Quick, reliable, and fun to drive
When I bought the car in 2004 it needed a few things to get it up to inspection standards:
147,000km (time of purchase) :
- Exhaust (Front Pipe)
- Handbrake (a common problem with these cars)
- Rear Struts
- 2 Wheel bearings
- Replaced the air filter, plugs and wires myself.
- Combination switch in the steering wheel went bad, causing the headlights to basically come on and off at random, even while not in the car. After a few annoying dead battery run-ins, I pegged the problem and replaced it cheaply.
- Replaced both drive belts due to wear
- The other 2 wheel bearings were getting noisy, so I had those changed as well.
- Rear exhaust pipe starting to go (normal, considering our salted roads)
- Some surface rust appearing (also to be expected)
First off, I have to say this car has never left me stranded or broken down. With exception of the headlight switch issue requiring a couple of boosts, this car has been unbelievably reliable, considering its years and mileage. I knew what problems the car had when I purchased her (cheaply, I might add, due to those problems) and since then it's been normal wear and oil changes.
I previously owned a '93 DX automatic and have to say this one has been a little more reliable, partially due to the indestructible gear-box. Though I still enjoyed my time with the '93, the 5 speed improves it dramatically, especially with regards to performance and reliability.
The engine and tranny in this thing are bulletproof. At 180,000km the engine has lost NO power, burns little to no oil between changes, and I'm still on the original clutch.
I certainly don't baby it either, which is what really impresses me about this car. As long as you're good to it and perform regular maintenance, it keeps up with hard driving well. Fuel economy is below that of the Civic and Corolla, but I still get a respectable 120-130 km out of 10L in mostly city driving.
In terms of performance, it's no race-car, but with a properly driven 5 speed, expect a 1/4 mile in the mid-16 range with a high 8 to 9 0-100km/h. This is still competitive with brand new cars of its class, which generally have more hp, but are heavier as well.
Less weight comes at a cost, as although it keeps up or surpasses new class rivals in straight line performance, it lacks their superior safety features. No ABS, no airbags and 13" tires don't inspire a lot of confidence with regards to safety. If you're not a great driver, or are accident prone, I'd probably recommend spending extra to get a car (or even the LX model) with better safety features.
If you are a good driver and love to beat around town with a manual, you can't lose with a first-gen protege (DX or LX). It's faster than it looks, very reliable, roomy enough for a 6'+ driver and cheap to operate. Respect this car with regular maintenance and care, and it will respect you.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 4th April, 2007