The car is somewhat underpowered.
The 3 speed automatic transmission is a joke, it seriously needs a 4th gear for highway driving, plus it makes way too much noise.
I drove a friends 5 speed manual Topaz which was fine.
Handling is not too terrible, the car is light (measured in at ~2700lb)
The car is fairly roomy inside, but the interior is very plain and featureless, not even a coffee cup holder.
Not comfortable for long distance driving. A recent 4hr trip on the highway (in the summer) was pure torture. Uncomfortable seats and no AC was brutal.
I am a mechanical Engineering student (Automotive product design, final year) a class mate and I did a study on my car (for a suspension & steering design class).
We found that this car is an incredibly efficient design (IE CHEAP).
It was amazing to see how many corners could be cut, how little material could be used, and how multi-function components can be made (to cut costs).
I was astonished that the front sway-bar was used as a strut bar for the lower I-beam control arm... and the sway bar is rubber mounted in large thick rubber mounts, which gives the suspension an incredible amount of play, thus the heavy and uneven tire wear on this model of car.
The car measured in at ~2700lb, the industry standard for cost of manufacture is around 60-80cents/lbs so this puppy cost about $1700 to make :P keep that in mind when U buy your $50,000 car/suv, it cost the manufacturer only about $3200 to build that thing, now that's PROFIT! :)
And don't dilute yourself that a lot of R&D went into it, cars have been made for over 100 years, I think the industry engineers know how to put one together quickly :)
The car is not with out its positive traits. The car has been fairly reliable in the sense that it does start 99% of the time, and it will get you where you're going.
The car also handles bad weather very well, deep snow does not bother it, ice, slush, heavy rain does not change its handling much (U still have to be careful of-course)
And the car is cheap to buy.
My previous car met an unfortunate end (it was stolen) so my parents gave me this old Topaz so I have something to drive (until I finish school).
I am really looking forward to a nice new car.