This model is a joy to drive and own, and was a terrific bargain
A single tail-lamp is out, after @ 17,500 miles / 14 months.
Everything else is as it was when the car was new.
As has been noted in many other car-related sources, this model is no speedball. In hilly country, with a passenger or two, it struggles. However, when it's just me aboard, and I really rev the engine before shifting to the next gear, the car feels pretty zippy, and can be quite inspiring. Push it and it pushes you back nicely.
I sometimes brake and double-clutch (using a side-of-my-foot "heel and toe" method, gently braking with the left side of my right foot, then zinging the gas with the right side of that foot) before corners, so's to enter the corner in 2nd gear. This makes for a smooth-as-silk, yet powerful rounding of curves and street corners. Great fun. AND, the brake and gas pedals are perfectly situated for this! My friend's Audi TT hasn't such wonderful pedal placement! 2nd gear and 3rd are very strong when pushed, and very flexible, making for happy zipping in lower-speed in-town driving.
Except for engine-rev noises (easily masked by turning up Your John Digweed "Los Angeles", or your Chris Duarte, or Eric Gales CD's) the car is quiet. Very little wind noise, acceptable tire noise. It continues completely weather-tight, with no squeaks, rattles, or the like after 14 months of use. Even the glove box shuts with a satisfying thunk.
The handling is terrific. Completely predictable, with excellent steering feel, and a seemingly perfect amount of power assist to the steering and braking, the car corners flat, "like a BMW", my girlfriend says. A sports car in trim sedan clothing.
Last February, during the worst blizzard of the season, I had to drive across Massachusetts. The car was splendid in this terrible weather and deep snow. Chewed through it as well as the Tercel used to, and that was a great winter car. Since it's a manual, I was able to "rock" out, the one time I did get stuck. I haven't had it in straight mud, but it seems to pull pretty uniformly. Way back in the 80's a friend had a Mazda GLC, which shunted power back and forth between the front wheels in slippery going. This car has none of that feel. Predictable, safe.
I continue to be amazed at the complete thoughtfulness of all aspects of this car. Rather than rattle on about each detail of the appointments, ergonomics, perfect feel of all the controls, I'll leave it at that.
CD player has worked for a zillion hours with nary a glitch. System sounds fine to me, controls logical, as is all else.
Air conditioner is excellent, and begins cooling... instantly. I thought the post-CFC refrigerants weren't supposed to work well. I do have to fiddle with adjustments if there starts to be condensation on the outside of the windshield in humid weather, but I guess anyone used to "air" would be familiar with that. This is my first A/C car. Oh yeah: 34 M.P.G., tank after tank WITH the A/C running all the time, the first couple months I had the car. Then I began to rev more when driving (no more "this is a feeble car" thoughts... jam it and GO!) so my mileage suffered. My smile did not.
The spaciousness is amazing. Complete belts for five, split rear seat, huge trunk. I've fitted five eight-foot 2" x 4"s in through the trunk, carried them with the trunk latched!. Inside the trunk, I can fit a full rectangular electric guitar case, then my road bicycle, and its wheels, then a couple of duffle bags of gear, and whatever else will squeeze, shut the trunk, and have unencumbered passenger space. Awesome. My Toyota Tercel hatchback couldn't come near, since the rear strut housings limited the trunk floor area - couldn't lay down the guitar case, nor get the bike in (with NO guitar there) without having the handlebars jammed over the rear seat.
Sole "appointments" complaint is that the driver's side rear view mirror is 'way too small, or situated too close to the driver, to pick up much. I've had several close calls because of this. Now I'm extra careful about both lanes to my left, moving my head around to "gather" information from what the mirror picks up, as well as looking over that shoulder before any lane changes.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 11th November, 2001