1990 Geo Storm

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1990 Geo Storm 4.0 1
$ -
June 3, 1990
One of the best cars on the market today carries a Chevrolet nameplate.

But the letters were installed in Japan by the folks from Isuzu, builder of the Geo Storm marketed in the U.S. as a Chevy.

In other words, the Heartbeat of America folks can breathe a bit easier now that Isuzu has provided the needed bypass surgery.

Storm wraps performance and economy into one good-looking package.

We aren`t talking zero-to-60 m.p.h. in 4 second, snap-your-neck-back performance. We`re talking a nimble machine that`s made to scoot around the countryside and the more twists and turns and obstacles to maneuver around the better.

This is a rallye machine, not a dragster, a vehicle with more bark than bite thanks to a rumble-tuned exhaust that makes you feel as if you`ve just reached 70 miles per hour in third gear only to look at the needle and find you`ve just touched 50.

It`s a no pretension machine, much like the Mazda Miata. You want to beat folks from the light? Get a Camaro or Firebird with a V-8-plus a second or third job to pay for the insurance.

You want to slam the lever down into third in the sharp turn and then work your way back up through fourth and fifth on the straightaway before the next twist in the road? Then Storm delivers performance not measured by the size of liters or the number of valves.

That`s a drawn-out way of saying Storm is fun, a Miata with a solid metal top you can`t remove.

We previously drove the base front-wheel-drive Storm (Cartalk, April 8) with its 1.6-liter, 12-valve, 95 horsepower, 4-cylinder engine. Nice car, but now it was time for the GSi with its 1.6-liter, 16-valve, 130-h.p., 4-cylinder engine teamed with a smooth shifting, short-throw 5-speed manual.

The GSi delivered quicker acceleration, more nimble handling, firmer but not harsh ride from its performance-tuned suspension and the road holding ability you don`t expect from a car with a96.5-inch wheelbase and 163.9-inch length.

And the beauty is that you can play with it while getting 26 miles per gallon city/34 m.p.g. highway with the 5-speed. Knock off 2 m.p.g. from each rating with optional ($745) automatic.

There are a few drawbacks, however. One is interior room. Up front, there`s no problem. Despite the small exterior dimensions, the interior is saucer shaped. There`s excellent leg, head and arm room.

The dash is large and curved, and you sit a good distance from it. That styling gimmick adds to the impression of roominess as well as safety because you feel far removed from any point of impact.

The back seat, however, is a disappointment. The seat is rock hard, head room is nonexistent. Best you should push the button and fold the rear seat back down and use the area as cargo space for groceries or luggage.

Base price is $11,650, a couple of thousand less than Miata. Our test car added color-keyed floor mats f or $30, air conditioning for $690 and electronically tuned AM/FM stereo with cassette and digital clock for $140. The sticker came to $12,510 to which you add a $315 freight charge.

With automatic you`d be only a shade more for a sporty car that sips gas. Standard equipment includes power brakes and steering; rear window defogger and wiper; 14-inch, steel-belted, radial tires; Scotchgard protection for the fabric seats; and a driver`s side air bag. The GSi decor package includes plastic rocker extensions, deck lid spoiler, alloy wheels and fog lamps.

The Geo Storm is a wise choice for youth and newly marrieds who want above average performance and high mileage at the same time in a good looking package.

First review: 12/03/89
Do you love the Mazda Miata but can`t stomach paying $20,000 or more in extortion for the $13,800 two-seater roadster?

Then get yourself over to a Chevy dealer and check out the GEO Storm.

That`s Storm as in ``Catch the automotive world by . . . ``

Chevrolet used to import the Spectrum sedan from Isuzu of Japan. For the 1990 model year, it has turned to the Storm sports coupe instead. Wise move. Heck of a fun car.

Though the front-wheel-drive Storm is a 2-plus-2 hardtop coupe and the rear-wheel-drive Miata is a two-seater convertible roadster available with an optional removable hardtop, Miata was the car that came to mind when first we saw and drove the Storm.

We also were reminded of Miata because not since we drove that car last summer did we have as much gawking and finger pointing from fellow motorists as when we spent time in the Storm.

