SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 13,800 Price As Tested $ 15,630 Engine Type OHV 8-valve 2.2 Liter I4 w/SMFI* Engine Size 134 cid/2199 cc Horsepower 115 @ 5000 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 135 @ 3600 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 104.1"/68.7"/180.9" Transmission Four-speed automatic Curb Weight 2792 pounds Fuel Capacity 14.3 gallons Tires (F/R) P195/70R14 all-season Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/front-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Five-passenger/two-door Domestic Content N/A Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) N/A PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 23/31/27 0-60 MPH 11.5 seconds 1/4 (E.T.) 18.0 seconds @ 85.5 mph Top-speed 120 mph * Sequential multi-port fuel injection
(Auto "techies" should pass on reviewing the Chevrolet Cavalier Coupe, says Bob Hagin. Matt Hagin says that's OK since it's average buyer is young and prefers cost and conveniences over twin cams and turbos.)
MATT - The auto enthusiasts who thrive on high performance cars will look down their collective noses at a new vehicle as unexceptional and plebeian as the new Chevrolet Cavalier Coupe, but they're not members of the market niche Chevrolet has targeted for the car. The majority of the buyers are female, the age group is between 18 and 25 and the average income is around $50,000 per year, which means that although they're upscale enough to buy something more expensive, they're not strapping themselves to sky-high payments. And it may be indicative of "something" that only a quarter of the Cavalier buyers last year were married. It's the best-selling passenger car in the Chevy lineup and part of this success may be due to the fact that lots of the sedan versions go into fleet service.
BOB - Cars don't get much plainer that this Cavalier Coupe, Matt. Its engine is a 2.2-liter four-banger that puts out 115 horses and 135 pound/feet of torque. It's an archaic design with a single cam in the block that operates just two valves per cylinder via pushrods. But lacking overhead camshafts and the fiber belt that drives it is a plus in that it doesn't have to be replaced at 60-to-80 thousand miles like a timing belt does, and that's a money saver. Our test car takes almost 12 seconds to get to 60 MPH from a dead stop so it won't see much action at the local drag strip on "grudge-race" night. Ours came with an optional four-speed automatic transmission, so its performance would have been better if it had carried the standard five-speed manual. But the automatic is going to be the unit of choice among Cavalier Coupe buyers. The Cavalier is also available as a four-door sedan, but the coupe version offers more "sportiness" for the money.
MATT - The accouterments that come with the Cavalier Coupe are major selling items, too. It comes standard with a traction control system that transfers torque away from a tire that's spinning on the ice, snow or mud over to the one with the best traction. All Cavaliers have an anti-lock brake system, too, although the rear brakes are drum units and not my favorites. Air conditioning is standard on all Cavaliers, which also makes it an attractive buy. The optional 15-inch wheels are steel and the 195/65R tires hold on pretty good in the turns, but the MacPherson strut front suspension and twist-beam axle in back aren't tuned for performance. Our Cavalier Coupe is a commuter car that does well as an urban town-driver. The interior is pretty bland and the front bucket seats could use more bolstering, while the back seat isn't designed for cross-country but it folds for carrying long stuff like skis. .
BOB - I'm not much into fancy sound systems, so the standard AM/FM stereo system would have been fine for me. Our tester had an optional Preferred Equipment Group, which added a compact disc player and a number of other fancy items that raised the base price by about $1000. Alternative fuels like ethanol are back in the news but the Cavalier mileage-stretcher is kind of unique. It's called Bi-Fuel and it runs on compressed natural gas for the first 160 miles, then switches over to gasoline for the next 400. It's designed for fleet service for use around town but the gasoline alternative gives it enough range so that the driver won't get stranded in the middle of nowhere. It can be bought by retail buyers as well as fleets but I can't imagine that any of our Generation X buyers are going to go for this system.
MATT - The Cavalier is going on 20 years of service as a name, and while it's never been a spectacular vehicle, it's been plugging away in the compact car field and is in the top 10 in American passenger car sales. It's a way for young buyers to get into a reliable new vehicle.
BOB - How different kids are today, Matt. When I was that age all we were interested in was going fast and looking cool.