Mechanically, the Alero was a pretty darned good car on the whole. Even the early Ecotecs were good motors, and the 4T automatics were certainly acceptable. They are fairly comfy and roomy inside, nice to drive, and they certainly seem durable. I looked at them extensively while shopping for someone else, and a good friend of mine has an '04 or '05 Grand Am she bought new that has served her very well.
What turned me off of them was HORRIBLE safety. I was actually surprised to see such poor performance so late in the game. They did acceptably on frontal impacts, but side impacts were awful. The IIHS gave the Grand Am/Alero a Marginal for structure and a Poor for restaints/kinematics for an overall evaluation of Poor. I couldn't handle knowingly putting someone else in a car like that (thought I happily drive a death-trap Ford Falcon!).
FWIW, I ended up getting my friend a PT Cruiser, which is similarly reliable (for the most part) but has very good safety ratings.
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