I drove one of these between 1995 and 2001 as a recent grad while suffering through student debt and an entry level salary. Not bad as basic transportation. Good visibility. Cavernous hatch. Easy to drive, and good traction in the snow. But...for all the hoo-hah about Toyota reliability this car did not deliver. It made my cantankerous old Triumph TR6 look reliable. Many faults manifested themselves over the years, but one thing that really stood out was the crappy "variable venturi" carb. Its designers should be made to walk the plank. And the acceleration was abysmal. In 2001 the starter started going bad for the second time, so I bought the first of two Mustang GTs and never looked back.
My aunt gave me this car 3 years ago. this car is a great commuter car : I drive 140 highway miles round trip, it gets great gas mileage and I regularly go 70mph. Its a fun zippy little thing and its very responsive. No rust, no maintenance issues. It won't win any beauty contests, but it is so reliable and fun to drive.
I bought this car when it was already 11 years old and with about 70K miles on it. I kept it for 6 years and put another 30K miles on it. When I parted with it, it was still going very strong. The car had zero problems. Besides routine maintenance, once in a while I did have to replace a part. But that's once in a long while. In the six years I owned it, I might have put in $500 to $600 in maintenance and repairs, and I don't even do the oil changes myself.
Indestructibility. This car will die from salt rust before anything else.
Add a right hand side mirror. I know the EZ Hatchback is the econ model, but it's a pain (and potential safety issue) to check the right blind spot twice just to make a lane change to the right. Exterior styling is non- existent.
This car is the best I've ever had. I abused it in every possible way. Almost never breaks and when it does it's dirt cheap to fix. Tires are $15 new or $6 used. Changed the brakes for $40 at a mechanic. Can't ask for more. You can take it anywhere - even off road. We took it to Oregon and drove 200 miles on unpaved roads and then back to California. Lookwise it's not the best, but I took it to over 50 dates and I've been far more succesfull [weeding out the bad girls] then when I was driving a gas-guzzler money-eater Pontiac. Toyota costs 9.5 cents/mile for gas, insurance, repairs and loss in car value (including one accident) during my ownership. Pontiac was 37 cents/mile, no accident.
Freedom. The freedom to leave the key in the door, have a great date and find the key where you left it. Freedom to go off-road, have rocks and sagebrush hit everything they can hit and then drive 100 miles home. Freedom to have an accident and smile. No matter what you do, it won't cost you.
They should make such simple cars again. Take all the fancy gizmos off a Toyota Yarris, leave just the engine and a lot of room to fix it when you need to. Give it plastic seats. Price it at $5000 and have it go 300 000 at 45 mpg. Add internet and repair manual. Wouldn't that be great for the world?