Have had my '97 GXE for seven years, and it has been an excellent choice in a used car. Just under 100,000 miles on it, and it delivers a solid 27 MPG in mostly city traffic and needs very little maintenance. This is a commuter car, though, no doubt. The 1.6L engine and auto transmission are pretty well paired and give good power delivery. Seats in the 1997 models are lacking, particularly in lumbar support. Spirited driving is definitely not recommended, as you'll quickly hit the limitations of a soft suspension and too-small brakes for the class. Still, if you can find a '95-99 with low miles that hasn't been flogged hard, it's a good choice for a kid's first car or a station car.
Spacious cabin and trunk for a compact car. Automatic transmission has a broad, usable second gear which gives the car a good amount of go when the stop-and-go city traffic opens up. Well-thought-out, but plastic-y interior. The metallic exterior paints seem to weather well.
The combination of a small A/C compressor and equally small blower motor on this thing means trouble on a 90-degree-plus Southern summer day. Automatic prefers to shift early into overdrive, leaving you little oomph beyond 60 miles per hour or so. Dealership repair markup seems excessive.