I paid $1 for this car. It belonged to my mom's cousin's husband who had purchased it from his father in law and drove it to NYC everyday for years. When I got it, it needed to have the header welded in order for it to run.
This was a great first car. I really liked the style of the Ciera. The paint was dead (GM grey), it wasn't flaking off and rusting like many grey, white, blue, and black paint jobs of that era did - rather it was going through a chemical change. The paint was getting crusty on the hood, roof, and trunk. The interior wasn't too bad. The previous owner didn't smoke, wasn't large, and used cruise control, so even though there was a lot of miles on the inside the only wear was on the floor mat. The headliner drooped down into my face so I placed strips of wood from the plastic surrounding the headliner and ran it across the headliner to hold it up. The interior was burgundy and looked really good. The driver's seat was power and had no tilt, but the passenger side had tilt, but no power.
Options on the car were as follows:
Brougham package (Nice pillow seats)
Pulse wipers (didn't work on delay)
Power windows and locks. (The locks sounded like a shotgun firing.)
I only had this car for a year before I traded it on my dream car (at the time) a 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon. However I managed to log a lot of miles on her and had some great times driving it.
The negatives about the car:
It would like to run great all day and then it would decide to die. This would usually happen when I had to get to high school or when I'd be really far away from home. Sometimes it would take a few hours or a few minutes to start again and run fine. Before I had the computer replaced ($20 at a junkyard) the car had its crowning achievement occurred on the way to school one morning. The Ciera died in the middle of a busy intersection near the high school and held up all busses and other traffic resulting in an amnesty for all late students that day.
Rust was eating up the Ciera by hour. I could hear the Iron Moths chewing away on it on winter nights. There was rust eating through the bottom edge of all doors. Every time I slammed the trunk there was a river of rust chunks that flowed around the inside of the trunk lid.
The steering rack was bad. It would have power steering sometimes or not. I never cared because I paid $1.
The Transmission was a 125D three speed. This was a great transmission mated to the Iron Duke 2.5 motor. It had never been replaced and never gave me any trouble, however I found that if I was going fast, made a panic stop, and floored it again (yeah, I was 16 at the time) the car would just sit there and shudder - then slam into first gear. I only did that about three times and decided I'd rather not walk home.
The brakes that came with the car were cheap bonded brakes. I heard a thumping sound in the rear drum for a few hundred miles before I decided to check it out. I jacked up the car and took off the rear drum and the brake shoe fell on the garage floor.
I bought this car in March of 1996, by May, I noticed the car had a really bad smell. Although this had nothing to do with the mechanics of the car, I located the stench. My second cousins spent a lot of time in the back seat of the car in car and booster seats. They had managed to lodge about three pounds of food underneath the back seat, which was rotting there for months. I took out the back seat and scrubbed it with soap and water for a long time. So if you buy a used car, take the back seat out and check for treasure.
The Ciera was the same as the Pontiac 6000, Chevrolet Celebrity, and the Buick Century. I have driven all of these cars at one time and the Ciera was my favorite. It has a great seating position, the controls were all in the right place. The engine was great even if it was a bit underpowered. It could hold six people, but five was enough. The gas mileage was wonderful. I could get about 30-40 mpg on the highway and 17-24 mpg in town. My Ciera was easy to park. It had a hood ornament on the front end and the third brake light was mounted on the back of the suitcase rack on the trunk, so I always knew how close I was to another car. I could also park it anywhere and never had to worry about anybody messing with it.
I really liked this car even though it would leave me stranded once and awhile and wish it were still made today.
I would really like GM to go back to its old lineup from the late 80s and early 90s giving us a real choice of automobiles again.