The exhaust system rearward of the catalytic converter and the manifold and y-pipe gaskets required replacement at about 40,000 miles. Three minor exhaust repairs were required at about 50,000, 65,000, and 75,000 miles.
The starter failed 3 times, requiring replacement at about 45,000, 60,000, and 75,000 miles. This was the only repetitive failure the vehicle had.
The pads/rotors and shoes/drums only required service twice, at about 45,000 and 70,000 miles.
Both rear window motors failed, one at about 45,000 miles, and one at 55,000 miles.
The A/C relay and A/C compressor required replacement at about 55,000 miles.
The shocks/springs required replacement at about 60,000 miles.
The dashboard lights for the HVAC controls went out at 65,000 miles.
The turn signal flasher failed at about 65,000 miles.
Both front wheel bearings required replacement at 70,000 miles.
The overall quality of this vehicle was pretty good. It never developed any squeaks or rattles. Fit and finish was very good for an economy car, and it felt much heavier and sturdier that similar vehicles (like the Ford Escort).
Reliability was pretty good. Aside from the repetitive starter failure, the other problems (considering its 80,000+ miles) could be considered normal wear and tear.
Fuel economy was pretty good; it averaged about 24mpg in the city, and 26mpg on the highway. Both figures were held back by the 3-spd auto, the somewhat large (for a 4-cylinder) engine, and the vehicle's relatively heavy weight (2700lbs empty). The highway mileage was definitely held back by the transmission; the tachometer read 3,000 rpm at only 60mph.
Acceleration was amazingly, unbelievably slow. The engine put out only 96hp; acceleration in this car can't really be felt, only observed by watching the speedometer needle slowly creep around the dial. Merging was frightening. It required a lot of careful calculation, and a lot of luck. Passing was a non-issue; the car was too slow. It took almost 14 seconds 0-to-60mph, and nearly 30 seconds to accelerate from 55mph to 75mph. That's why it only got a 6 under performance. If whoever is reading this is thinking of buying a Topaz, buy the V6 model.
Handling was very good. If the car had another 50hp or so, it would've gotten an 8 in performance. The brake pedal was firm, the car stopped quickly and smoothly, and the wheels rarely locked up on dry pavement. The steering had great road feel, no on-center dead spot, and just the right effort. Cornering was equally good. It understeered quite a bit if driven head-on and fast into a corner, but had almost no body lean. Also, the car could take corners quite quickly if its weight was transferred correctly, kicking the tail out a bit, and so eliminating the understeer.
Comfort was decent. Ride harshness wasn't a problem at all; the car handled most pavement defects just fine. The issue was interior room. The only comfortable seats were the front buckets, which were still a bit narrow. The rear bench was cramped, had little legroom, and was hard to exit and enter. Anyone over 5'6" tall would be uncomfortable back there. Control and gauge layout was very good. The gauges and controls were easily read and used. The trunk was huge in proportion to the car's size.