Overview & Reviews
Born in the early '80s, the Chevrolet Cavalier was General Motor's attempt to regain market share that had been lost to Japanese manufacturers who had been the first to recognize the public's need for compact, more fuel-efficient transportation. Though inferior to its competition in most respects, the Cavalier proved to be a hit with consumers, emerging as a consistent sales leader for Chevrolet.
The Cavalier's success was built in large part on the value it offered, though updates were few and far between. The Cavalier was on the market from 1982-2005, and in those 24 years, there were only two generations. Still, despite the fact that many models were built on aged platforms relative to the competition, the Chevrolet Cavalier enjoyed popularity, largely because of its irresistibly low price.
One significant factor to consider when deciding whether a Cavalier is right for you is safety. Throughout its life cycle, the Cavalier has received poor to lukewarm crash test scores. Another is overall quality. Cavaliers have suffered from build quality issues; subpar materials quality and outdated design were also problems, particularly with later models.
Resale value has been low for Cavaliers, making them an extremely affordable option. Still, in light of its shortcomings, we'd recommend that those shopping in this category consider other alternatives, such as later-model Korean imports.
Most Recent Chevrolet Cavalier
The Chevrolet Cavalier's second and most recent generation was built from model-year 1995-2005. Cavaliers built in 1995-2000 were available as sedans, coupes and convertibles, but as of 2001, drop-top versions of this Chevy were dropped from the lineup.
Trim levels varied over this generation's 10-year run. Chevrolet offered base, LS and Z24 trims for the majority of the time but later changed the lineup to just base, LS and LS Sport. The standard features list on base-model Cavaliers included little more than air-conditioning and an AM/FM stereo.
When the second-generation Chevy Cavalier was first unveiled, buyers had a choice of two engines. Base models were motivated by a 2.2-liter, 120-horsepower four-cylinder. Those seeking more power could choose a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine ("Quad4") good for 150 hp. After just one year, the 2.3-liter was replaced with an updated 2.4-liter version that also made 150 hp.
A new 2.2-liter, DOHC, 16-valve, "Ecotec" four-cylinder engine appeared in the Cavalier for the first time during the 2002 model year. While base Cavaliers continued with the ancient OHV 2.2-liter four and the Z24 still had the 2.4-liter unit, the 140-hp Ecotec was a clear improvement over any previous Cavalier power plant in terms of overall drivability and refinement. The 2.4-liter engine was dropped in 2003.
Although there weren't any redesigns in the final 10 years of the Cavalier's life, the model did see some upgrades. In 1999, the 2.4-liter engine was refined to improve reliability, emissions and fuel economy. And in 2000, the car was given a smoother-shifting manual transmission; its antilock brake system was also improved, and it saw exterior revisions like new body-colored front and rear fascias and new headlights and taillights. The car's exterior was updated once again in 2003, and XM Satellite Radio became available as an option. Audiophiles should know that in 2004, the base-model Cavalier was given an improved stereo, with CD and MP3 playback capability.
One unfortunate Cavalier hallmark is its dated interior. Build quality is subpar and materials quality leaves a lot to be desired. Seats also miss the mark when it comes to comfort. On the plus side, though, later models are available with both OnStar and XM Satellite Radio.
In editorial reviews, the Chevrolet Cavalier was praised for offering acceptable handling and power, and a reasonably compliant ride. Cons included a dated platform and poor crash test scores. In consumer reviews, the car was praised for its fuel economy but panned for its dull interior styling.
Past Chevrolet Cavaliers
The first-generation Chevy Cavalier existed from 1982-'94. Standard features amounted to little more than an AM/FM audio system. A Cavalier wagon was available, in addition to the coupe, sedan and convertible. (The wagon was dropped with the second generation.) There was also the sporty Z24 variant, which debuted in 1986 and offered a spunky V6, a firmer suspension, alloy wheels and obligatory tape graphics.
With such a long spell between redesigns, Cavaliers built in the '90s offered a positively ancient platform compared to the competition. The model did see some tweaks over the years, though. In 1991, the Cavalier received sheet metal revisions. The following year, ABS joined the standard features list, and base engines saw hp increase by 15 to 110. In 1994, base engines saw another horsepower boost, up 10 hp to 120. Air-conditioning, a sunroof and a CD player were all available as options.
Again, resale values on these Chevys are low. Other than bargain-basement prices, though, these older Cavaliers have little to offer.
