1991 Chevrolet Cavalier
Chevy's Cavalier has led an interesting life. Introduced in 1984, Cavalier sales peaked the next year with more than 431,000 sold. Its sales slowly declined since then. But for the 1991 model year, Chevy freshened up the interior and exterior and brought back the convertible. Guess what? The Cavalier is hot again. In April, Chevy's compact climbed to fifth place on the list of best-selling nameplates. This year there are two engines and transmissions available, three trim choices, and the Cavalier is available in four body styles: coupe, convertible, sedan and wagon. This week's test car is the peppy Z24 sport coupe, which packed Chevy's fuel-injected, 3.1-liter V-6 and a five-speed manual transmission. If you can't afford a Camaro but still want 100 percent American Chevy muscle parked in your garage, the Cavalier Z24 is just the vehicle. ENGINE, TRANSMISSION, PERFORMANCE The Z24's engine growls, but this is one car whose bark isn't quite as bad as its bite. The car is quick but not fast. Enthusiast magazines have tested the Z24 and clocked 0 to 60 mph times in under 10 seconds. That's respectable performance. The 140-horsepower engine is fairly smooth, but as the tachometer needle nears the redline, the V-6 runs hopelessly out of breath. The way to properly utilize the engine's performance is to take advantage of the torque in 0 to 50 mph range. I liked the five-speed transmission and clutch. The gear ratios are nicely spaced and, combined with the engine's torque, the drivetrain allows for city driving without excessive shifting in heavy traffic. Even when going slow in third gear, the Z24 still can pull away quickly. The clutch is smooth and easy to operate. However, the pedal has to be pressed all the way to the floor for the car to start. It's a bother, but that safety feature prevents the Z24 from being started with the clutch out while the car is in gear. The EPA rates the car at 19 miles per gallon city and 28 on the highway. I averaged close to 25 mpg in city-only driving. I used the air conditioner most of the time. STEERING, HANDLING, BRAKING If the car does have a weak point, it's in the handling department. The high-powered V-6 overwhelms the front suspension. Hard acceleration causes torque steer, a slight pulling to the left or right. By now, most manufacturers have been making front-wheel drive cars long enough to have worked out the kinks. I have tested many high-performance front-wheel drive cars this year, but the Cavalier Z24's torque steer is the worst. The driver sometimes has to struggle with the steering wheel under hard acceleration. The fat, 15-inch Goodyear tires ensure a solid grip. The power rack and pinion steering is quick and sharp, but the turning radius is a bit too wide which makes U-turns difficult. The wheel has a heavy feel to it, but it fits well with the Z24's sporting nature. The power disc /drum brakes are just adequate; no anti-lock system is available. FIT, FINISH, CONTROLS Chevy engineers have done a great job revising the interior. The Cavalier is a small car that has a nicely laid out interior. Average-sized rear passengers will find more than enough room. Front passengers also should have little problem getting comfortable. This year there are new, much sportier-looking switches for the headlights and interior lights, windshield wiper/washer and air conditioning. They are easily read, reached and operated. Gauge layout also scores high. I don't care for the shape of the steering wheel, but it does not obscure any of the instruments, warning lights or controls. The Z24 is festooned with all sorts of add-on items, like a hood scoop and body-side moldings. I found the build quality of the car to be close to excellent. The bright red paint job stood out. All in all, the Cavalier Z24 is fun to drive, affordable and a great-l oking, fairly quick sports coupe. By virtue of its price, it must be considered a bargain compared to many imports.
|Richard Truett||Orlando Sentinel||June 20, 1991|
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||June 9, 1991|
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