Used 1997 Geo Prizm Sedan

1997 Geo Prizm
List price range
1997 Geo Prizm


  • Bulletproof reliability, suave sheetmetal


  • Lousy value, lame standard equipment list, flaccid handling
Geo Prizm years

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Edmunds' Expert Review

vehicle overview

In short, the Prizm is one of the best compact cars money can buy. It does everything well, and looks good too. Better yet, it is essentially a reskinned Toyota Corolla, which bodes well for reliability and resale value. To top things off, the Prizm has earned very high marks in initial quality studies, scoring better than the Infiniti G20 and Honda Accord.

But who's gonna buy the darn thing? Rebates were available throughout most of the 1996 model year, as dealers struggled to reduce a serious oversupply of Prizms. If the car is so good, what's the problem? The Chevrolet Cavalier is the problem. The two models compete for showroom space at Chevrolet/Geo dealers, and compact car shoppers have discovered that the Cavalier is not only more powerful and roomier inside, but it is also less expensive.

Still, there are compelling reasons to choose the Prizm. Its excellent reliability record, coupled with tasteful styling and outstanding assembly quality go 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.

Order the optional 1.8-liter twin-cam four-cylinder engine, mate it to a five-speed manual transmission, and you've got yourself a zippy little sedan. The torquey 1.8-liter motor pulls strongly around town, and cruises effortlessly at highway speeds. Interior accommodations are rather sparse in base Prizms, but LSi's come with uplevel fittings and trim. Either model offers excellent ergonomics; all the switches and controls fall readily to hand, and the gauges are clear and legible. The seats are firm but comfortable. The clutch is a joy to work, and the five-speed manual snicks from gear to gear fluidly.

The Prizm is due for a complete redesign next year, so news for 1997 is rather limited. All Prizms meet federally mandated side-impact standards for the first time. Base models add power steering to the standard equipment list. New door trim panels with front map pockets debut, and the LSi Convenience Package now includes a passenger door power lock switch. Four new exterior colors help keep things fresh until new sheetmetal arrives.

Prizm is strictly econo-issue in base trim, but add aluminum wheels and leather seats to an LSi, and the Prizm transforms itself into a mini-Lexus. Also available is a CD player and extended range speakers that sound great. Truly, a fully loaded Prizm is a fine car. However, a Prizm LSi with every available option closes quickly on $20,000. For that kind of cash you can buy a Chrysler Cirrus LXi, a Ford Contour SE, or a loaded Cavalier LS (which would save you several thousand dollars). Keep a lid on the options, and the Prizm makes much more sense.

1997 Highlights

The Prizm is essentially carried over for 1997, sporting new door trim panels, standard power steering, new exterior colors, and strengthened side-impact protection.

Top consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1997 Geo Prizm.

Bill Golden,07/17/2010
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.
315,000 miles, and I still can't scrap it
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.
still going strong
Hands down, the best vehicle I have ever owned due to its reliability and cost savings. The styling remains fresh if not fresher today than some of the crap being built now. My first was a 1994 LSi lease. It, too, was flawless. I drove my '97 off the showroom floor with 3/10's of a mile on it. As of today, it has exactly 310,000 miles on it! The engine and transmission remain original as does the exhaust and most of the suspension. The fit and finish remain strong as does the interior. Not bad considering it has never been garaged. It still gets great gas mileage, burns very little oil and has no squeaks. Why this model/line was ever killed off beats me. Wake up GM, you blew it.
Really a Toyota Corrola with GM Logo
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.
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Features & Specs

26 city / 31 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
100 hp @ 5600 rpm
26 city / 31 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
100 hp @ 5600 rpm
See all Used 1997 Geo Prizm Sedan features & specs


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver3 / 5
    Passenger3 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    RolloverNot Rated
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 1997 Geo Prizm
Used 1997 Geo Prizm Sedan Overview

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Can't find a used 1997 Geo Prizm Prizm Sedan you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Geo Prizm for sale - 10 great deals out of 13 listings starting at $13,674.

Find a used Geo for sale - 9 great deals out of 9 listings starting at $11,653.

Find a used certified pre-owned Geo Prizm for sale - 5 great deals out of 11 listings starting at $8,136.

Find a used certified pre-owned Geo for sale - 3 great deals out of 5 listings starting at $20,233.

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Should I lease or buy a 1997 Geo Prizm?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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