User Reviews:Showing 1 through 10 of 1,307.00
Worst investment i ever made - 2002 Chevrolet Cavalier
By amy - May 3 - 5:32 pm
this car is nothing but a money pit. it was a 2002 with 52,000 miles on it. cost me 5000 dollars. it was year 2006 when I bought it, and every single year that I had it it had problems. thermostat, the fan, the radiator, the fan that cools of the engine was broke it was ALWAYS overheating. Brakes went bad. transmission issues. you name the issue I had it with this car. I took very good care of my car but the car definitely wasnt taking care of me at all, it didnt return the favor. finally after the hose started leaking, and the head gasket was cracked I had had enough. in 2013 I sold the POS and have no regrets. I only got 950 for it but better then nothing. From the time I got this car in 2006 to the time I sold it in 2013 I spent more then 10,000 dollars to fix this car keep in mind I only paid 5000 for it. the only reason I kept it so long was because I couldnt afford a new car. After I sold it I got a Malibu. Never had a problem with that car. Cavaliers are bad news and the biggest crap machine ever. I put twice the amount of money I paid for the car to fix the car! not worth it. everytime a picture pops up showing the car I get mad cause it takes me back down to memory lane. From now on its only gonna be civics, corollas, Camrys, and malibus.
Nobody loves their cavalier like me - 2001 Chevrolet Cavalier
By Layla - January 7 - 11:07 am
My grandfather bought this car back in like 2006. I dont know how many miles it had when my grandpa purchased the car for $3,000 but I have had the car for a year and a half and when I got it it had 188,000 miles on it and now has 206,000 miles on it. I love this car. I remember taking it all over the place when I was younger. I have never had any problems with this car whatsoever. No repairs other than a new muffler and exhaust pipe needing replaced. My car always starts and always gets me where I need to go. No problems ever except my headlights suck but that was caused by a collision with a deer. Great gas mileage. I love this car. Its about time for me to get another car since this one is getting so old and so many miles on it but Im having trouble with the thought of parting with my cavalier. My grandpa always had cavaliers and if you take care of them I swear they can go forever. We know a man down the road that has 300,000 miles on his! My cavalier is 3 different colors and has carpeted seats, I never thought I would love it this much but I do. GREAT VALUE I LOVE THIS CAR
05 cav - 2005 Chevrolet Cavalier
By Bob - January 2 - 3:27 pm
Its a good reliable car!
Awesome little Car - 1995 Chevrolet Cavalier
By Manuel - December 15 - 10:43 pm
For being a 95 coupe its all expected of a small vehicle. Sure their might be others that perform better but for what you pay for is what you get. I paid $800.00 for mine. 136000 miles. YES it is used. In the short time that I owned it. Never game me any problems except for miner wear n tare. Like tires,brakes,antiflush,oil change, smog. Expect gas mileage to be a plus with this car. You need to keep up with all maintenance on any type of vehicle. Thats how they last. If youre just going to gas n go. Well looks like youll be come a member of the foot patrol. Dont mock this vehicle its very reliable. (I was involved in an accident while I was driving to work in this vehicle. Young girl (17yrs) turned left on a RED light. SMASHED/CRUNCHED/Head on Collision. air bags deployed,I walked away. Like I said RELIABLE. Gonna miss HER
2000 Cavalier Z24 - 2000 Chevrolet Cavalier
By Bob - December 12 - 7:51 pm
This is my 4th Cavalier and 2nd Z24 the 2.4 Quad 4 is quite lively and great on gas I have been averaging 31.4 combined driving city and hi way. This car goes 75 to 80 mph on the freeway with no effort and maintains 33.8 mpg,I have been reading the complaints about the interior quality.The car isnt an Impala or a Tahoe as far as the interior noise level I find it better than average for a car in its class. I bought this car with 149000 miles it is now at 166000 I have done nothing to it but normal wear idems and repairs from former owner neglect.Parts are easy to find new or used and dont break the bank I have also owned its counterpart Sunbird/Sunfire .I highly recommend as a great 1st car or second car/ commuter .
