What's New for 2000
New standard features improve the Prizm's value quotient, and variable valve timing boosts power and torque. The tweaked engine now meets low emission vehicle status in California, and three new colors freshen the exterior.
In short, the Prizm is one of the best compact cars money can buy. It does everything well, and looks good too. Better yet, it is essentially a reskinned Toyota Corolla, which bodes well for reliability, but not necessarily resale value. To top things off, the Prizm has earned very high marks in past initial quality studies, scoring better than the Infiniti G20 and Honda Accord.
But there is a problem, and that problem is price. Slotted between the Cavalier and Malibu, the small Prizm is no bargain once options are added. A well-equipped Prizm can be more expensive than a similarly loaded Malibu. For 2000, Chevrolet is trying to boost Prizm's value by offering more standard equipment in the base price. Bottom-rung models get air conditioning, a four-speaker stereo, floor mats and wheel covers this year, while LSi buyers receive standard power windows, rear defogger, tachometer with outside temperature gauge, tilt steering column and larger tires.
Despite the price of entry, there are compelling reasons to choose the Prizm. Its excellent reliability record, coupled with tasteful styling and outstanding assembly quality, goes a long way toward selling consumers on the Prizm. The car feels substantial, conveying the impression that it will last quite a long time. In contrast, the Cavalier feels somewhat cheap, flimsy and unrefined. The solid Malibu doesn't appeal to buyers looking for a smaller package.
A 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine is standard on all Prizms, and for 2000, benefits from variable valve timing technology that certainly didn't come from GM. Toyota's VVTi system boosts power in Prizm to 125 horsepower and 125 foot-pounds of torque, both peaking at lower rpm than last year. Interestingly, side airbags are optional on this economy sedan. Front and rear stabilizer bars are standard to improve handling response from the four-wheel independent suspension. All interior fabrics feature Scotchgard stain protection and a power sunroof is available. As on last year's model - and in a break with GM tradition - antilock brakes are optional rather than standard.
Interior accommodations are rather sparse in base Prizms, but LSi's come with uplevel fittings and trim. Either model offers excellent ergonomics; all the switches and controls fall readily to hand and the gauges are clear and legible. The seats are firm but comfortable. The clutch is a joy to work and the five-speed manual snicks fluidly from gear to gear.
Prizm is strictly econo-issue in base trim, but add aluminum wheels and a premium equipment package to an LSi and the Prizm transforms itself into a mini-Camry. Also available is a CD player and extended-range speakers that sound great. Truly, a fully loaded Prizm is a fine package. However, a Prizm LSi with every available option closes quickly on $20,000. For that kind of cash you can buy any number of larger and more substantial sedans. Keep a lid on the options, though and the Prizm makes much more sense.