Used 1996 Chevrolet Lumina Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1996

The ultimate family sedan is now available with an integrated child safety seat. Driver and passenger get their own climate controls. LS models offer available leather, and four-wheel disc brakes when equipped with the 3.4-liter V6.

Vehicle overview

While in college, one of our younger staffers attended the 1989 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Mich. The 1990 Chevrolet Lumina was displayed at the show in coupe and sedan form, and this young man thought the vehicle was some kind of funky, ill-conceived concept car, like those oddly shaped safetymobiles created during the 1970s. Few showgoers even seemed to notice the Lumina as he inspected the angular styling, all the while wondering if GM had missed the boat on Ford's success with the Taurus. When the Lumina hit the streets for the 1990 model year, he couldn't help but laugh every time one passed him on the street. Amazingly, the Lumina went on to become a bestseller.

These days, a redesigned Lumina prowls Chevy showrooms. It is a vast improvement over the first-generation model, offering dual airbags housed in a modern, straight-forward dashboard. The exterior shape is modern and, dare we say, attractive. Even more amazing, the Lumina performs well, although the feel of the car really doesn't transmit any inkling of performance capability.

Still, the numbers are there, and when equipped with the optional 3.4-liter V6 the Lumina is quicker than rivals from Chrysler and Ford. Braking and cornering abilities are not extraordinary for the class, but the Lumina nonetheless keeps itself planted to terra firma with little fanfare. Good news on the performance front from Chevy boss Jim Perkins; he announced that he wants a Lumina Super Sport on the racks for 1997, equipped with many of the Monte Carlo Z34's go-fast goodies. With the impending demise of the Impala SS, it seems a good bet that the Lumina SS will see the light of day.

Chevy engineers claim the Lumina is the result of intensive consumer clinics, and the car was designed in accordance with the research findings. Styling was not a strong issue among sedan buyers, a point well proven by the popularity of the previous-generation Lumina. Fortunately, Chevy saw fit to give the Lumina a tidy, attractive look that is marred only by a somewhat characterless and protruding proboscis.

For 1996, Chevrolet again took the advice of its customers to refine the Lumina. Long life spark plugs and transmission fluid make the Lumina easier to own. An integrated child safety seat is a new option, and leather can be ordered on LS models. Dual climate controls make front seat occupants more comfortable, and a power sunroof joins the options list. On the LS, four-wheel disc brakes are available with the optional 3.4-liter V6 engine.

With a competent car and a pricing structure that undercuts Ford and Chrysler, Chevy's Lumina offers a fine blend of function, value and performance. This is one GM product that was done right the first time.

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.