Newton, MA--The 1998 Chevrolet Prizm, formerly of the Geo lineup, has traded in its old attire for a blue bow tie. With this new logo comes improved safety designs and a variety of new features--all of which I experienced during a recent test drive of the LSi Sedan model.
This model has a 1.8(liter) DOHC 16-valve SFI engine that is 66 lbs lighter than last year's model, and has the ability to generate 120 hp at 5,600 rpm. Since I normally drive a car with a standard transmission, the pickup on this automatic obviously seemed different to me. But the company's claim of the car's ability to "zip from 0 to 60 mph in 10.5 sec" is on target, and an over-drive option is available.
One of the biggest design considerations for the Prizm is its safety features. These include front-seat safety belt pre-tensioners, daytime running lamps with automatic exterior lamp control, and a driver and front-passenger airbag option. Four-wheel anti-lock brakes are optional on both models. Standard rear-seat head restraints have been added to all models for safety reasons. However, the majority of my passengers found them uncomfortable. In fact, one eventually removed the restraint because it was aggravating his neck.
The LSi model offers an optional integrated rear child-safety seat, remote keyless entry with illumination, and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat with pass-through.
A Sequential Fuel Injection (SFI) system optimizes fuel economy and power output, and meets emissions control requirements. The secret? Its high-precision fuel control uses one injector and one nozzle per cylinder for optimum cylinder-to-cylinder fuel distribution. Each injector is fired sequentially and timed to the intake cycle for accuracy and metering control.
An on-board refueling vapor recovery system, which will be required on all cars by the year 2000, is also featured. It diverts gasoline fumes that normally escape during refueling to a vapor storage receptacle where they are burned by the engine. According to Chevrolet, the Prizm is one of the first cars to have it.
The model I drove came equipped with a sunroof and CD player. Unfortunately, the cup holder is in an unfortunate location--when in use it completely blocks the radio's controls. Not to mention that if you stop suddenly the disc player may be playing the coffee flavor of the day.
The car offers a nice ride with improved safety and driving features that rival those of its competitors. But priced at $18,584 for the LSi model, with enhanced offerings, I may be more inclined to put my money in the regular sedan model and beef it up with added options.