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SEE ALSO:Chevrolet Buyer's Guide

Since it first appeared in 1981, the Cavalier has been the backbone of the Chevrolet line. Over the years the versatile model has been the starter car for many first-time buyers, and also has enjoyed a full life as a popular rental car in several national fleets. Sales of the first-generation Cavalier totaled over three million units. Fourteen years is quite a long life span for any car model, so for 1995 the Cavalier has almost completely redesigned.

Its new exterior styling is readily apparent, but many major changes lie beneath its skin. All Cavaliers feature increased wheelbase and wider track for increased interior room and better maneuverability. The chassis structure is stiffer and the suspension has been newly engineered for better ride and handling characteristics. To meet today's safety concerns dual front airbags and antilock brakes are standard equipment, even on the least expensive models.

Longevity and low maintenance have been given significant consideration. Platinum-tipped spark plugs only need replacing every 100,000 miles and the Dexron III automatic transmission fluid normally never needs changing. Corrosion-resistant two-sided galvanized steel is used for all body panels except the roof. Side rub strips and five-mile-per-hour bumpers protect against annoying minor impacts.

Driving in the Texas hill country and our home test area left these impressions:

APPEARANCE: The styling of the newest Cavalier four-door sedan is fresh, rounded and slightly wedge shaped. Its low-nose design allows the steeply raked windshield to be moved forward and the cabin size increased. The short, high rear deck covers a large, flat low lift-over trunk. The front bumper and grille are combined. The LS sedan is fitted with 15 inch BF Goodrich Touring tires mounted on steel wheels with bolt-on plastic wheel covers. Large break-away side mirrors, oval halogen headlights and sizable curved and tinted windows combine utility with style.

COMFORT: Even though the Cavalier is a low-priced family car, Chevrolet has given a lot of thought to comfort and convenience details. Some of the new features are a microprocessor-based instrument cluster, a single key for ignition, doors and deck lid, a "zoned" rear window defogger that clears the center area first, rear seat ducting for heater and air conditioner, a battery rundown protection system, "wet-arm" intermittent windshield wipers, low-oil-level indicator, and LEDs (light emitting diodes) that replace light bulbs for all warning lights. They contribute to safety, comfort, and lower maintenance. The manually-adjustable front bucket seats are supportive for long drives, while the rear bench seat folds down to provided added inside storage. There are many other thoughtful standard details and a wide variety of available options that can make the Cavalier LS as deluxe as many larger cars were just a few years ago.

SAFETY: The Cavalier chassis is made with reinforced safety cage construction and front and rear crumple zones. All Cavaliers are equipped with antilock brakes, dual front airbags, three-point outboard seat belts, an energy-absorbing steering column, and rear-door child security locks.

ROADABILITY: The suspension on the new Cavalier has been redesigned to provide improved road feel and ride characteristics. The new stiffer platform minimizes flex and allows the suspension to absorb bumps and keep the four wheels on the ground as much as possible. It also provides crisp steering. With power rack and pinion steering, antilock brakes and all-season touring tires I was always comfortable and felt in control while in the drivers seat whether in the Texas hill country or in hometown traffic. Good insulation and soundproofing ensures a quiet ride with little wind, engine or road noise when driving at highway speeds.

PERFORMANCE: The workhorse 2.2 liter four-cylinder engine has had a long tour of duty with the Cavalier and is adequate for its normal power requirements. A new induction system has been added to this overhead valve, pushrod, multiport fuel injected engine to ensure quieter operation while it delivers 120 horsepower and 130 pound feet of torque. The Hydra-matic 3T40 three-speed automatic transmission is standard on the LS sedan. While it isn't new it has withstood the test of time and is quite well suited to the demands of the 2.2 liter four-cylinder engine.

CONCLUSIONS: Chevrolet has significantly updated its popular Cavalier. The new Cavalier is a comprehensively-equipped, stylish modern small sedan.


           Base Price              $ 12,465
           Price As Tested         $ 14,542
           Engine Type             I-4, ohv - pushrod, mpfi
           Engine Size             2.2 liter/133 cid   
           Horsepower              120 @ 5200
           Torque (ft/lbs)         130 @ 4000
           Wheelbase/Length        104"/180"  
           Transmission            3-speed automatic
           Curb Weight             2740
           Pounds per Horsepower   23  
           Fuel Capacity           15
           Fuel Requirement        Unleaded regular  (87 octane)
           Tires                   BF Goodrich Touring T/A P195/65R15 all-season
           Brakes                  anti-lock standard  vented disc/drum
           Drive Train             front engine,  front drive
           EPA Economy - miles per gallon,        
             city/highway/observed          23/33/29.8  
           0 to 60 mph                      9.4
           1/4 mi (E.T.)                    17.1 sec           
           Coefficient of drag (cd)         .33