Nothing really surprising about it. The EcoTec engine is much more powerful than the clunker they used to put in Cavaliers. The sheetmetal is paper thin and dents easily. I damaged my quarter panel and was able to repair it by removing it, stomping on it a few times with my sneakers and putting it back on. The metal is that thin! It has been pretty reliable so far without problems, but I'm nowhere near the 100K mile mark yet. Interior and road noise is higher than in the late 90's versions. Ride is choppier too due to the tighter suspension and the 14" wheels. Styling is nothing exceptional but it looks better than it used to. Ugly toilet flusher style interior door handles, ugh.
EcoTec engine, suspension is rather sporty for a 4 door. Plenty of room for a subcompact, Everything seems to work as advertised. Dash cluster is good, visibility is good.
Fit and finish needs work. Trim parts don't fit well. Rear seat dropdown uses a bizarre trunk only pull loop system. Sheetmetal is weak, easy to dent. My rear bumper had crazed/cracked paint on it. Lots of road noise. The only noisier car I've ever experienced is a 96 Kia Sephia in comparison.