I bought this car for $550 Australian after my previous car finally gave up the ghost. I didn't know much about the history of the car, but I have been driving it round non stop for over a year and 20,000 kilometers later it has proved very reliable.
Being a rear wheel drive it means there are no CV joints and crammed engine bay to contend with. My front suspension bushes creak and groan because the rubber is old, but they still work fine. All the wheels are in perfect alignment and have been like that since I bought it.
One of the front wheel struts has been bent severely proabably from a rock, but incredibly the wheel is still in perfect allignment.
The 5 speed manual gearbox is very predictable and I have had no trouble with it at all, it rarely grinds synchros and I would expect it to last forever if driven normally.
Performance wise it must be said these cars are not fast. I think my engine is a bit tired due to its age aswell which does not help, although it starts first go and idles extremely smoothly. My mechanic could not believe how quiet the engine was, saying that often they rattle a bit. The 1.6 SOHC is an ISUZU engine, built in Japan, and they have an excellent reputation for being bulletproof. I somewhat sheepishly admit that the oil filter on my car looked old when I bought it, and a year later I still haven't changed it, or the oil, I just keep topping the oil up with budget brand oil and the engine doesn't seem to mind.
Fuel wise I average about 10 litres per 100 km around town and about the same on the highway. The engine struggles a little at speeds over 100km/h due to being small capacity. Also it doesn't really like to be revved that hard.
The interior is comfortable, although it is a small car so fitting 5 people in is a squeeze, but can be done.
The handling is what I would describe as 'predictable'. Whilst not overly sporty you can throw this car into surprisingly sharp turns and know how it will behave. I found mine understeers a fair bit, but due to being a low car, body roll is minimal, and the rear wheel drive gives a good sense of where the car is heading out of a corner. The only caution is when its wet, If the rear wheels start spinning you obviously lose shape fairly quickly. I didn't have this problem very often since the engine doesn't really have much power anyway.
Overall I have been extremely happy with the service this car has provided to me. I deliver pizzas around town and the car has never broken down on me while working, and it cruises the main roads at 60 km/h with ease. It also has a very good turning circle. Only once ever in 20,000+ kilometers has the car failed to start, and this was on a very cold night when I manged to flood the engine and soot up the plugs. The car has an automatic choke which means that usually starting in the cold is not too much of a problem.
These cars are very common in Australia and can be picked up for quite cheap, making them great runabouts for students or second cars for people. I recommend them highly.