2002 Chevrolet Prizm Review
Pros & Cons
- Reliability, zippy powertrain when equipped with a manual transmission, optional side airbags.
- Ho-hum personality, ABS not standard, cramped rear seat, options force prices too high to remain a bargain.
Edmunds' Expert Review
It's got Japanese technology and build quality because, well ... it's a Japanese car with an American nameplate. Certainly a creative way to get patriotic types behind the wheel of a Toyota.
In short, the Prizm is one solid economy sedan. It's a capable performer and it doesn't waste time with trying to look like something it's not. 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.
An excellent reliability record coupled with 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, while the solid Malibu doesn't appeal to buyers looking for a smaller package.
Base-model Prizms get air conditioning, a four-speaker stereo, floor mats and wheel covers, while upgraded LSi models get standard power windows, a rear defogger, tachometer, outside temperature gauge, tilt steering column and larger tires.
A 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine is standard on all Prizms, which benefits from variable valve timing technology (VVTi) developed by Toyota. The VVTi system helps boost engine output to 125 horsepower and improves overall drivability. The low-effort clutch is a bonus in traffic, and the five-speed manual snicks fluidly from gear to gear. Front and rear stabilizer bars are standard to improve handling response from the four-wheel independent suspension. Antilock brakes and side airbags are optional on this economy sedan.
Interior accommodations are rather sparse in base Prizms, but LSi models come with upgraded fittings and trim. Either model offers decent ergonomics; all the switches and controls fall readily to hand, and the gauges are clear and legible. The seats are rock-hard and lack lumbar and lateral support, but they do feature Scotchguard stain protection to keep them clean.
The 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 are a CD player and extended-range speakers that sound great, making a fully loaded Prizm 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 is an economy sedan anybody could live with.