My second car, and probably, proudly, my last.
Power steering rack was leaky and had to be replaced. No problems since.
Power transistor and one coil failed due to heat stress.
Minor leak around rocker cover.
Minor leak around targa window seals causing occasional wet seat syndrome.
When I went to buy a car after owning only a Ford XB Falcon sedan in 1987 (riding motorcycles exclusively until the EXA purchase in 2004), I specifically set out to buy my EXA. I didn't have to look far. $5000 later I drove home a well looked after example of the breed, white with black trim and silver hatch, stock wheels - stock everything. I liked the sporty lines since I first saw them years ago, but didn't need a car back then.
It needed a few improvements and accommodated them well. New steering rack and lowered sport suspension, 2 inch exhaust, dark window tint, 17 inch black 5 spoke with deep-dish chrome outer wheels and 40 profile tyres. Even with everything original the car was great at cornering considering all the weight's at the front. It was difficult to improve on.
Power is limited from the 1.6, especially when towing a trailer with half a cubic metre of damp brickies' sand in it, but still manages to pull it well. After driving the EXA for a while without a passenger, you do notice a slight drain on acceleration when carrying one, although it's easily catered for. At around 3700RPM the ECU goes from economy to power mode and opens the power valves in the manifold. It's not a kick in the back, but very noticeable if you mechanically disable this feature for a test.
Speaking of mechanically, this car is quite sound if you manage to get one that's been serviced on a regular basis. There's the odd oil weep and such forth naturally. The power transistor failing is a problem, as it's due to heat stress caused directly by its mounting on a bracket connected to the hot engine block. If the car suddenly dies or blubbers on 2 cylinders and then dies, this would be the cause. Pour cold water on the power transistor to cool it, then you should be on your way, until it heats up again. Once this happens, replace it - it's finished. I was in the middle of Australian nowhere in 38 degrees when this happened. I had no cold water or tools. It was a looooong day! I managed to get a reconditioned one and simply used silver tape on the engine side - and never bolted it back on again. No more heat transfer, no more problem. One ignition coil died due to heat stress as well, but as they're cooped up between the cam valleys there's not much you can do.
At one stage, I got a squealing sound from under the bonnet. The cause being a collapsed bearing from the timing belt tensioner. At least it wasn't fatal. I managed to replace it myself. From what I recall it wasn't that expensive either.
I'm currently having the timing belt replaced as I have no record of when it was last done (or ever!), and it's supposed to be done every 100,000k's. I've done 50,000 so far. Better to be safe..
When I bought the EXA, it came with all the plumbing for the air conditioner, but no compressor. I decided to unload the extra weight and removed the air conditioner radiator, hoses and all accompanying impedimenta including the air conditioner radiator fan. I was pretty chuffed by the extra room under the bonnet I now had - and I could finally get my big hands in there!
Fuel economy is very good for a car its age. I remember the Toyota Camry could only manage 12k's/l on highway cycle, and that was a 1993 model. I manage that on city cycle, and 14 cruising at highly illegal speeds out in the country, with camping gear and girlfriend on board. I'm thinking the extra weight creates more inertia against wind resistance, as well as limited stop and go. On basic 91 octane fuel the EXA tends to ping a bit in hot weather, but 95 is fine with no change in economy. 98 octane burns too slow and reduces my economy by 50k's per tank! Same as my Honda CBR1000FL.
The tank is supposed to hold 50 litres, but I've never managed to fill more than 45, probably due to the indent in the top for the space-saver spare which creates a bubble.
I used to use 20w-40 oil, but decided to use something a bit thinner with less resistance, 10w-30. In any case, the EXA burns little of it even at high speeds over long distances.
I've tried driving with the targa top removed. It was 35 degrees, sunny, and a failing power transistor with my 3 year old son asleep in the back seat. Never again (unless it's hot and overcast). removing the top makes for a windy, albeit eye-catching ride. Removing the rear hatch would probably reduce the cabin tornado somewhat.
Being front wheel driven, the EXA's got a larger than could be turning circle, but manages u-turns quite well. The power steering is light and precise with excellent feel. Braking also has excellent feel. This model equipped with rear drums brakes very well. Rear discs wouldn't really improve anything, as hard braking is done by the front up to 80% anyway.
The most important point is tyres. Cheap ones will make any car handle ineffectively. The set I had on previously made my stopping distance almost 1000m at 100k's in the wet. How many red lights I'd slid through just trying to stop in the wet I can't remember, and sliding off a corner onto the kerb simply because the tyres were rubbish. However, in the dry the EXA still handled very well with these tyres. slight understeer cornering at speed. The new tyres I have now make the difference like night and day, showing me what the EXA was capable of all along. Although still feeling heavy at the front, far less understeer. Almost on rails.
My score for comfort is a bit low, and unfair, as the EXA was far more comfortable with stock tyres and suspension.. sorry. Otherwise the heater/demister is excellent. The rear bench seat is only useful for children, however it folds down so you can fit camping gear - and possibly an extra girlfriend. My son has a 12 inch bicycle which easily fits with the hatch down and room to spare. Bales of hay are largely forbidden, but a couple of doonas, tent, 40 litres extra fuel (for the camp fire), slab of beer, numerous pillows, blow up mattress, air pump/light combination unit, then the stuff my girlfriend brings all fit easily. That's without folding the seat down. There's a fair bit of room if you use it wisely. I'm not kidding.
Reliability so far is excellent, if not outstanding for its age and mileage. I've spent FAR more on this car to make it look and handle how I LIKE, rather than just maintenance, which was a pittance in comparison and probably due to the diligence of the previous owner. I service it myself, and since the entire engine management system is still in good working order, the EXA starts first time, every time. No throttle. Spark plugs don't need to be of the expensive platinum type. I've run standard Bosch and NGK without problems.
Bodywork is still very good. Only surface rust in odd places, mainly around the edges of the removable targa panels. The paint is shot after all these years, and hoping to rectify that with pearl white, but still planning to keep the hatch grey.. I like it somehow. NOTE: The grey hatch doesn't work with red..
I seriously doubt whether I could part with this car. If it were a 2 litre turbo with rear wheel drive, it would be instantly unavailable as everyone would want one. Now there's an idea..
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 31st August, 2007