Storm is long on looks from its sloping, rounded and grilleless hood and body colored wraparound bumper up front to its slightly raised hatch lid, wraparound body colored bumper and wraparound taillights.

The only objection to the sheet metal may come from those who don`t like the recessed door handles that could snag a nail or catch a large ring.

Storm is built on a 96.5-inch wheelbase and is 163.4 inches long, which compares with an 89.2-inch wheelbase and 155.4-inch length on the Miata.

Storm is bigger and roomier, almost cavernous versus a Miata. Yet, as with Miata, you need physical dexterity to bend over and slide into the low- slung Storm.

Entry and exit would be easier if the steering wheel had the tilt feature to raise it up. But the wheel houses an air bag and Isuzu opted not to add the sophisticated hardware needed to allow tilt with an air bag, the way Toyota did with its much more expensive Lexus or Nissan with its high-cost Infiniti. One distinct advantage for the Storm driver is the curve of the armrest into the door as opposed to the outward curve of that armrest on the Miata, which bangs against the driver`s leg and makes for uncomfortable long-distance travel.

Miata is powered by a 1.6-liter, fuel-injected, 16-valve, 4-cylinder engine that develops 116 horsepower, most of it after you`ve reached cruising speed. The Storm is powered by a 1.6-liter, fuel-injected, 12-valve, 4 that develops 95 h.p. A 130 h.p. 16-valve version of that engine is offered in the top-of-the-line Storm GSi.

As in Miata, the Storm`s 1.6-liter 4 is no screamer. You move quickly from the light and dart from lane to lane with no effort, but you realize after a short while that the sports car groan coming from the engine is sound effects to make you think you`ve redlined on the tach.

Once, we looked down at the speedometer when moving from second into third gear for evidence of how gutsy this little 4 was only to find we were well below the limit on the city street.

Still, the engine sounds good, the steering responds well to any command and the suspension hugs the road with just about the same glue-holding ability as the Miata.

Storm is fun, a good looking toy you take out to play.

The car we drove was equipped with the standard 5-speed manual transmission, a smooth unit that requires only fingertip effort first through fifth, with no balkiness or hesitation. A 3-speed automatic is a $545 option. No automatic with Miata, but one is planned after the first of the year.

With the 5-speed, Storm has an EPA rating of 31 miles per gallon city/36 highway. With automatic the rating is 24/32. The Miata is EPA rated at 25/30 with 5-speed.

When it comes to interior room, Storm easily tops Miata, though the rear seat in the Storm feels like a block of granite. Seat belt holders sticking up don`t add to passenger comfort. And there is no head room for adults from the slant of the glass hatchlid.

At least you can hold some luggage and groceries in the hatchback Storm, but only a sack lunch in Miata. And Storm`s rear seats fold to add to carrying capacity.

Storm`s base price is $10,390, about $3,000 ess than a Miata. Standard equipment in the Storm includes power brakes and steering, bucket seats, Scotchgard fabric treatment and steel-belted radial blackwall tires. With only color keyed floor mats for $30, air conditioning for $690 and AM-FM stereo with cassette and digital clock for $140, the test car stickered at $11,250, or about $2,000 less than the Miata`s base. But the car wasn`t spartan or stripped. It didn`t lack for looks or conveniences.

If Miata prices are going to come down it will take greater availability and strong competition. Storm is strong competition and a more than reasonable alternative to Miata, especially when you consider we had so much fun in the base Storm and have to wait to get our hands on the sportier GSi. And keep in mind Storm adds a convertible and station wagon to the lineup next year.

>> 1990 GEO Storm Wheelbase: 96.5 inches Length: 163.4 inches Engine: 1.6 liter, 95 h.p., four cylinder Transmission: 5-speed manual; 3-speed automatic optional Fuel economy: 31/36 m.p.g. manual; 24/32 automatic Base price: $10,390 Strong point: Style, performance, price versus Miata Weak point: Needs tilt wheel, rear seat stiffness/headroom >>


    Expert Reviews 1 of 2

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