Good, fun car, but prone to cooling problems
The alternator went bad at around 50,000 miles. Also replaced the drive belt and timing belt at this time.
This car has had a series of cooling system issues. Shortly after I purchased the car I had to replace all the radiator and heater hoses due to leaks. This was followed by a leaking thermostat housing gasket and a leaking overflow tank. The water pump started leaking at about 70,000 miles and had to be replaced. And for some reason this car eats thermostats - I have replaced it at least ten times in five years.
Simultaneously had an oil leak and vacuum leak at about 140,000 miles. The oil leak was caused by a split in the small rubber hose that connects the camshaft cover the the oil return tube. The vacuum leak was caused by a cracked freeze plug on the back of the intake manifold. The vacuum leak caused the cylinders to run hot and fried my spark plugs. Also replaced PCV valve - it was completely gunked up.
The second and most recent time (at about 150,000 miles) the water pump failed the impeller actually broke off the shaft, which of course caused the pump to completely fail. This in turn caused the engine to overheat, blowing the head gasket and cracking the cylinder head. A reconditioned cylinder head cost about $400 from the factory and good used ones are impossible to find.
The most recent problem was with the front brakes. The rubber brake hose on the passenger side had deteriorated internally, causing a clog, which caused the brake to stick. Replaced the hoses, calipers, rotors, and pads, and completely bled and changed brake fluid.
Other problems are minor: the power door lock on the passenger side sticks, windshield washer pump quit working, horn doesn't work, and muffler rusted out and had to be replaced.
This car is just fun to drive. It handles great unless the road is wet. It actually does pretty good on snow thanks to the front wheel drive and light weight.
The car has a nice growl and accelerates like it thinks it's a sports car, especially when it's already at highway speeds. The engine is responsive to performance upgrades, so it's fun to tinker with. I made a custom cold air intake and upgraded the muffler to a free flowing model. Also upgrade battery and spark plugs.
It gets amazing fuel economy considering the age and mileage. I get over 32 mpg highway.
The two door models have a distinctive style that has a classic sporty look. A few small upgrades will easily differentiate it from it's sister, the Cavalier. I made a custom front grill, blacked out the head and tail lights, and replaced and/or painted all the trim.
Despite all the problems it's had over the years, I love this car. Although admittedly I am a little biased because I taught myself how to work on cars on this one. If you can find one in good condition, definitely get it, just keep an eye on the cooling system!
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 20th December, 2005