thanks for any suggestions.
  • jpgavin1jpgavin1 Member Posts: 3
    I have been to the dealer 3 times with my 02 Prism to get the check engine light turned off. I believe they replaced a valve last time. They said the first two times I didn't tighten the gas cap.
    Can anyone offer any advice?
  • vetteryanvetteryan Member Posts: 21
    My advice is to tighten the gas cap. I had to say it.
  • gwashington1gwashington1 Member Posts: 4
    My 1992 Geo Prizm Sedan has 103 K miles. My comp and collision insurance is $120 per year and the trade-in is about $800. Average private retail is about $1200 and dealer retail $2200. Time to get rid of the comp and collision insurance, right? Let me know if I should not, as I am sure that the end has come for any use for this insurance. Even though the car is running sufficiently well to keep, I doubt if the insurance company would pay much if I had damage over the $200 deductible. They would just call it a total loss and give me the wholesale value minus my deductible. That means I am paying too much for nothing, I belive. Right?

    BTW, it has the familiar grinding noise in the front end. I think it is the left front, but maybe that is because I can only hear that part. The dealer where I bought it fixed something. I think the axle, but the brakes were ok. Still makes the noise, but I went on a 1300 mile trip with no problems this month and since the thing has been grinding away and been checked I am not doing anything more. The car otherwise has been very good. Rare repairs, although lately it looks like an oil leak has developed, so I may have to have that checked. Good milage still. Most repairs were more or less expected. Anything would have been an improvement over the piece of old Chrysler junk I spent a fortune on for useless repairs and finally traded in for a charitable $100, as well as for numerous other older, purely American sedans of various makes. I recommend the Chevy Geo or, if you want to throw money away, buy the Toyota version.
  • nieandernieander Member Posts: 1
    If the guts are Japanese does that mean that everything is metric on this car? I'm contemplating buying a used one and will perform my own maintenance. I'd like to not have to buy another set of tools -- I already have metric for my old BMW.

    Also, what are the common explanations for the grinding noise so many people are mentioning? Anybody have a straight answer form a dealer they trust? Any TSB's or recalls?

    Thanks for the help.
  • csandstecsandste Member Posts: 1,866
    1. You should have dropped this years ago. They're making big $$$ on you given the risk.

    2. This is essentially a Toyota built at the Fremont NUMMI plant. I wouldn't expect any parts not to be metric.
  • mott_da_hooplemott_da_hoople Member Posts: 15
    Has anyone taken their Prizm to a Toyota dealership to have oil changes, tuneups etc? Will a Toyota dealership work on a Prizm?
  • norbsnorbs Member Posts: 10
    Have a 96 Prizm LSI since new. It is my wifes car and she won't part with it. 136,000 miles and did 1st brake job at 112,000. Original clutch and drives like new. Never been garaged or been back to the dealer. Did timing belt at 80k and it was like new due to the good machining of the toyota pulleys on the 1.8 engine. Stainless steel exhaust doesn't rust. Corolla has reg exhaust even tho built in the same plant. That was the deciding factor for us living in New England. Changed the orig battery yesterday only because it must be doe for change. Don't want to get stranded somewhere because of a dead battery. This has been our alltime best vehicle. Other car is 99 Malibu. both been flawless. 71,000 on the Bu. Thanks GM
  • richard1957richard1957 Member Posts: 5
    After debating for 6 months I finally bought myself a used 97 Geo Prizm. It was a no frills model with a 3 speed auto. I really didn't want the auto but finding a stick is getting harder and harder. The vehicle had 48,000 miles and was in excellent shape. I payed $5,000.00 and that was June 01. I can't say enough about the quality and the ride of this budget car. I'm getting 28-30 MPG in the city, my insurance is next to nothing, and the small parts like belts and hoses are reasonably priced and I install that stuff myself. The interior is well laid out and yes, the drivers seating is a little tight, I noticed the heater selection knob is a little hard to turn and I can see it breaking off if you were to rough with it. I have not noticed any unusual squeaks, squeals or groans. I have the original exhaust and the muffler is in pretty good shape (over 5 years old). The tires have been replaced and they are fairly quiet but they are cheap low mileage radials. I can't see replacing them until they wear down a little. I would just like to say thanks to all the people that have written in. I have known about this car for a while and I have been interested in it but the reviews, advice and stories in Edmunds truly closed the deal for me. In closing the only negative comment I have about the car is you really have to think about the size of this vehicle in comparison to what else is out there on the roads and highways. This is one case where size really does matter!!!
  • csandstecsandste Member Posts: 1,866
    Toyota dealer quoted a lower price than Chevy dealer for timing belt replacement. Feel I was low balled-- they found a fair amount of seal leaks when working on the car. Cost me several hundred dollars and I'm unconvinced to this day whether or not the repairs were needed. Teach me to buy something without having it checked out but car has given her an additional 70K with no major problems so I have no major complaints as a whole.

