2002 Chevrolet Cavalier Review
Pros & Cons
- Affordably priced, new EcoTec four-cylinder engine, Z24 is a stylish and speedy low-buck sport coupe.
- You get what you pay for in terms of feature content, haphazard build quality, dreadfully uncomfortable seats.
Edmunds' Expert Review
Cavalier is entering its eighth year of production in its current guise. That means it was engineered a decade ago. We'll do the math for you: Buy something modern and leave this relic to the rental fleets unless the ultra-low sale price is too good to resist.
For two decades, the Cavalier has been a staple sales leader for Chevy dealers. Understandably so, since the Cavalier offers reasonable value and is priced low enough to compete favorably in the compact market, often undercutting smaller models from other manufacturers.
This year, the Cavalier lineup includes three new members, the LS Sport coupe, the LS Sport sedan and the Z24 sedan, for a total of eight Cavalier models. The LS Sport features the all-new, all-aluminum 2.2-liter EcoTec inline four-cylinder engine. Rated at 140 horsepower, Chevrolet claims that this powerplant not only gets great mileage (24 city/32 highway), but does so with much less noise and vibration than typical four-cylinder motors. In addition to the new engine, the LS Sport also gets a sport-tuned suspension, a full ground effects package, aluminum wheels, a rear spoiler, body-colored mirrors and door handles, and a leather-wrapped transmission lever.
To boost appeal, Chevrolet has added standard content to the volume Base and LS models. They now come standard with tilt steering, variable wipers, a tachometer, body side moldings, floormats, a cargo net, an electric remote trunk release, visor vanity mirrors, mud guards and a CD radio. A Sport appearance package that includes many of the same goodies found on the LS Sport model is also available.
GM's standard 2.2-liter 115-horsepower four-cylinder comes standard on Base and LS Cavaliers along with a five-speed manual transmission (a four-speed automatic is optional). Z24 coupes and sedans get a 2.4-liter twin-cam engine rated at a healthy 150 horsepower. This engine makes the Cavalier move with authority, turning this normally sedate budget car into a real street-sleeper.
Standard antilock brakes provide confident stopping power and dual airbags protect both the driver and passenger in the event of an accident. Though the Cavalier exhibits no glaring deficiencies in terms of driving characteristics, the overly compliant suspension does allow for a fair amount of body roll and wallow through corners, and steering feedback could be improved. As far as braking is concerned, the standard ABS is a nice feature, but the system is relatively unrefined in its application.
Inside, the Cavalier is well laid-out. An ergonomically friendly instrument panel boasts clear gauges, digital odometer and trip meter, and stereo controls located above the climate controls for easier access. Air conditioning is standard on all Cavaliers and uplevel stereos include a six-speaker Premium Amplified Audio System that's now standard on Z24 coupes and sedans. Seat comfort, however, leaves plenty to be desired, especially in the rear quarters.
Although all the new equipment does make the Cavalier a good value in the segment, there's no denying that it's in dire need of a redesign. If you can live with the dated styling and mediocre interior materials, the Cavalier might be worth considering. But if it was our money, we would put it toward one of the Cavalier's numerous competitors that also offer good value, but in decidedly more modern packages.