Compact car; Built in USA
  • 4-door sedan
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,300 – $2,300*


1994 Geo Prizm LSi


1993 Geo Prizm LSi


1996 Geo Prizm


1993 Geo Prizm LSi interior


1996 Geo Prizm LSi interior

Pros:
  • Acceleration (1.8-liter)
  • Antilock brakes (optional)
  • Fuel economy
  • Quietness
  • Ride
Cons:
  • Radio controls
  • Rear-seat room

Few small cars are more polished than a Prizm, or as well-constructed. We rank it right alongside the Toyota Corolla and Honda’s Civic as top subcompacts.

Overview

Sharing its basic design with the Toyota Corolla, as it had in the prior generation, the roundly restyled front-drive subcompact sedan from Chevrolet’s Geo import group is a little longer than its predecessor. Interior space also expanded a bit, as did the sedan’s trunk capacity. Only one body style went on sale: a 4-door sedan. A driver-side airbag was initially standard in both the base and LSi versions. Antilock braking was optional. Base engine was a 105-horsepower, twin-cam 16-valve, 1.6-liter four. A 115-horsepower 1.8-liter engine was available in the LSi edition.

Yearly Updates

1994 Prizm
A passenger-side airbag was added for 1994. Seatbelts were revised to permit easier installation of child safety seats without using a locking clip.
1995 Prizm
Modest appearance and trim changes marked the ’95 Prizms.
1996 Prizm
The optional 1.8-liter engine dropped 10 horsepower this year, though its torque output grew.
1997 Prizm
Power steering became standard rather than optional on the base version and the standard 1.6-liter engine dropped five horsepower (to 100), but gained five pound-feet of torque (to 105). An all-new Prizm was waiting in the wings for ’98, but it would be badged a Chevrolet.

Engines

transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

Standard Prizm engine was a dual-overhead-cam 16-valve, 1.6-liter 4-cylinder. The 115-horsepower 1.8-liter engine could be installed in the LSi edition as an option. That 1.8-liter engine was demoted to 105 horsepower for 1996, a year after the smaller engine lost three of its original 108 horsepower. However, torque rose from 115 to 117 pound-feet. Five-speed manual shift was standard; 3-speed automatic optional with the base engine, or electronic 4-speed automatic with the bigger engine. For 1997 the standard 1.6-liter engine dropped another five horsepower (to 100), but gained five pound-feet of torque (to 105) to compensate.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.6/97
Engine HP 100-108
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 100-105
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
3-speed automatic
28/34
26/30
dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.8/110
Engine HP 105-115
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 115-117
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
29/34
27/34
29.7
27.1

Road Test

Acceleration is capable enough with the small engine and either transmission; better yet with the 1.8-liter four–which turns out to be quite zippy. A 1.8-liter LSi with 5-speed averaged 29.7 mpg, with considerable highway driving included, and an inspiring 27.5 mpg in rush-hour commuting. Even with automatic and plenty of commuting time, a Prizm scored 27.1 miles per gallon.

Handling produces no surprises, and the body leans quite a bit in turns but grips securely overall. In the base model, the tires will complain at the slightest hint of high-speed cornering. Optional power steering feels imprecise, but grows firmer once you’re into a turn. Ride comfort is impressive for a subcompact, but expect some jolts when the going gets rougher. Wind noise and road rumble are minimal.

Rear passenger space is bigger than before, but occupants might find their knees pushed into the seatbacks ahead. Prizm’s trunk is roomy, with a flat floor and bumper-level opening. A split-folding rear seatback adds versatility to the LSi edition. Gauges are easy to view. Climate controls are easy to use, but stereo controls are too low and obstructed by the pull-out beverage holder. The optional CD-player stereo has too many small buttons.

Ratings

Model Tested: 1996 Geo Prizm

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 4
40%
Fuel Economy - 7
70%
Ride Quality - 5
50%
Steering/Handling - 4
40%
Quietness - 5
50%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 5
50%
Room/Comfort Front - 6
60%
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
30%
Cargo Room - 3
30%

Other

Value - 8
80%

Total: 50

Specifications

4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
97.0 173.0 66.3 53.3
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
12.7 13.2 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.5 36.4 41.7 33.1
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1997 Prizm 4-door sedan

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
80%
Front Passenger Injury - 4
80%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 3
60%
Rear Passenger Injury - 3
60%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 120
Injury 132
Theft 69

Trouble Spots

Dashboard lights
Description: During assembly some gauge panels’ printed circuits were damaged and the panel lights may flash or not work and the fuel gauge may not work. (1993)
Mirrors
Description: The left-hand rear-view mirror can’t be adjusted if the plate to which the cables attach cracks. (1993)
Audio system
Description: Because it has a sensor that detects broken tapes, the cassette player may eject CD adapters used with it. (1993-94)
Steering noise
Description: A squeak or rubbing noise from the steering column is often the result of a loose pinch bolt on the universal joint on the column inside the car. (1993-95)
Steering noise
Description: Dry rubber bushing around steering shaft can cause squeaking from steering column. Lubrication may eliminate noise. (1993-97)

Recall History

1993-95
Description: If liquid is spilled in console box area, airbag-warning light can illuminate during normal driving conditions and cause airbag to malfunction, deploying inadvertently.
1994
Description: Anchor straps in certain seatbelt assemblies made by Quality Safety Systems were improperly heat treated and can break.
1995
Description: Battery may have defective weld inside terminal, which can result in no-start condition or explosion.
1997
Description: If airbag computer experiences mechanical shock within very short time after engine is started, airbag can deploy inadvertently.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.