The GEO Storm GSi is one of those cars that just blows you away.

It handles. It's reasonably fast. It's a good looker. It's comfortable. It's put together right. It's loaded with all the goodies that you expect in a sporty car.

And more importantly, it carries a price that won't send your banker into convulsions.

The GEO Storm, introduced last year and sold at select Chevrolet dealers, is a small front-wheel-drive two-plus-two coupe competing against such vehicles as the Toyota MR2, the Mitsubishi Eclipse, the Honda CRX, and the Ford Probe. The high-performance version of the Storm is called the GSi. The base model is the 2+2.

Some might say the comparison isn't fair, but no matter what options you stuff into an MR2, Eclipse, CRX or Probe, you still basically have the same type of car. If you are looking for a two-plus-two sports car, consider this: You can drop nearly $30,000 on a loaded Toyota MR2, spend about $20,000 for a top of line Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX, spend about $16,000 for dolled up Honda CRX and even more for Ford Probe.

March down to your local Chevy dealer, go for the top of the line 130 horsepower GSi model, load it with every available option, and you should be able drive out of the Chevy dealership for about $13,000, once you knock off the $800 rebate from the price.

While it's true the Eclipse and MR2 are faster than the Storm and offer such things as turbo chargers or all wheel drive, the GEO is no slouch. The dynamo driving the front wheels can propel the Storm from 0-60 mph in about 9.6 seconds.

The 1.6-liter, 16-valve, double-overhead cam, four-cylinder engine is very smooth, and it pulls strongly throughout the entire trip up to the 7,700 rpm or so redline on the tachometer. Perhaps the nicest feature of the Storm is that you can thrash it about town all day with a lead foot and still get about 28 miles per gallon. I did.

The test car featured a four-speed automatic transmission. Thoughdie-hard sports car enthusiasts might object to an automatic transmission in a car like the GEO Storm GSi, I found it an excellent alternative that did not take away from the car's performance.

The automatic will appeal to drivers who don't like the hassle of dealing with a manual transmission in heavy traffic.

The five speed, though, probably would allow the Storm to accelerate quicker from a standstill, but once underway, the car's automatic gearbox shifts effortlessly.

Thanks to the superb engine, downshifts under hard acceleration with the automatic transmission give the Storm much versatility. The engine never strains, and because the car is so light, (2,282 pounds) the GSi really hustles well in the 40 mph to 65 mph range - and beyond. The base model is available with a three-speed automatic and a detuned version of the 1.6 liter.

The GSi's handling takes a little getting used to. It has bundles of oversteer. Hit the brakes on a curve and you can feel t he rear wheels break loose. However, once you get used to the car, and find out how far you can push it, you can turn this into an advantage and have even more fun with the GSi.

A few words about safety: Not many small cars come with air bags, but all models of the Storm come with a driver's side air bag. The seat belts are easy to use and fit snugly. Forward and side visibility is excellent.

One interesting thing about the GSi is the curved rear window. I like the fact that it has its own wiper, but the curvature of the glass distorts the rear view.

Looking at the GSi you might think you'll have to sacrifice a roomy interior for the fun of owning a sports coupe. Well, that's partially true. Up front, there's excellent leg and headroom and a cavernous rear area for cargo.

The first thing you should do after buying the GSi, is fold down the rear seats, and forget they are there. Convince yourself that this car is a two seater, and you'll have no problems.

The rear seats are not suitable for anything but grocery bags. They are there, one presumes, for insurance purposes only. That is, insurance companies tend to go easier on cars with four seats than they do with two-seaters. Only small children can fit back there, and they would not be comfortable for any extended time.

The only thing that could stand improvement is the car's air-conditioning system. The one in the test car may have needed a minor adjustment. It was slow to cool the car after being off, and while waiting in traffic, it did not blow as cold. However, once the Storm was underway, the air conditioning was excellent.

The test car, painted red, garnered its share of attention. Several people approached me thinking it was some sort of high-priced exotic car, and they clearly were impressed to learn of the GSi's low admission price.

The GEO Storm GSi is built for Chevrolet by Isuzu. It is generously equipped, economical to buy and drive, and fun to own. Thanks to Chevy, you can now have a whole lot of fun for just a little bit of money.