I'm still driving my Cavalier and I have to say that it's not too bad considering the price. Obviously it's one of the more inexpensive cars out there, so expect what you pay for. The key phrase here is "preventative maintenance." As long as you get regular oil changes and check-ups, the Cavalier will hold up. Will say that it seems to run into problems on very wet days, especially when running through puddles. Not too enamored with the crash ratings but, again, you get what you pay for. Couple of expensive repairs but confident they are isolated incidents and don't affect the overall dependability of the Cavalier. Remember, it's a cheap car. Don't expect a Porsche out of it.
ABS brakes, CD player, manual crank windows (never again after a $400 power window repair on my previous car).
Sturdier frame, especially one that holds up well in a crash. Better resistance against water.