1996 Chevrolet Cavalier Review


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List Price Estimate
$887 - $2,096

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Vehicle overview

For more than a decade, the Cavalier has been a staple sales leader for Chevy dealers. Understandably so, because the Cavalier offered reasonable value and was priced low enough to compete with many smaller, but more modern, automobiles. The undeniable fact of the matter, however, was that the Cavalier had been around for 14 years with only minor styling changes and few modifications.

Last year, an all-new Cavalier debuted, and we are duly impressed. The only shortcomings with the new car are the sluggish and loud base engine, the low seating positions, and the odd distortions evident in the lower corners of the windshield.

GM's venerable 2.2-liter four cylinder, whose droning exhaust note you are no doubt familiar with, is standard in the Cavalier. Equipped with this powerplant, the Cavalier lags behind its primary competition, the Dodge Neon, in power and acceleration. Optional in sedans and convertibles is a new 2.4-liter twin cam hooked to a four-speed automatic transmission that features traction control. The Cavalier is a much more livable car with this engine, and we wish that Chevrolet offered this powertrain in the base coupe as well.

The sporty Z24 coupe is available with the twin-cam engine, and in this application can be equipped with either automatic or manual transmission. Five-speed models are as quick as the Neon Sport Coupe from rest to 60 mph.

At just one year of age, Chevrolet is already taking steps to improve the Cavalier. The twin-cam engine replaces last year's 2.3-liter Quad 4, and the four-speed automatic's traction control system is new. Cavalier also receives new fabrics in base models, a PASSLock security system, optional remote keyless entry and new radios. Daytime running lights have been added, and base sedans can be gussied up with an Appearance Package consisting of body-color fascias and moldings, touring tires and bolt-on wheel covers. Two new paint colors are new for 1996, and long-life 100,000-mile coolant has been installed in all engines.

Overall, we think Chevy has a winner here. The styling is attractive and contemporary. The interior is comfortable and well laid-out. Antilock brakes are standard equipment. And, best of all, the price is dead on; low enough to make the four-door Geo Metro an exercise in redundancy. We think the Cavalier will be a big hit for Chevrolet, and recommend that you check it out if a compact car fits your needs.

1996 Highlights

The 2.3-liter Quad 4 is replaced after just one year by a 2.4-liter twin-cam engine. Four-speed automatic transmission includes traction control. Daytime running lights debut, remote keyless entry is optional on LS and Z24 and base models get new interior fabrics and an Appearance Package.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1996 Chevrolet Cavalier.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

bad choice,09/16/2004
This car is crappy. Not only is it ugly,it's crap!!! i hate my cavalier, i have spent 19,600 something, repairing it so far, yes, nearly 20 grand of repairs for this 15 grand car. WHYdo u ask,well i don't know, BUT CAVALIERS ARE THE WORST CARS EVER!!!!!!!!!!
Wicked car - Cavalier 1996
Kiprotich Arap-Ruto,11/14/2007
I looked at a number of cars before buying my Cavalier 1996. Its price was great and condition pretty good. It drives very well. I had to replace the gas tank (got a used one for a good price and free labor). Overall a very good car.
Bad Chevy
Bought this car still under factory warrenty. Immediately the lifters started knocking, interior rattled, muffler began making an obnoxious rattle. Right after Chevy sent a notice that the head gaskets were defective the engine blew up. Next engine has had nothing but problems - emissions and drivability. 2 dealers and 1 independant shop cannot figure it out.
I, like so many other Cavalier owners, have had too many problems with the car to find it enjoyable. To start with: the muffler rattles, the a/c only works on high, the glove box has traped my cd's inside of it, the driver's side mirror refuses to stay upright, it will not start if there is less than 1/4 tank of gas, the thing just eats oil like there is no tomorrow, and sometimes the car will turn off as I am backing up.

Features & Specs

See all Used 1996 Chevrolet Cavalier features & specs


IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 1996 Chevrolet Cavalier

Used 1996 Chevrolet Cavalier Overview

The Used 1996 Chevrolet Cavalier is offered in the following submodels: Cavalier Sedan, Cavalier Coupe, Cavalier Convertible. Available styles include LS 4dr Sedan, 2dr Coupe, Z24 2dr Coupe, LS 2dr Convertible, and 4dr Sedan.

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Which used 1996 Chevrolet Cavaliers are available in my area?

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Find a used Chevrolet Cavalier for sale - 12 great deals out of 12 listings starting at $12,204.

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Should I lease or buy a 1996 Chevrolet Cavalier?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Chevrolet lease specials
Check out Chevrolet Cavalier lease specials