Compact car; Built in USA
  • 4-door sedan
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,700 – $3,400*


1998 Chevrolet Prizm


1998 Chevrolet Prizm


1999 Chevrolet Prizm interior


2000 Chevrolet Prizm


2000 Chevrolet Prizm

Pros:
  • Optional antilock braking
  • Optional side airbags
  • Fuel economy
  • Ride
Cons:
  • Automatic-transmission performance
  • Rear-seat room

Prizm is–to put it directly–among the best small cars on the market. New or used, Prizm basically comes across as a lower-cost Corolla, which has been outselling Chevrolet’s subcompact by almost a 5-to-1 ratio. That’s how it was before, and it’s good news again, since the cars are so similar in structure. You can benefit from Toyota’s reputation for durability, without paying quite the price that might be asked for a Corolla. Add capable road manners, and this is one small car that looks ready to stand up well to the punishment of daily driving. Don’t finish up your subcompact shopping list without making sure Prizm–and Corolla–have prominent spots.

Overview

Similar to Toyota’s Corolla, the Prizm is a front-drive subcompact sedan. Both makes were all new for 1998. Prizm had previously been a Geo product, but that name disappeared after 1997, so Prizms now wore the Chevrolet badge. Both Prizm and Corolla again were built on the same assembly line in California, at a joint GM/Toyota plant. Appearance was similar to the previous Prizm/Corolla generation, but all sheetmetal was new. Although the car’s wheelbase was virtually unchanged, the 1998 Prizm measured more than 2 inches longer, and was also slightly wider and taller. Interior space grew only fractionally, however. Base and LSi models returned, both with 5-passenger seating. Front side airbags now were available in the Prizm–a rarity in the subcompact league. Antilock braking also was optional. Standard safety items included dual airbags, daytime running lights, and front-seatbelt pretensioners. A single twin-cam 4-cylinder engine, producing 120 horsepower and 122 pound-feet of torque, now powered all Prizms. Prior models had a choice of two lower-powered engines. A manual transmission was standard, with either a 3- or 4-speed automatic optional. Rivals included the Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra, and Mazda Protege.

Yearly Updates

1999 Prizm
Except for some new color choices, little was new for Chevrolet’s subcompact sedan. The LSi handling package departed from the option list. However, its front stabilizer bar now was installed on all Prizms, and its 14-inch wheels and tires became optional.
2000 Prizm
Variable valve timing helped give the Prizm’s 4-cylinder engine 5 extra horsepower this year. The base sedan gained standard air conditioning like the LSi, along with a 4 speaker AM/FM stereo and full wheel covers. LSi standard fare expanded to include slightly wider 185/65R14 tires, power windows, a rear defroster, tilt steering wheel, and a tachometer with outside temperature gauge.
2001 Prizm
Lower anchors for rear child seats and an in-trunk emergency release handle were the only additions for 2001.
2002 Prizm
There were no significant changes in Prizm’s last year.

Engines

transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

All Prizms got the same dual-overhead-cam 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine. Three transmissions were available: 5-speed manual, 3-speed automatic, or 4-speed automatic.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.8/110
Engine HP 120-125
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 112-125
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
3-speed automatic
4-speed automatic
31/37
28/33
28/36
29.2

24.8

Road Test

Anyone familiar with prior Prizms should feel right at home in this version. Though not exactly sparkling, acceleration is much better than most competitors. With 5-speed manual shift, a Prizm feels frisky and willing to move through traffic with authority. Performance with either automatic transmission, as expected, is less thrilling.

Prizm promises a controlled, but decidedly firm ride. You can expect to feel even small bumps, but the chassis generally does a good job of filtering out most of the harshness. With a standard suspension, the tires quickly run out of grip on twisty roads and allow moderate body lean. A Prizm LSi with the available Handling Package does a much better job of holding the road. Even better, it exacts little penalty in ride quality. Steering is direct and sharp. Brakes, while mushy in feel, do an adequate job in hauling the Prizm down from speed. Road noise is noticeable, but no louder than most of the competition. Visibility is excellent all around, helped by large outside mirrors that fight blind spots to the rear quarters.

Roomy and comfortable inside for average-size adults, the Prizm’s fresh interior is also familiar. Head and leg room are ample. Two adults can sit comfortably in back, but only if the front seats are less than halfway back. Any farther, and rear leg room becomes tight and foot space is nearly nonexistent. Gauges are easy to see, and the dashboard hides no controls behind the steering wheel. Entry and exit to the rear seats is a bit tight through narrow door openings–a flaw found in most subcompact sedans. Cargo space is about average for Prizm’s class, but you get a large trunk opening and handy bumper-height access.

Ratings

Model Tested: 2002 Chevrolet Prizm base

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 - 8
80%
Ride Quality - 4
40%
Steering/Handling - 3
30%
Quietness - 4
40%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 7
70%
Room/Comfort Front - 4
40%
Room/Comfort Rear - 2
20%
Cargo Room - 2
20%

Other

Value - 4
40%

Total: 42

Specifications

4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
97.0 174.2 66.7 53.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
12.1 13.2 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.3 36.9 42.5 33.2
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 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 - 4
80%
Rear Passenger Injury - 3
60%

HLDI

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

Collision 102
Injury 112
Theft 68

Trouble Spots

Rough idle
Description: Fuel injectors on 1.8-liter engine may cause rough idle and the check-engine light to illuminate. Revised injectors are available. (1999)

Recall History

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.