This is a long review. What I mention can be very important to anyone who is serious about buying this car. Skip to the end if you want my recommendations.
In 2010, I bought a base model 2dr Cavalier with a manual transmission for around $4500 with around 104k miles on it. I look back now and I can tell you that it was NOT worth that, even if KBB said so. If I'm lucky I could sell this to a dealer for $600. In five years I have put around 41k miles on it and I have grown to loathe it.
Good things: it's a mode of fairly reliable transportation, heating and A/C still work, road noise isn't too terrible.
Bad things currently: rocker panels are rusting badly behind the doors, intermittent wiper mode doesn't work properly (wipers get stuck mid-cycle), suspension, front seats, back seats (anyone taller than 5' 9" should NOT sit in the back), seat belt harnesses are uncomfortable in front seats, trunk lid latch (occasionally when going to use the key to unlock the trunk, the key won't be able to open it because the socket for the latch will twist when turning the key and will not allow the latch to release).
Bad things in the past: air vent control (Under the right conditions, if you force the air vent control knob, it will bend the cable that it uses to switch between airflow directions. After this, it is stuck in one airflow direction and cannot be changed. The dash has to be removed and a new cable has to be installed.), timing chain (This one worried me. It has been reported in forums that, after 100k miles, the timing chain starts to not get enough oil and the chain breaks causing engine damage. I'd like to say I had my chain and other components replaced at around 128k miles.)
Driving this car is dreadful. The suspension is soft and corners like a barge. The brakes are there and they get the job done. Acceleration is what you can expect from 2.2L 4cyl. Steering is quite floppy. There is a long throw in gear changes but it shifts smoothly nonetheless.
Looking at this car is not much better. I realized later that what I should have had was a hatchback or at least a 4dr vehicle. This car is NOT practical. Yes, you could get yourself a 4dr Cavalier but they look even worse than the 2dr versions.
1. Use it for a winter beater.
2. If you travel less than 5 miles to work every day and you don't plan on ever driving more than that in one trip, you should be fine.
3. DON'T BUY THIS CAR! If you're looking for a compact Chevy that isn't built in Korea, look into a 4dr Cobalt. They're more practical than the 2dr, they look way better than a 4dr Cavalier, and they aren't terribly expensive.
Do your research and pick a car that fits you. I clearly made the wrong choice.
Bought this car from a buy here-pay here lot with $160k miles for a ridiculous price. Been reliable so far, but has SOOO many little problems. When I first bought it, the instrument cluster would go haywire at at random times, which was later attributed to moisture in the electronics. The climate control has an annoying click on any setting but recirculate, and the knobs broke to boot. the shifter has a disconcerting grind in it going into fourth gear.
The interior is virtually destroyed, and the body isn't much better. okay, so now for the positives: it's been unwaveringly reliable for the past 6 months! The only expense I've had has been tires. All in all, a solid driver.
Thrifty 4 cylinder engine, easy to park, tight handling.
I bought my cavy when it had around 135,000 miles on it. It's just now gotten to 218,000 after five years of owning it, and it's been exceptionally reliable. The only part to go bad on it was the fuel pump, I have not had to buy any other parts for it. Other than the standard oil change and brake service, new tires, and normal maintenance, I haven't had to put any money in to it. And I used to abuse the crap out of it when I was younger. Well worth the investment. I notice a lot of people posting about having all sorts of problems with theirs, but it's the absolute opposite for me. It's not the sportiest car, but it is reliable.
Purchased in 2/2013 with a mere 38K on it.
Had been garaged constantly and rarely driven in inclement weather.
Basically, it was nearly mint.
All in all, the car feels extremely cheap.
It does not feel or drive like a 2003 of any type, it feels much older.
It is a true budget mobile that offers no thrills or extras -- it's a wonder these ever sold at all up against the competitively priced Civic or Corolla.
My wife drives it as an errand runner -- and she runs a lot of errands.
It has so far proven it's dependability.
Even though it feels like I could karate chop most of the interior, I think I could drive it at least part way across the US without issue.
The remarkable way that something that feels like it could fall apart in your hands holds together so firmly.
Our car has had none of the problems this model year is famous for (faulty instrument cluster, fuel pump failure, temperature control failure) *knock on wood*.
Keep in mind we have the base model whose features like crank windows and manual mirrors leave little room for a "wow" factor.
It's dependable and likely on the inexpensive side to repair.
We have 2 toddlers we tote around.
For some reason when their carseats are strapped in, they will without fail fall sideways in the back seat.
This does not happen in my car or the car this one replaced.
Is it the quality of the seatbelts or the layout of the backseat in general?
When switching from regular vent to defrost, the dial has very obvious resistance.
I have heard a lot of complaints of snapped cables inside because of aggressive switching.
You have to be conscious and extremely easy on this control.
I have an 03 cavi with 130,000 miles. There are so many things wrong with it I'm not sure where to start.. I bought it used a year ago. The speedometer doesn't function at all, the whole dashboard doesn't function when it is hot outside. It burns through a quart of oil every week or so. Smokes out the muffler when I press on the gas after stopping, which is now held on to my car via tape. Cracked belt. Air only works when it wants to. I hate this car. There are so many things wrong with it & I can't even save up money to buy a new one because it needs so much maintenance.