1997 Chevrolet Cavalier Review

Pros & Cons

  • Good looks, good value, standard anti-lock brakes, optional traction control
  • Buzzy standard 2.2-liter engine, cheap interior materials
List Price Estimate
$971 - $2,292

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Edmunds' Expert Review

Vehicle overview

For 15 years, the Cavalier has been a staple sales leader for Chevy dealers. Understandably so, because the Cavalier offers reasonable value and is priced low enough to compete favorably in the compact market, often undercutting smaller models from other manufacturers.

The second-generation Cavalier debuted in 1995, and not a moment too soon. A very good car, this recently designed Cavalier, offering adequate room for four adults, decent performance, and acceptable interior accommodations. Styling is attractive and contemporary, and there is a model to suit almost everyone's needs.

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 LS sedan and convertible is a 2.4-liter twin-cam engine hooked to a four-speed automatic transmission that features traction control (a five-speed manual gearbox is a credit option on the LS convertible). The Cavalier is a much more livable car with this engine, and we wish that Chevrolet offered this powertrain in base models as well. The twin-cam engine is standard in the sporty Z24 coupe. Manually shifted Z24s are as quick as the Neon Sport Coupe from rest to 60 mph.

Changes to this successful formula are minimal for 1997. A new trim level, dubbed Rally Sport, is available in coupe format. The RS includes Z24 bodyside moldings and spoiler with body-color fascias, special badging, and larger tires. According to press materials, a three-dimensional decal is slapped onto the rear quarter panels of the RS. Hmmm...who thought this was a good idea, Beavis?

Additional changes include new exterior paint colors, a new light gray interior color, and revised wheel covers on the base coupe. Coupes also receive safety belt guide loops. All Cavaliers get a new easy-open gas cap and side-impact protection that meets new government regulations. Order the Exterior Appearance Package on a base model, and get a body-color grille insert.

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

1997 Highlights

The Rally Sport (RS) trim is available for 1997 on the coupe and slotted between base and Z24 editions of the Cavalier. RS trim nets buyers the rear spoiler from the Z24, 15-inch tires, AM/FM stereo, tachometer, interior and exterior trim upgrades and a 3D rear-quarter panel decal. Base coupes have new wheel covers and safety belt guide loops. All 1997 Cavaliers meet federal side-impact standards for the first time. One new interior color and three new exterior colors freshen the lineup.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1997 Chevrolet Cavalier.

Trending topics in reviews

Most helpful consumer reviews

This car is satan itself
Time chain went $650 Fuel regulator $350 Radator $750 Head gaskets $800 (I only had the car 6 months and miles were just over the warranty in '99 - I have no speeding tickets either!) 4 recalls in the time I've owned the vechile. DON'T BUY THIS CAR YOU WILL GO BROKE FIXING IT!!!
I purchased this car right out of High School.I din't know what I was doing. This was all I could afford. The only smart thing I did was buy the extended warranty. If I hadn't I would of spent $3000 on fixing it. Gas mileage sucks. I had the rear main seal go, head cover gasket, leak in the fuel injectors, o2 sensor, alternator, oil pump, oil pump sensor, only thing that is still working great is the a/c and coolant system. I can't wait to finish paying it off in Aug 2003. This was my second cavalier and it had nothing but the constantly over heating. I'm talking, going to work and find your coolant broke inside your car, leaking everywhere.
97 cav
comfortable car nice looking but too frequently in the shop for many minor problems
Mechanical Junk
When you think of the so called horrible American car - this is it. Problem after problem after problem.

Features & Specs

22 city / 33 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
120 hp @ 5200 rpm
20 city / 30 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
150 hp @ 5600 rpm
22 city / 33 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
120 hp @ 5200 rpm
See all Used 1997 Chevrolet Cavalier features & specs


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver1 / 5
    Passenger2 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    RolloverNot Rated
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
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 1997 Chevrolet Cavalier

Used 1997 Chevrolet Cavalier Overview

The Used 1997 Chevrolet Cavalier is offered in the following submodels: Cavalier Sedan, Cavalier Coupe, Cavalier Convertible. Available styles include LS 2dr Convertible, RS 2dr Coupe, LS 4dr Sedan, Z24 2dr Coupe, 4dr Sedan, and 2dr Coupe.

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Which used 1997 Chevrolet Cavaliers are available in my area?

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Should I lease or buy a 1997 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.

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Check out Chevrolet Cavalier lease specials