The Automatics seem to be bad. Stick with the 5-spd.
I just bought a '99 46K 5spd hot sport. Formerly owned by elderly people across the street from one of my customers. So I know it hasn't been beat on.
While it has low miles, it is still 11 years old. So the rear half of the exhaust was just replaced from the cat back right before I bought it. Other than that, it's all original and they never had any problems with the car aside from the slightly rough idle, which I think is a solvable problem.
I'm going to do a bunch of preventative stuff to the car after reading all the posts here. Hopefully I will stay ahead of the curve on the maintenance and keep the problems to a minimum.
Here's what I plan to do to keep my car trouble free, I plan to do all of this over the next 14K (by 60K) and then again at 120K...
Timing belt, water pump and tension pulley.
Serpentine belt and tension pulley.
Spark plugs and wires.
New vacuum lines.
Check all other hoses & clamps.
New thermostat and coolant change.
Manual trans axle fluid change.
New fuel and air filters & PCV valve.
Fuel injection cleaning.
Check fuel pump, and of course regular 3k oil changes after all that.
If you do all this at say 60K, and then AGAIN say at 120K, you should be fine through 175K... (although I doubt you'll make it to 175K on the original clutch)... at that point, I'd sell it for whatever you can get for it and start over with a 60K one :)
So far I'm pleased with the car. About the only thing it needs is better 'sticky-er' tires in the front. Got to be careful in 1st not to spin. Easy to do. light car and overpowered. I can see how you COULD wear off axles fast. (here's a tip for longer driveline life... just get yourself moving with 1st gear, don't go ape, pull out nice and easy. don't spin tire. Go to 2nd, get the clutch all the way out, and get the car going straight ahead IF you were turning, THEN accelerate hard if you wish. It'll save a TON of wear on your car!)
I saw a performance 'chip' for this car for $23, going to look into that. may help fix the idle if other fixes don't work. I'd say WHO owned your used ZX2 is the MOST important thing with this model. Besides avoiding the automatic.
I have read every comment on here. Some have said they have performed every service on time, while most others that complain about transmission failure don't say anything about maintenance.
These auto tranny's are weak. Period. However, if you maintain it, and drive it like it was meant to be driven (i.e. normally, not ricky-racer like) it will last for a long time.
These tranny's need fluid and filter replacement every 30,000 miles for the first 90,000 miles. After that, IMHO, every 15,000 miles. Weaker transmissions need two things. Fresh fluid, and clean internals.
I own a '99 model ZX2 with 110K on the clock. Apart from normal wear and tear items, no major issues. Timing belts and water pumps need to be replaced every 120K. Yeah, it costs a decent amount of money to do it, but compare that service interval to a Mitsu, Toyota, Kia, Hyundai, etc., that need it every 60K!
These are not race cars. If you drive it like one, the tranny and other parts will fail prematurely. Drive it like a sporty-looking economy car and it will take care of it.
I know some of you have maintained the vehicle to the best of your knowledge and have still had problems. Every manufacturer that builds CARS has a few out of every 1000 that will inherently have problems. It sucks when you get one. But, think about it this way. Ford sold HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of ZX2's. Like it or not, most of you that have had problems are in the minority.
Oh, and if you want to fix the rough idle and bad vibration at idle, do 2 things.
1. Clean/replace the MAF sensor. It is what "reads" the amount of air coming into the engine, and the PCM uses that info to adjust air/fuel mixture and therefore, idle quality.
2. Replace all 3 mounts for the engine/tranny. There will be a "strut mount" located at the back of the engine. It looks like a dog bone. There is a mount located on top of the transmission underneath the air filter box. It looks like a pancake. Finally, the "torque axis mount" located at the front of the engine. (Or the left side of the engine if you are looking at it from the front) It looks like a donut suspended in air.
Do these things and I bet that 99% of you will tell everyone how "smooth" your ZX2 idles.
Whew, carpal tunnel setting in. How do I know all of this? Some of you may have figured it out... I am a Ford service manager. Hope some of this information helps some of you out there. Keep the bottom side down!
I have a 99 ZX2 Hot (for the guy that doesn't know what Hot means, it's got a 6 disk CD player, cruise control, leather wrapped steering wheel and some other things). My dad bought this car for my mom with 73,000 miles on it in 2003 for $5000. Since then it's been hit in the rear end (totalled). It's been hit in the front on the left side (totalled).
So 3 years ago the car was handed down to me with 166,000 miles on it. I've had it ever since. I put a new alternator on it, a timing belt (it broke, didn't mess anything up), I don't really change the oil every 3,000 miles. I was driving to school there was a cow in the road, so then I hit a fence, messed up the passenger side door, the front, and the passenger side panel. These parts were all replaced by my spare car (exactly the same car with 150,000 miles on it, just been rear ended). It's got 226,500 miles on it now.
I fill my car up for about 20 dollars and go for 300 miles at least. The air conditioning quit working a few years ago. After fixing it once already, I now just put the windows down.
There are no real problems with the car really. It's got the same transmission it came with, and it's doing fine. I've had to put a battery in it one time because I accidentally locked my keys in it with the lights and radio on... ooops.
My mom has a car like mine, she's got less than a hundred thousand. My grandma has a 2000 ZX2, she's got 120,000. We just sold another one not too long ago.
I'm wanting to buy a Tiburon, but I don't think they would last till 200,000 miles. One of my sensors are bad in my gas tank, but it's not a big deal to me. Overall the car is a great car, definitely a great first car. The automatics don't have any power though.
I wouldn't be afraid to buy one with over 100,000 miles on it at all. The windows still work, the radio still works, everything is fine.
Overall a good car. :) It's cute too.