This car was purchased new on 12/30/00 and was my first "new" car. It is great on gas, performs like a champ. When they came out they would put a hurting on most of the Hondas and such that you could buy at the time. They handle very well, are fun to drive, but they do have known problems. I have had 4 transmissions in 65k miles, the 4EAT-F automatics are known for overheating and failing. The starter has gone bad once, the VCT died. It's been a rough road with the car but all in all for the price it was hard to beat, and I knew I didn't want anything GM.
Performance of the engine, handling, and gas mileage. It also has a very sporty look for a 90's economy car.
Seats, transmission, maybe a little more sound deadening. Not that it matters, they don't make them after the 2003 model year and they DIDN'T make any improvements other than a styling change for 2003.