    So-- 1. Toyota dealers will work on a Prizm and
    2. If anything, I feel that the typical Toyota dealer is worse than the typical Chevy dealer-- so watch your back.
  • squeak6squeak6 Member Posts: 28
    I have a 1998 prizm and we are still rolling along... I need to flush, get breaks & tires. But other than that I'm good... I get about 30mpg. its a 5 speed... any thing I can do to keep her running???
  • lrlprizmlrlprizm Member Posts: 15
    This is a great discussion on Prizm's reliability. My '95 Prizm LSi (4-sp auto) has 145k miles and is going strong. My goal when I bought her new was to crack the 1 million mile mark doing as much maintenance myself. A cousin did the quick math and told me that means I'll have to drive it for over 40yrs! In that case, let's aim for... 300k. I'm well on my way. Tips for longevity: Use synthetic oil (using it since 5k mark)--never any engine problems, still on the 1st timing belt! Replace auto transmission fluid every 20k miles; Finally changed both radiator hoses 9 mos ago, drain and refill with new 50/50 coolant every 2yrs, new air filter every 24k miles, new spark plugs every 40k miles, replaced gas cap, radiator cap, and PCV valve a year ago as preventive maintenance, and only have replaced the front brake pads & rear shoes once. Keep your tires properly inflated--I check them every week and get over 65k per tire. Bought a new battery 2 yrs ago, and had to get a new starter at 117k (2yrs ago). Both low beams lasted over 140k miles and finally burned out 5 mos ago. Other than that, NO MAJOR PROBLEMS. Another big help: In '95, I bought the Helms shop manual along with the car and it's been INVALUABLE, since I do all maintenance myself. I just about know where single bolt on the car it. Like some of you, I cruise the net every night and gobble up car books in search of longevity tips. Back in '95, I had to decide between the Prizm, Cavalier, or Neon. A quick look at the recalls list on the NHTSA website tells you I picked a WINNER! Go Prizm go!
  • johnmar1johnmar1 Member Posts: 3
    Does the 2000 prism with 1.8 engine have a timing belt or chain?
  • lrlprizmlrlprizm Member Posts: 15
    JohnMar: Your '00 Prizm has a timing chain, see the previous messages approx #290 in this discussion for info on chains vs belts. If I'm not mistaken, the prizm went to the chain in '98. You should not have to worry about replacing the chain for your car's duration unless it breaks (highly unlikely), or you want to join the high mileage club. Advantages of the chain is durability. The disadvantages are: weight, engine size, and noise. Wife has a ;01 corolla (chain) and her almost-new engine sounds even noisier than my '95 prizm (belt) with over 145k miles. However, with a chain, you don't have the hassle of changing the belt. According to my shop manual, changing the belt entails removing LOTSA parts next to the engine. No wonder they charge you $200-$500 labor to change a $40 belt! Good luck on your Prizm and hope you get as much reliability and longevity as I've had with mine.
  • lrlprizmlrlprizm Member Posts: 15
    SQUEAK: I've tracked your msgs through this discussion--you do quite a bit of driving! Although my '95 prizm doesn't doesn't have quite as many miles as yours--I'm at 145k, here are some tips that can only help (if you haven't already done them): SPARK PLUGS: For a car at 162k miles, use the regular copper plugs. The difference between them and platinum plugs aren't noticeable--especially since your car already has high mileage. Change them every 35k miles; they're only a buck apiece; FLUSH: I presume you mean the radiator. I would just do the 'ol drain and refill. Flushing ain't worth it if you drain and refill every 16-24 mos. It's also not a bad idea to use some stop-leak as preventive maintenance; STARTER MOTOR: Mine quit at 110K+, which upset me; It cost me only $250; how'd you end up paying $400? MILEAGE: Surprising you're only getting 30mpg max; good driving habits might get you more--plus making sure you have good, properly inflated tires. At the rate you drive, I'd check the air every week. BRAKES: I'd check them 4-8 mos to make sure you aren't running low on the pad thickness. I got over 100K miles on my rear shoes before replacement. The OEM front disc pads shouldn't wear out sooner than 45k--unless you're an aggressive brake user; TIRES: Keep them properly inflated and rotated--every 7500 miles. I'd also apply silicone spray on all rubber parts (i.e. CV joint boots, seals, weatherstripping etc.) this keeps them supple. It's also not a bad idea to consider flushing your brake fluid by now (if you haven't already); PCV VALVE: Replace that, the gas cap, and radiator cap if you haven't already; GAS LINE ANTI-FREEZE: Use it once a month (isopropyl alcohol type); FUEL INJECTOR CLEANER: Use it regularly. I would also not let the tank run so low that you see the "gas" light comes on. This means your fuel pump will suck up more dirt from the bottom of your tank, which can foul your injectors. In other words, don't wait until the last gallon before filling up. TRANNY: Perform all routine maintenance per the owner's manual. BOTTOM FLUSH: Every spring, inspect the car bottom to see if there's any grime or rust starting to show. Spray & clean the bottom with water to remove any grime. BATTERY: Replace if it starts to show signs of aging. They're cheap and at $45 for a new one (walmart), why take a chance of getting stranded? Check all belts & hoses; Of course, change your oil every 3-5k miles; change the air filter every 15k miles; Check under the hood frequently, keep the engine compartment clean, and good luck--shoot for 250k, and I'll see you at the high mileage club!
  • johnmar1johnmar1 Member Posts: 3
    I have tried to drain the transmission and differential fluid from my 2000 Prism only to find that it requires a hex drive or allen wrench. A 3/8" allen is too sloppy and a 10mm hex drive just barely goes into the drain plug. What size allen wrench (hex drive) do I need? In addition, the differential fluid must be drained. What size socket do I need for the differential filler plug.
  • squeak6squeak6 Member Posts: 28
    A strange thing happened to me the other day... I was sitting in my car eating lunch @ a fast-food restaurant... a lady parked right next to me who had a car just like mine... ( 1998-2000 Chevy prizm ). I kept looking at her car... I was very surprised to see she had some of the same wear and tear as I did... some examples I noted; my inside drivers side door handle broke off, the ladies passenger inside door handle was broken off... the dark-gray plastic trim that goes around my door windows has and continues to come off, the ladies was coming off too...

