A blue beast disguised as an econobox
I bought this car for only $600 in January 2009, anticipating the repo of my '06 Chevy Cobalt. For that price, I expected to have a few problems. I bought it with 100,500 miles on it and the following issues:
- Coolant leak
- Oil leak
- Two cracks in the dashboard
- One dent on the passenger front fender
- Two dents near the gas tank on the driver's side
- Faded paint on the roof and trunk
- Paint chips down to primer on the hood
- Rust on both rear wheel wells and underneath the passenger side door
- Nearly bald rear tires
- Bad air leak in driver's side rear tire
- Squealing power steering belt
- Headlights out of alignment due to stripped adjustment screws
- Factory stereo had a tape stuck in it, so it only played radio stations.
- The driver's side rear speaker was blown, and I blew two more of them trying to compensate
Despite the laundry list of flaws, this car still ran like a champ. It had just been inspected the month before, so I just let these go while I put some money in the bank.
Once I had enough savings, I started by replacing the factory sound system with the following equipment:
- Pioneer head unit
- 2 5.25" Pioneer speakers in front
- 2 4" Pioneer speakers in the rear
- Dual enclosed Kicker 8" subs with Kicker amp
Then I addressed the oil leak and the coolant leak:
- The oil leak was at the valve cover gasket right in front where I could see it -- cheap fix.
- The coolant leak (which the previous owner mistook for a cracked engine block and the reason for the low price) turned out to be a gasket in a pipe leading to the radiator.
- The power steering belt just needed to be tightened.
At this point, with 102,000 miles, the engine leaked less, and the power steering works fine.
The timing belt snapped shortly afterward at 103,000 miles, probably due to neglect from the previous owner. This was the only time I have ever been stranded with this car. Fortunately, Storms have a non-interference engine, so I had it repaired and the water pump replaced along with it first thing the next morning.
I finally replaced the rear tires at 104,000 miles after sliding down a bridge sideways.
The passenger side low-beam headlight went out at 106,000 miles, followed by the driver's side headlight two days later, so they're both brand new now.
The cigarette lighter worked intermittently until it finally died at 108,000 miles.
An exhaust leak started at 109,000 miles.
The speedometer cable started going dry at 110,000 miles.
The car went repair-free until I patched the rust on it last month at 111,000 miles.
The engine nearly dies when idling at traffic lights. Shifting into park or giving it a little gas while idling has taken care of the problem so far. After doing some research, I suspect it needs a new ECM fuse. I haven't tried it yet.
I just now had the exhaust leak, headlight adjustment and the speedometer cable fixed at 114,000 miles.
All I wanted to do was quickly grab a cheap beater car, drive it around for 2-3 months without doing any maintenance until I built up a decent savings, then sell it or trade it for a 4x4. However, I was so pleasantly surprised by this car, that I couldn't part with it. I'm glad I found an excellent local mechanic to do the repairs instead of running it into the ground.
This car is tough as nails. With the exception of the timing belt, I was able to overlook a lot of problems and keep driving the car 50 miles a day regardless of whether anything was fixed. The only thing I've really been picky about is oil changes every 3,000-4,000 miles.
The 95-hp engine won't win any races, but since it's mounted to an extremely light vehicle, it gives about the same kick as today's 4-cylinder cars. Once it gets going, it'll keep up with more powerful vehicles on the highway. I've already driven it as fast as 105 mph without red-lining.
Since the transmission is only a 3-speed, however, the engine revs high and gets noisy enough to drown out even yelling in the car above 50 mph.
The transmission shifts hard enough to buck the car when first starting down the road, but it's smooth once the engine warms up. I just let off the gas at the shift points while it's cold, and there's no trouble.
This car handles curves so well, I have actually accelerated through turns before.
The gas gauge is inaccurate in the driver's favor. This car can drive about 60 miles on E if it's absolutely necessary. Being a floating gauge, though, it reads higher downhill and lower uphill. This gets annoying when you're on a tight budget and need to know whether you can wait until payday for a fill-up.
There's no low fuel indicator, just an orange marker on the last 1/4 of the gas gauge, so it's easy to forget to refuel at times.
The tachometer is surprisingly useful, even with an automatic transmission. The engine revs so high at highway speeds that I use it to make sure I'm not above the 3,000-4,000 rpm range to prolong the engine life.
Bad-weather traction is excellent. I drove this car through foot-high snow and ice with bad rear tires, and it still refused to lose control.
The brake response time is insanely quick. Anything more than a light feather tap on the brake pedal will launch unprepared passengers out of their seats.
The standard seating position leans too far forward and is fixed too low too the floor for sitting upright. An easy fix is just to recline the seat back 2-3 notches. This gives it a more comfortable sports car feel.
Forget about the rear seat entirely if you're claustrophobic or taller than 5'5". It's more useful when folded down.
Rear visibility is poor until adjusting to the odd design. It's easier to check the side of the car by avoiding the side windows altogether. Instead, it's better to look through the edges of the rear windshield (which wrap around to the sides of the car) and adjust the side-view mirrors to cover the tiny space of the side window.
The rear-view mirror can only be used on level roads. It's completely useless on hills thanks to the rear windshield's shallow slope. It's at nearly a 20-degree angle.
There is so much windshield space, that I'm considering window tinting for function, not looks. Right now, sunlight penetration warms the car to the point of needing A/C in cold weather.
The cargo space behind the rear seat is larger than it looks. Even with the subs installed, there's enough room to hold a cart of groceries, spare coolant, spare oil, spare windshield washer fluid, funnels and two cans of Fix-a-flat. And that's with the privacy cover still on top.
Once I solve the idling problem, I wouldn't hesitate to take a cross-country road trip with this car.
Since the car turned into a long-term daily driver, I'm planning to fill the dents and paint it next spring.
I will not sell this car until the engine blows. Period.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 20th October, 2009