Used 1996 Chevrolet Cavalier Review

Edmunds expert review




What's new for 1996

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.

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.






Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.