    is this consider normal wear and tear? is there anything that I can do? as always thanks for your assistance...

    car update: 168,294 miles
    I think I may need some brakes and a tune-up other than that I'm still getting 31MPH... I have a 5 speed.. (98)
  • anon70anon70 Member Posts: 82
    "#601 of 644 IMHO 94-97 Prizm... by csandste Jul 11, 2002 (6:02 pm)
    was the best of the Corolla platforms with the possible exception of the 03's. Much better than decontented 98-02 models of Corolla and Prizm. Better than the 94-97 Corollas too. Great car. "

    1) Why is it better? What do you mean decontented?

    2) i have a 2002 prizm. it's 9 months old w/18k miles.

    i went from 35mpg to 25mpg on highway in 1 tank in january. i've changed the oil, fuel filter, and used different gas stations. tire pressure at manufacturer specs. nothing worked. Dealer says diagostics checked out fine and didnt have any explanation. :(

    it was like that for 2 months (till this week), where i'm getting 32mpg now. the only thing i can think of is that the weather has been constantly warm this week (hi 50's).

    a) i dont remember the temp in dec/jan, but i'm assuming that it was cold before and after my milage drop. if so, WHY DID IT DROP? And why did it drop SO SUDDENLY?

    b) if the week that my milage dropped was because it was colder and stayed colder till this week, WHY DOES MILAGE DROP IN COLD TEMPS? and anybody have a continuous 30% drop?

    3) What does a hood deflector do? it is like those bug shields on pickups? Anybody have a pic of a hood deflector mentioned in #615? THX
  • anon70anon70 Member Posts: 82 - - year=2002&make=Chevrolet&model=Prizm&style=LSi+4dr+Se- - - dan+%281.8L+4cyl+5M%29&popup=new&synpartner=edmunds&t- - - id=edmunds...mnt.step2.9.Chevrolet*

    But it doesnt say how to fix it. and when i took it to the dealer, they had no record of it. they said the TSB "must be too new." It's been around since Feb 2002! (my car was made in Oct 2001.)

