The Engine on this car is great quality. It's a 124 bhp in-line 4 cylinder SPFI (Sequential Port Fuel Injection) with a Timing Chain (not a belt like Civics) and counterweights on the engine crankshaft to minimize vibrations. It also has computer controlled ignition (not a distributor, also on my 1997 civic). All this adds up to some real quality for a domestic vehicle.
Amazingly, for a big 1.9L engine it gets around 35-40mpg on the highway and about 26-32mpg in the city.
It's no rocket, but if you learn how to drive the tight 5-speed then you can take off faster than most sedans, not to mention you get better gas mileage.
I was disappointed by the sound, but my car only came with a radio (not even a tape deck). I spent about $120 dollars on a nice Clarion Deck (was $299) and installed it myself. Now I absolutely spend most of my day in the car as much as possible.
Servicing these vehicles is easy with the service manual (Haynes). I just do oil changes every 3,000, just finished with changing the spark plugs, and I might change the coolant at 36,000 miles even though I believe it is DEX-COOL 100,000 mile coolant in my car.
If you want to do some of your own work on the vehicle, you can pickup the "special" star sockets at Walmart for about $6 dollars. You can find a Haynes manual at either Checkers or Autozone. Do not substitute for another manual unless you can get the Saturn shop manual (usually $50-$200).
It's sad to hear that reliable cars do every once in a while have lemons, Even Honda's. My timing belt broke off the Civic after being serviced two months earlier between Phoenix and Yuma in July, how sad is that. My engine was gone, and I had to fight about it just to get it fixed under warranty. Of course, you won't hear these stories from Honda. The 1992 Saturn my parents have is still running. Granted I had to change both power window units because someone tried to break into the car, and the odometer stopped working at 88,903 two years ago, but it still drives as smooth as the day it was bought. The only thing I complain about is the dashboard on the old car since it tends to rattle.
I bought this car at about $6000 dollars off the lot, it was going for about $9000 in the ad. I practically got it for trade-in value and the car had been on the lot for about a month.
It's brand spanking new, and the day I got it I put nearly 1,500 miles on it driving to Portland. It drives great and handles well, and no up-shifting to get up any of the hills on I-5. Driving in Phoenix is a blast, and although I can't race a 5.1L T-Bird at the stop light I can squeal my tires in third gear which is more than I can say about the civic.