Rare Hot Hatch! 1991 Geo Prizm GSi

No market outside North America received a Toyota (or in this case, a Geo) in this body style with this engine. Only the car-crazed Americans got to play with a E100 Toyota Corolla sedan (re-badged by General Motors as a Geo) with the twin-cam 4A-GE inline four-cylinder from the coupe-bodied Corolla GTS. This particular 1991 Geo Prizm GSi Hatchback in Agoura Hills, California is one of a claimed 237 built. If the flowing praise in the listing here on eBay isn’t enough, further testimony of the owner’s love for this sunburned and well-worn Geo becomes more evident on the Internet. A web search for “1991 Geo Prizm GSi Hatchback” turns up more documentation of this specimen than any other content or reference regarding the interesting sport sedan. Despite the enthusiasm, tepid bidding has barely eclipsed $1500 for this 181,000 mile rarity.

Interestingly I was in the target market for this car in model year 1991. In those pre-WWW days every mall (remember those?) had a book store (remember those?) where you could purchase little books listing all the new cars and their specifications including the cost of options like $8 for an engine block heater. After reading the book cover-to-cover I considered and / or drove manual transmission versions of the Mercury Tracer LTS, Dodge Shadow ES V6, Pontiac Sunbird LE V6, and others. Ultimately we bought the “Car for Bob,” a 1991 Nissan Sentra SE-R (great car!), but I don’t recall this nifty Prizm GSi gracing the pages of that book. Regardless, you can expect any Geo to be priced below the comparable Toyota, and you’re getting the same legendary longevity and reliability. That crunched door suggests an inopportune meeting with a sturdy post.

At 130 HP, the 1.6L 4A-GE nearly matched output of contemporary corporate V6 engines that nearly all made 140 HP in those days, including the Sunbird’s 3.1 liter mill! Drive this Prizm modestly and your gas mileage will shame most of the cars I mentioned above. After all the digital exposure lavished upon this 1 of 293 masterpiece, we might have expected a more spotless and shiny preparation of the engine compartment, but this “as found” treatment is better than the Krylon tune-up that some cars get when low-budget dealers randomly wave rattle-cans around the engine compartment for false freshness. If this car has leaks, you’ll see them outright.

The typical ’90s gray cloth interior may be the best part of the car, and after all that’s what you see while driving. Without the five-speed this car wouldn’t catch a second-glance by anyone except by those with unfortunate leg injuries. Don’t forget that 1991 cars were mandated to include either air bags or automatic seat-belts for your safety. Nearly everyone who owned a car with automatic belts can relate some horror story of the belts grabbing, breaking, or knocking things like giant alcoholic beverages or birthday cakes to the ground. Attempting to hide driver seat wear with shady photography smacks of dishonesty, especially considering the nice quality of most of the images. Still, in the sub-$2000 range, you could do worse for a simple car with some pep that’s easy on gas. What’s your favorite “Hot Hatch?”

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Comments

  1. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    That is one sweet, rare ride. Nice find, Todd! $1,400 in shipping to get it back to our garage is a buzzkill but maybe it would make the drive, on two-lane roads the whole way.

    Like 5
    • Todd Fitch Staff

      Thanks, Scotty. My only “hot hatch” was an ’84 Dodge Colt GTS Turbo, bought “as is” and not running for $700 and put back on the road with a $35 timing belt. That thing was a hoot and very communicative with manual brakes and steering. Coast-to-coast on two-lanes this GSi could be tons of fun, though I’d probably prefer a Datsun 510 when it comes to one-ton four-cylinder sedans. Of course a ’72 BMW 2002 tii would be swell too.

      Like 2
      • Miguel

        This car was purchased in Utah and driven back to California.

        It has had some down time, but I think it runs OK now.

  2. angliagt angliagt Member

    If you could get this for $2000 (or less),it’d be a decent deal.
    Those GEOs/Corollas were some of the most reliable cars
    ever made.I’d have one as a daily driver.
    Even though they’re the same car,the GEOs seem to
    be looked down on by people.

    • SubGothius

      Probably guilt by association with lesser Geo models built by other mfrs., whereas the Prizm (like its ’80s Chevy Nova predecessor) was built right alongside its Corolla twin at the NUMMI plant in Fremont, CA (now retrofitted as the Tesla factory!).

      Like 1
  3. Miguel

    I know this car.

    I have watched all the videos on it.

    Like 2
  4. SubGothius

    Minor correction: These first-gen Prizms were on the E90 Corolla platform, using the Sprinter bodystyle; the next-gen Prizm were the E100s. We also got that sweet 4A-GE DOHC engine a generation earlier, albeit with 20 HP less, in the E80 Corolla Sprinter-based Chevy Nova Twin-Cam

  5. brettucks

    This car has a 71% no deal rating at $2500 on jalopnik…

    Like 2
    • Miguel

      brett, what does this mean?

  6. djkenny

    Just under $ 2000 running well would be worth if. Toyota made good cars this era. I prefer the earlier Nova Twin Cam, but the extra horses are nice to have In the early 90’s model Prism GSI. Its an old car with some miles so it will need your typical repairs and maintenance.

    The Sentra SE-R was my second choice when I bought my 92 GTI 16v. Still loving my GTI. So simple and communicative.

  7. connbackroads

    I bought a 91 bright red 4-door corolla 3 years ago from its original owner (little old lady with a walker), and it only had 66k miles on it. After cleaning her garage door frame paint off all 4 corners, I (and my wife) put another 25 k miles on it before my wife spun it on black ice and used a tree to stop it.

    It was a great little car, and I enjoyed driving it to NC and back to CT. It has the 4AFE, not the 4AGE, but it still had plenty of power in the mountains with the A/C blasting.

    It still sits in my yard, because I can’t bear to crush it . . . I’ve been trying to find another one where somebody trashed the interior, blew the engine or tranny, or left it sitting in a barn.

    CA is too far away for me, but I highly recommend this car for somebody who is looking for a dependable commuter vehicle.

    Like 1
  8. Howard A Member

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5EFS6WmxQQ
    Clearly mocking the 3 cylinder jobs. Farm I lived on N.Wis. the guy had a couple 3 cylinders. Neddy was right, they were gutless things, but this guy had 250K on one, and still ran okay, except the rear suspension rusted, deeming the car unrepairable. I don’t think he EVER got gas for it,,,kidding, but I think next to the VW diesel, this was the mileage champ of all time. Another one for the “parts nightmare” dept.

    Like 1

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