    So what's the effect on my car, and how to fix?
  • anon70anon70 Member Posts: 82
    i bought my 2002 prizm LSi in 5/02. i paid $11500 w/sunroof and cd off the lot. (i could have gotten $500 more off since it was still above invoice. i'm kicking myself for not trying harder.) $3000 cash back, $750 dealer incentive, and $2750 GM card. Had $3250, but $500 expired :(

    Now it's only $8400 if you sold it yourself? geez...from a invoice of $17k to $8400 in a year?! 50% depreciation?! Jesus!

  • lovetosavegaslovetosavegas Member Posts: 73
    Is this the trade-in price you are quoting? It's gotta be. My guess is dealer would try to sell it for 10-12K. The resale values are in the dump across the board. Notice that lease prices are going up too. I guess the manufacturers insentives are the culprit, plus other factors. Keep your car - it has great gas milage. Any time you trade - you loose(unless you are dealer:)
  • regfootballregfootball Member Posts: 2,166
    car values are REALLY low right now. The whole market, not just Prizm.
  • infinia1infinia1 Member Posts: 174
    i'm the one with the hood deflector on my 02. they're also called bug shields, but it's not huge. it fits the contours of the hood and headlights just right. not only does it protect the front of the hood but it looks good too. i've got 10,000 miles (10 months old) now with only 1 minor repair. i'll take a pic tomorrow when my wife gets home with it.
  • maddgazellemaddgazelle Member Posts: 1
    Can you tell me what the difference between a Geo Prizm and a Geo Prizm LSI is? My insurance man seams to try to cheat me out of money every time I go to get insurance. The last time he asked me if the car was an LSI? I said what is that? He said I don't know, if it is, it will probably say on the car. I do not want to pay insurance on an LSI since I am sure that mine isn't. What is the LSI part?
  • infinia1infinia1 Member Posts: 174
    in the last generation prizm (98-02), per the actual brochure, the lsi is a higher trim level versus the base. i'm positive it's the same for previous years. many things that are optional on the base model are standard on the lsi. for example, my 02 is a base but it has optional, almost everything the lsi has standard which includes power windows and locks, cruise, rear defrost, tach, tilt, aluminum wheels it might as well be an lsi. the only lsi feature it lacks are the fold down rear seats, keyless entry, and premium cloth seats. i don't see why it would make a difference to the insurance agent since a base can be loaded as an lsi like mine. if it's an lsi, it will say "Prizm LSi" on the rear trunk. if it's not, it will just say "Prizm". have you tried another insurance company?
  • squeak6squeak6 Member Posts: 28
    Prizm update... I now have 170,995 miles on my 1998 Prizm 5-speed. I just put on a new set of tires as well as new brakes... I went to jiffy lube and got the "High Mileage" oil... this weekend I'm going to try my luck and change the spark plugs... I want to do a flush of the radiator but I can not find the release valve for the radiator... where is it located?

    also if anyone has any additional suggestion, feel free to let me know

  • asafonovasafonov MinneapolisMember Posts: 409
    We had a 96 base Geo Prizm 3-speed for years, it has 125k miles and will be passed on to my sister-in-law shortly. Last week, I bought a used '02 base Prizm with a 5-speed manual tranny. My impressions:

    1. When I read about the "Lexus-like" quietness in the 93-97 Prizms (and Corollas), I thought this surely was an exaggeration. I can see now that the 02 is a LOT less quiet at highway speeds. Whether it is cheaper insulation or stock tires or both remains to be determined. Bottom line: the car is noisy at 70mph, even with the manual. I was hoping to use it for longer trips to avoid putting the miles on my wife's car, but this probably will not happen.

    2. A combination of a somewhat stronger engine and a 5-speed gives a very different driving impression. Even without a tachometer, it is easy to figure out when to shift, and the car really (though somewhat noisily) flies.

    3. Interior trim and materials are actually better than what I expected after reading about the decontenting that was done on 98-02 models. Decent plastics and upholstery for an economy car, reasonable sound from 4 speakers/CD player.

