Last of Cavaliers still a good deal
By DON HAMMONDS
February 17, 2004
- The line for the last Chevrolet Cavaliers forms to your left. The popular - and popularly priced - car goes out of production at the end of the current model year, to be replaced by a new little Chevy called the Cobalt.
The current Cavalier is about as all-American a little car as you're likely to find in these parts, with a friendly, familiar style and ambience that we've known for years. Cavaliers that I've driven have always been quiet, comfortable cars with predictable handling, decent trunk room and plenty of standard amenities - though, admittedly, they are not quite up to the materials and quality standards of their European and Japanese competitors.
The Cobalt, on the other hand, has some European influences and is said to be entirely capable of competing with Europe and Japan's best.
What has always been a paradox for me is why car writers dislike the Cavalier so much and why owners love it. If both hated it, I could understand the reaction. I looked at three Web sites and could not find a negative comment among owners. No matter what the critics say - see their comments below - owners uniformly say they love the car and would buy another.
Something else you might want to bear in mind: When the Cobalt comes out, I'm told, Chevy will be moving somewhat upscale both with the price and the target market.
That's part of the reason, I'm told, that Chevy introduced the all-new Aveo - to give it some protection at the auto market's lowest end.
So if you want a bargain - and who doesn't? - this is a perfect time to head to your Chevy dealer and check out the 2004 Cavalier.
You'll see only slight styling changes. The rear has a gold bow-tie applique instead of the more familiar silver crossbar, and the new exterior colors include Rally Yellow and Sunburst Orange Metallic. An optional sport appearance package is available on Cavalier's base model.
Other changes include the availability of a smoker's package, an engine block heater and a new CD/MP3 radio. XM Satellite radio, by the way, is still offered as an option, too, bringing you 100 stations coast-to-coast.
Cavaliers are powered by a 2.2-liter "Ecotec" four-cylinder engine that produces 140 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission is standard equipment on all models, with a four-speed automatic transmission optional.
Fuel economy ratings are 24 miles per gallon for the city, 32 for the highway with an automatic transmission. Prices start at $10,700 for a Cavalier Coupe with a value package that includes a five-speed manual, AM-FM stereo and a CD player. The regular coupe starts at $14,715 and the sedan at $14,915.
Most car critics are pretty blunt in their descriptions of the Cavalier. Those who appear on Edmunds.com say they liked the 2004 Cavalier's "low price, torquey four-cylinder engine, optional satellite radio and OnStar." But they panned the car's "ancient design inside and out, cheap interior materials, poor build quality, low resale value, poor side impact and front offset crash test results."
Even so, they really liked that engine. "Unlike its less technologically challenged predecessors, the Ecotec four-cylinder is a thoroughly modern engine that provides ample power and a smooth delivery. It may not have quite the same kick as the old 2.4-liter, but it's significantly more refined and gets much better mileage." The critics also found the handling to be "acceptable for a car in this class, with reasonably good manners in corners and a compliant ride around town."
Note that the Pontiac Sunfire will continue past the Cobalt introduction, so it's not REALLY the last of the "Cavaliers".
Whether Pontiac will offer a low-priced "1SV" model of the Sunfire for 2005 remains to be seen...