2002 Chevrolet Cavalier

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2000 Chevrolet Cavalier

This 2000 review is representative of model years 1995 to 2005.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Rating: 4
Pros:
  • Equipment available
  • Styling spruced up a bit
Cons:
  • Old, noisy, up-level 4-cylinder
  • Old body and platform
  • Poor quality

The Chevrolet Cavalier is the top-selling car at General Motors Corp. While it can come decently outfitted, it's an old design with refreshed, rather than modern, styling, a crude ride in Z24 dress and an old, noisy up-level engine.

It's no surprise to me that sales of General Motors Corp.'s most popular auto—the Chevrolet Cavalier—are declining in 2000.

This small car, which is available as a sedan and coupe and formerly a convertible, is in need of a major update. This is especially true in light of a slew of new small-car competitors such as the Ford Focus, Toyota ECHO and a new-generation Honda Civic, due out in fall 2000.

Left behind
GM chose to put off the next revamp of the Cavalier and its sister car, the Pontiac Sunfire, in order to concentrate resources on the burgeoning—and much more profitable—truck and sport-utility market.

So, the Cavalier, which managed to get a very mild sprucing up for the 2000 model year, is left to take the consequences.

The 2000 model year changes include new body-color fascias on all models, new taillights, headlights and Chevy badging, richer-looking wheels, a spruced-up interior, new manual transmission, and revised anti-lock brakes.

On the top model, the Cavalier Z24 coupe, there's also a more prominent rear spoiler now.

Equipment list inclusive
The changes ever so slightly refresh this aging car, which hasn't undergone a major revamp since the 1995 model year but which continues to offer a decent amount of equipment in traditional sedan and coupe body styles.

For example, anti-lock brakes and air conditioning are standard on all Cavaliers, even the base model. They're both extras on the base 2000 ECHO.

The Cavalier also offers a moonroof, an option for the top-of-the-line Z24 coupe. Ford does not offer a factory moonroof in the 2000 Focus.

Top engine has the right numbers
The up-level 4-cylinder that was in the test Cavalier Z24 coupe compares favorably with the power plants in some other small, front-wheel-drive cars, in terms of performance numbers.

For instance, the Cavalier Z24's 2.4-liter 150-horsepower twin-cam engine puts out 155 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm compared with 111 lb-ft at 7000 rpm for the Civic Si.

Saturn's top coupe, the SC2, has a 1.9-liter 124-horsepower 4-cylinder with maximum 122 lb-ft of torque at 4800 rpm.

But the Cavalier's up-level engine has been around a while. Under the name Quad 4, it used to have more horsepower. Engine noise and vibration reportedly were ongoing issues, so the name was dropped and so were some horses.

Today's worked-over engine may be an improvement. But the sounds coming from under the hood of the Cavalier tester, even at idle, wouldn't qualify as melodic.

Note, though, that this up-level engine is quite a bit above the ho-hum, 2.2-liter 115-horsepower four that's in the base Cavaliers.

Moves right along
On the test car, I worked the 5-speed manual aggressively and spurred the get-up-and-go personality of this car. With determination—and noise—the Cavalier passed bigger, more powerful cars on the highway, even in higher elevations.

Chevy said among the changes to the 5-speed manual for 2000 was more precise shifting. There's still a notchy feel, however, as you move the gearshift lever.

The Cavalier Z24's fuel economy in city driving isn't as much as you might expect for a car this size. The model is rated at just 23 mpg in town, 33 mpg on the highway.

Z24 is sportier than others to drive
I was pleased to see the front-wheel-drive Z24 coupe held its line in fast curves and minimized some body sway. This model comes with a sport-tuned suspension that includes a larger front stabilizer bar, high-rate front and rear springs and sport-tuned shocks and struts.

All this can make the car ride crudely on some roads, though. For example, the Z24 coupe rode pleasantly on relatively smooth city streets. But even this coupe's nice-looking front bucket seats couldn't save my tailbone from feeling the brunt of a couple big hits as I drove over uneven highway pavement.

I also found that on highway concrete that was worn by tire chains up in the mountains, the Cavalier windshield vibrated so much, I could only get a clear view of cars behind me if I steadied the rearview mirror with my hand.

The test car's tires squealed a bit in the slalom. Note that the Z24 coupe is shod with pretty sizable tires for this car segment: 16-inch, steel-belted performance tires. Fifteen-inch tires are the factory equipment for Honda's Civic Si.

New small-car designs are roomier for riders
Inside, buyers get a decent amount of room in the Cavalier 2- and 4-door models, though passenger space doesn't match that of the Focus and ECHO sedans.

This disparity is especially noticeable in the back seat, where headroom and legroom in the Cavalier models are less than that found in the back seats in the Focus and ECHO sedans.

The Focus and ECHO, which are taller than the Cavalier in overall height, also offer more front-seat headroom. Neither of these newer competitors comes in a coupe body style.

If you compare the Cavalier coupes to the 2000 Civic coupes and 2001 Saturn coupes, however, you find the Cavalier has greater rear-seat headroom and legroom. The Cavalier has some two cubic feet more trunk space, too.

But remember, the Saturn coupes come standard with that nifty, hidden third door that helps ease access to the back seat.

Some interior updates
The Z24 Cavalier coupe tester had a sporty-looking interior. Black cloth seats had a youthful red accent pattern, and the plastic dashboard flowed pleasingly along the low cowl line.

There was a standard tachometer, and this year, Chevy moved the radio controls above the air conditioning and ventilation controls for easier reach. Lower down, in the center console, are three, good-sized cupholders.

Back seats feel thinly supportive, however. Both the one-piece seat cushion and one-piece seatback in the Cavalier Z24 test car were flat and without much contour.

There are no head restraints for back-seat riders in the Cavalier coupes, and the driver head restraint in the tester wasn't close to my head if I positioned the seatback for comfortable driving. I did appreciate the Cavalier's well-placed dead pedal, though.

The Cavalier's air conditioning worked superbly in the intense mid-summer heat, and the AM/FM/single CD stereo had good sound.

But a large plastic trim piece at the opening to the trunk of the test car didn't seem too durable. It flew off as I pulled my suitcase out of the trunk.

There also are exposed screw heads and bolts amidst the plastic trim inside the Cavalier cabin area.

In independent quality tests over the years, the Cavalier has not shown itself to be a stellar product.

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BB04 - 9/16/2014 3:14:00 PM