    Conclusion: too bad Toyota skimped on soundproofing when designing 98 Corolla and Prizm. Still, at the right price (50% off invoice for 1-year old car), for in-town trips mixing street and highway driving, with cheap insurance and excellent fuel economy, this is a sensible little car.
  • fred_smithfred_smith Member Posts: 1
    I've spent the last several months looking at used Prizms and have not found a single one with folding rear seats. Is this an option that is purchased or some sort of X-Files conspiracy? This seems like a great car, but it would be a real shame if the folding seats weren't available.
  • asafonovasafonov MinneapolisMember Posts: 409
    AFAIK, only LSI trim has folding rear-seats on the 93-97 and 98-02 generation Prizms. LSI's are less common than base model (I estimate 1 out of 5 to 10), but can definitely be found in most larger cities. I was shopping for a Prizm and concluded that an LSI may not command a significantly higher price than a base, especially if you go back to 96 and earlier. Now if you want to find a 4-speed auto LSI (or any 4-speed auto Prizm), this can be problematic...
  • goose1207goose1207 Member Posts: 113
    My folks have a '99 Prizm that they just picked up. Was an off-lease vehicle. They have been noticing small amounts of water in the trunk around the spare tire. Maybe I need to replace the round rubber plug on the floor, right next to the spare?? And also on the passenger side of the trunk mat there is water. I opened up the rear taillights and didn't see any evidence of water in there so I'm not sure if siliconing the area around them would work (this was mentioned in an earlier post on this board, after running a search). The weatherstipping around the trunk looks good. Other than that, the car has been solid. Any ideas? Thanks!
  • jas9297jas9297 Member Posts: 26
    I'm looking at buying a '98-'00 Prizm/Corolla (and also Saturn or Sentra) with under 50,000 miles and am concerned about the quality of the engines. I've read about a few engine failures on this board (about 65k miles) and seems like the engine quality is suspect. Also seems like folks say 1994-97 has better build quality.

    Can anyone shed some advice about the quality of these cars?

  • asafonovasafonov MinneapolisMember Posts: 409

    From a sample of one each of 96 and 2002, I can say that the sound insulation (and the road noise) is definitely worse in my 2002 Prizm. I read a lot about decontenting and cheaper plastics with the 98 model changeover, but find the interior actually pretty decent. Still prefer the charcoal plastic of the 96... Noise at speed is my biggest gripe (with speed limit of 70 mph just outside the I-494/694 loop, you can imagine how fast on average traffic flows outside the rush hour).

    As for the engine quality, I don't expect it to be any worse in the last generation Prizm compared to 93-97. I have not seen or heard any complaints about Corolla engines of the newer vintage. On the 96, I already have 128k and it runs like clockwork with reasonably regular maintenance.

    I will repeat my advice to Corolla/Prizm shoppers: do not get a 3-speed automatic. These are more common, but look for a 5-speed manual if you are comfortable driving it, or a 4-speed auto with an overdrive gear. Anytime you exceed 60mph in a Corolla/Prizm without overdrive, you will hear the engine rev and think about potentially wearing it off faster.

    When I was shopping for a Prizm a couple of months ago, I always verified with dealers that their cars had 4-speed auto (though I ended up buying a manual from a private seller, on eBay no less!) One of the dealers commented that though his 00 Prizm was a 3-speed, it had a torque converter that essentially did the job of the overdrive. I know that every automatic transmission has a torque converter and dismissed his claim (and this dealer) outright, but perhaps there was something in his remark that I should have investigated.

    Good luck,

    P.S. I cannot say much about Saturns. I had a '87 POSy Sentra, should have got an '88 or later - serious tranmission, idle, carburator issues around 100k. Call me ethnically insensitive, but I would not touch newer Sentras (or any other car) built in Mexico.
  • asafonovasafonov MinneapolisMember Posts: 409

    I think newer Prizms/Corollas are great cars but if they are too plain for you or cannot find one, I would look for a Protege before a Sentra or a Saturn. Proteges depreciate rather steeply, maybe approaching Prizms in that respect, and are nice little cars - rented them several times. Of course, you don't want the base 1.5l engine with automatic... However, according to Phil Edmonston's LemonAid books, repairs are more expensive on Proteges than other cars in its class.

    I would even consider a Suzuki Esteem before a Sentra or a Saturn, much as I like Nissan's other cars. I have not checked Esteem's crash ratings, though.
  • Boris2Boris2 Member Posts: 177
    I don't think you need to worry too much about the reliability of Prizm's engine. I had '98, which I bought new, till 70K mi. I never done any maintnence on it except oil changes and EFI cleaning one or two times as a precaution. I had Check Engine Light going on one time when I hit 40K miles and that turned out to be one of the sensors that controls the ignition or something like that. While my warranty covered it, the total bill that the dealer would charge was around $200. That was about it. I think the new generation of Corolla/Prizm engines are super reliable. As was mentioned already if it's not too plain for your taste, go for it!
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