The car was in excellent condition when I bought it (for $2500) from the original owner. He had all the routine maintenance done, and he gave me the invoices for everything, so I feel pretty comfortable about its reliability. I was amazed to see the high cost of parts and labor, so I plan to do most of the routine work myself: timing belt, brake pads and shoes, etc.
The fit and finish are still excellent, and there are no squeaks of rattles from anywhere (even the suspension)!
The engine oil consumption is quite reasonable (I added only half a quart after 1500 miles of "hard" driving).
No fluid leaks from anywhere.
The steering is fast and perfect, just light enough to make parking a breeze.
The handling is pretty good, even with the previous owner's no-name brand tires. When they wear out, I will invest in some really good tires for even better handling. This should also improve the wet braking, which is scary with the cheap rubber.
The car still has its original shocks. It handles and rides better than my old Saab 900!
The air conditioner works effectively, as well as the power gimmicks, except for the sunroof that needs a little nudge in order to tilt.
The engine's torque is plentiful, giving excellent acceleration even in fourth gear. Cruising at 90 mph in fifth gear is effortless. Those two intake valves per cylinder were put to good use. The engine never seems to run out of breath.
The five speed shifts smoothly, and there is always the right gear for every driving condition.
Fuel economy is pretty good, averaging 27 mpg combined city and highway (with my aggressive driving).
The interior still smells like new and is very roomy for such a small car. Excellent legroom in the back seat.
The driver's seat is very firm, but a bit narrow for my big behind, but it is still good for long drives. The adjustable lumbar support and recliner help a bit.
The hatchback combines with a roomy trunk for packing stuff on long trips.