I inherited my 1997 Geo Prizm from my father when I was 16 years old (I'm currently 26). At the time it had already been in his possession for 7 years. It was a stick shift. I learned with no RPM gauge, and I attest to date that it is the best car to learn stick on; it's industrial strength, you learn by sound and feel, and the clutch isn't very sensitive. It's now a 19 year old car, and has 315,000 miles on it. It has taken me on multiple round trips from Columbus to Chicago and DC, and I still drive it safely on multi (3 +) hour trips. I have invested very little until these last final two years in repairs. (Most issues are general wear/age issues, the most recent my sad reality check--rusted brake lines). I haven't calculated mileage in a minute, but several years ago it was *still* running over 37 mpg. It is so well loved that I can't stand to trade it in, and will be giving it away to a friend, who says that even at 315k miles it is more reliable than his own vehicle.
My wife and I each own a 97 Prizm. I have owned mine for 5 years and she has owned it for 8 years. I have the LSi and she has the standard model. We both have the 1600 standard engine. Both cars extremely reliable. Cost of ownership very low. Both are cars are salvaged and cost under $3,000. Other than normal maintenance have had 1 fuel injector replaced, starter motor. I switched the passenger seat with the drivers seat to increase seat comfort. Negative - Road noise, a little bit louder than other small cars I have owned, but a small issue overall.
Seats are more comfortable than cars costing twice as much, it looks good, LSi has power door locks and rear defroster. Built in Numi plant in Fremont CA, only a few miles from where I live.
Less road noise, but its a cheap car so what do you want?
This is the best car I've ever owned by a long shot. It has almost 194,000 miles on it, and I bought it used in '98 with a little over 5,000. These are some hard earned NJ miles with generally bad road conditions and extremes in weather. I love its reliability! In fact I'm replacing the timing belt this week -- overdue, I know -- with intentions of taking it as far as I can. But a word of advice: if you have an automatic, get the differential oil checked as well as the transmission. I've learned very little about cars since I've had this Prizm, but that was one big expensive lesson.
The motor: almost 200,000 miles on it, and I don't even hear it running. Of course, that could be my hearing but I don't think so. A friend who knows cars said the engine could run 95 mph for five hours, and he's probably right.
My one bad experience with this car was having to replace the transmission because the differential went after 110,000 miles. That was my fault because I never changed the oil in the differential. The manual should clearly state the need to do this.
I bought this car because I have a long commute, and needed a reliable, cheap car that was good on gas. I paid $1200 for the car in 2006 and I have put 68,000 miles on the car since I bought it. The car now has 172000 miles and is still running strong. I did no repairs for the first two years I owned the car and have never done anything other than tires, brakes and exhaust. The car has great ac, and is great in the bad weather in western ny. I have no complaints and the car owes me nothing.
Reliability, heat, ac, and the stereo. Relatively inexpensive to get tires etc. for.
My hood is rusting out in the front. I have not noticed this fault on Corollas.