We bought our Prism as a first car for our 16 year old son. He wanted a manual transmission and learned to drive a stick after we bought the Prism. Our car had 70,000 miles on it when we bought it and I got a terrific price for it. This little car has been sensational! Shifts crisply through all the gears, has exceptional zip for the little engine, brakes well and while it's a base model, all the controls and amenities work perfectly. We have not experienced the oil usage issue many other reviewers have, which is interesting, given that we live on a steep mountainside and the car is a manual transmission driven by a teenager. You'd think our unit would be susceptible to the oil problem, but no, it runs better than either of the cars we bought for our other kids.
Luckily I only paid $1350 for this thing. It had 107K miles when I got it and have noticed it to be burning a lot of oil. After further research it seems they burn oil after 100k miles. I guess that's why the previous owner got rid of it. I had Toyotas in the passed and though they were bullet proof. I guess I was wrong. I don't really know if I will junk this thing or tear into the engine and put a new set of ring in it. I am thinking I will keep it until next year when my sticker is due and then torch it and buy something else.
It is a cheap simple car which is why I wanted it.
Believe that comment about using a qt. of oil every 100 miles, it's true @ 120+ K mi. And with that, the mpg is only 20 mpg avg. May be OK for low mileage but Prizm engine is not long lasting .I put new seals and rings in, still burns oil and bad mpg. Can't see smoke unless you hold throttle 3/4 down for 6-10 seconds. ( This is a must before buying ! )
Do not buy with over 100 K. It may look like a Corolla, but engine doesn't last like one. I got robbed. Wouldn't recommend Prizm.
Let me start by saying this car has been reliable for most of its life. I bought it at 77,000 miles, and its still running at 191,000+. It is by no means a flashy vehicle, but when the engine ran at peak efficiency, it got close to 40 MPG and ran smoothly.
But, at about the 130,000 mark, it started burning oil (1 quart every 1,000 miles or so). 60,000 miles later, it burns through about 1 quart every 50 miles. Further research via Google has shown that this is a common problem for the 2002 Prizms, and is related to narrow cylinders and bad seals. Keep this in mind if buying a Prizm from this final year of production. You'll be investing in lots of oil when it reaches a high mileage point.
- Fuel efficient (when it was oil efficient)
- Good handling
- Good suspension
- Handled Michigan and Ohio winters like a champ
- Made several cross country trips without any issues
- Oil burning issue is a deal killer
- Emissions Solenoid issue cropped up at about 100,000 miles
- Air Conditioning went out at about 120,000 (more than a recharge, this fix was about $500.00)
The car is best suited for a couple or parents with small kids. The front seats must be at their back position which leaves no leg room behind.
The car is small and easy to park. After each tune up it runs smoothly.
Remove the standard air filter in the black rectangular plastic box under the hood. Use the outline of its rubber base to cut out a new filter from washable air conditioning filter material. Gas up with 93 octane. The tires can be one dimension wider, from 165 to 175 I think it is, for better grip.