Fix or Repair Daily Chevrolet - 1991 Chevrolet Cavalier
By david augenstene - November 1 - 1:19 am
I bought this car in 1999 with 55000 miles on it. And I kept it for 10 years. This vehicle had the 3.1 V6 and it was quick. It had constant little nagging repair issues. I replaced the gas tank twice (I did drive it in the snow.) The controls were more suited for females, too compact especially on the left side. The tilt wheel broke, the seats had problems. I had a transmission problem that caused it to stall all the time. The ignition module failed within a couple months of buying it. I got rear-ended in it in a chain reaction crash and that had a delayed reaction of the tilt wheel breaking and the seat mounts failing and probably at the end the seat control failing within the next five years. While I was looking to trade it in sometime drilled it with grocery cart and took out a rear light. If you see an RS V6 for sale like a restored or well kept convertible, it would be a nice ride with good gas mileage. It got as good gas mileage as many four bangers Ive owned ( in the range of 22-24mpg in mixed city/highway driving) plus it was fast, a nice sound to that 3.1 winding out.
so - 2005 Chevrolet Cavalier
By Dean - October 26 - 11:12 pm
only had it a few days. i really like it. looks good, comfortable, runs great so far, I hope its going to be a good car for a while.
Great little car - 2000 Chevrolet Cavalier
By Roger sharp - August 23 - 11:38 pm
I purchased this cavalier convertible 6 months ago They rod bearing went out 2 months ago every body told me to replace them engine 2.4 oh dual cam But being a stubborn old man (80 years )old can do that myself it is then most complicated car I have ever worked on
Surprisingly Roomy for a 61", 400 pounder - 2000 Chevrolet Cavalier
By Tall Girl - August 18 - 3:40 pm
I bought mine brand new in 2000. It is bright red with tan cloth interior. It is the base car with no power anything except brakes & steering. Exactly what I wanted! 3 speed automatic transmission and a 2.2L 4 cyl engine. Plenty of pep when it was new, a cold a/c, a hot heater, and no blind spots to speak of. I was in love with my car. For the first 10 years the only thing I did to it besides oil changes was a few recalls under warranty, and new brake pads/shoes. At 11 years I bought new tires, a battery, and had a tune up done. At 12 years the a/c compressor had to be replaced and it cost $600 at a mechanics shop, then little things here and there. The rear defrost went out at 127,000 miles - but I live in Alabama, so I never replaced it. At 140,000 miles I had my original serpentine belt and hoses replaced and an inline fuel filter put on. It has never run hot, and I have never let it get below 1/4 of a tank. It doesnt use or leak oil, it shifts like it has a shift kit in it and has since brand new. 15 years later, it still runs like a top.
Push it off a cliff - 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier
By Ian - August 16 - 9:43 pm
This is a long review. What I mention can be very important to anyone who is serious about buying this car. Skip to the end if you want my recommendations. In 2010, I bought a base model 2dr Cavalier with a manual transmission for around $4500 with around 104k miles on it. I look back now and I can tell you that it was NOT worth that, even if KBB said so. If Im lucky I could sell this to a dealer for $600. In five years I have put around 41k miles on it and I have grown to loathe it. Good things: its a mode of fairly reliable transportation, heating and A/C still work, road noise isnt too terrible. Bad things currently: rocker panels are rusting badly behind the doors, intermittent wiper mode doesnt work properly (wipers get stuck mid-cycle), suspension, front seats, back seats (anyone taller than 5 9" should NOT sit in the back), seat belt harnesses are uncomfortable in front seats, trunk lid latch (occasionally when going to use the key to unlock the trunk, the key wont be able to open it because the socket for the latch will twist when turning the key and will not allow the latch to release). Bad things in the past: air vent control (Under the right conditions, if you force the air vent control knob, it will bend the cable that it uses to switch between airflow directions. After this, it is stuck in one airflow direction and cannot be changed. The dash has to be removed and a new cable has to be installed.), timing chain (This one worried me. It has been reported in forums that, after 100k miles, the timing chain starts to not get enough oil and the chain breaks causing engine damage. Id like to say I had my chain and other components replaced at around 128k miles.) Driving this car is dreadful. The suspension is soft and corners like a barge. The brakes are there and they get the job done. Acceleration is what you can expect from 2.2L 4cyl. Steering is quite floppy. There is a long throw in gear changes but it shifts smoothly nonetheless. Looking at this car is not much better. I realized later that what I should have had was a hatchback or at least a 4dr vehicle. This car is NOT practical. Yes, you could get yourself a 4dr Cavalier but they look even worse than the 2dr versions. Recommendations: 1. Use it for a winter beater. 2. If you travel less than 5 miles to work every day and you dont plan on ever driving more than that in one trip, you should be fine. 3. DONT BUY THIS CAR! If youre looking for a compact Chevy that isnt built in Korea, look into a 4dr Cobalt. Theyre more practical than the 2dr, they look way better than a 4dr Cavalier, and they arent terribly expensive. Do your research and pick a car that fits you. I clearly made the wrong choice.