The car had a slight transmission leak that I knew of when I purchased it. I believe some seals were bad. I always intended on fixing it, but never got around to it. Instead I just put in transmission fluid every now and then.
There's a problem that I never have identified. When I'd start the car and put it in gear, nearly every time there would be a loud clunk and the car would lunge forward or reverse (depending on the gear I had it in). One of my friend's said I needed motor mounts.
Heater wouldn't work the first winter I owned it. Bought a new thermostat for $6. Auto zone apparently gave me the wrong thermostat and wrong O2 sensor, so I went an entire winter in upper Michigan without heat and without knowing what was wrong. Next fall I purchased another thermostat from Advanced Auto. The difference in size between the two was noticeable as soon as I removed the old one. Had heat from then on and purchased all my parts from Advanced.
Ball jointed started to go at around 105,000 miles.
At about 110,000 miles, some sort of bearing went bad on the driver's side. The car made a horrendous squeaking noise when I turned. It was very embarrassing. It went away before I had the chance to fix it. It came back again after a few thousand miles and then went away shortly thereafter. Hasn't happened since.
The hood wouldn't latch on the first try every once in a while. A friend of mine who was a Ford mechanic for 17 years said it was common. Then at around 112,000 miles, it quit latching altogether. I tried everything to fix it, but I eventually had to replace the latch.
This may seem like a lot of things gone wrong to some, but this car is a dream compared to my '89 Beretta. There was a point for several months where I had to drive with both feet or I'd stall. Eventually discovered it had computer problems.
When I sit down and list them all, it does seem like a lot, but the car always started. I chose the ZX2 over the Chevy Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire because the ZX2 got much better reliability ratings according to Consumer Reports.
The same month I purchased the car, I took an 1100 mile road trip through Toronto and Niagara Falls Canada. By the third day my back was extremely sore. I'm not sure if this is common for even luxury cars on such a long trip.
I had to get used to the cramped space. I'm only 5'6", but I have long legs, so the seat wouldn't move back far enough for me.
Some people complain about the loud engine, but I loved it. It made the car sound a lot meaner than it really was. When I was passing someone, they heard me before they saw me.
It got 26 mpg in my everyday driving and 33 on the hwy. In the years I had it, it saved me over $1600 in gas over my Beretta. Plus, it looked a lot cooler. With the premium sound, 6 CD changer and moon roof (which was surprisingly quiet) it was the nicest car I ever owned. I hated to get rid of it, but I needed a 4x4. I would recommend this car to anyone wanting a sporty and reliable car without forking over $10k for a Celica.