Writing this review from the perspective that 16 years later in 2020, one can find many examples of these vehicles on Craigslist for less than $2,000. Is it worth buying and fixing up as a gas efficient, reliable mode of transportation? Answer is "yes" (if and only if) you are handy and can perform repairs yourself:
Sway bar bushings.
Sway bar end links.
Sunroof drain lines disconnected from both foot wells, major water damage.
Clutch master cylinder (frustrating to bleed).
Broken clutch pedal (poorly designed).
Loose, sloppy 5 speed shifter (no adjustments).
Cloudy, dangerous to use at night headlights.
Horn (poorly designed airbag contacts).
Large tears in seat fabric (notoriously flimsy fabric).
Pressure plate is gone and will need replacement (pops out of gear).
Struts and shocks are stone age and will need replacement (understandable).
Door locks that stick.
Bought this car to use as A to B transportation for my work commute because the purchase price was less than a new bicycle!
I have owned many Japanese model cars and wanted to give an American car a chance at reduce, reuse, recycle (anti-new car) philosophy. Anyone who has turned a wrench will instantly know how "cheaply" built these cars are. They are poorly designed, poorly executed examples of cost cutting from GM (one upper strut mounting nut!). The good news is that because the car is so crudely put together, opening and accessing interior components is quite easy.
It may not make any sense, but I decided to make my commute more enjoyable by upgrading the cabin with modern conveniences like GPS Bluetooth head unit, backup camera, heated seats, steering wheel controls, mood lighting, amplifier and speakers, and more.
The engine bay has a simple layout where hands and arms can actually fit all around to reach parts. Repair and replacement parts for typical 100K failures/maintenance are extremely cheap if you can plan ahead and order on eBay or Amazon ($31 starter, $45 set of ignition coils, $47 radiator, $25 crank sensor, $15 intake temp sensor, etc.).
This engine paired with a manual transmission has no problem getting up to speed on merge ramps. It can hit 55 mph in second gear. It cruises at 75-80 mph on the highway with no problem. Wind noise and road noise is actually better than other (Japanese) cars from the same era.
Driver's seat padding feels "flat" and not very supportive. I am 5'8" medium build and neither of my elbows has a comfortable, natural resting point. The rear view mirror and side mirrors are too small in my opinion. Forward visibility is good, and I do not get the over-sensation feeling of speed on residential streets. No dead pedal sucks for your left foot. Back seat leg room is tight, even for skinny 10-year-olds. The trunk is spacious, but the fiberboard trunk floor is warped.
Overall, I think I will keep the car to teach my oldest child to drive stick-shift and then leave it on the roadside with "FREE" sign in window.