A new LS sport sedan and LS sport coupe join General Motors' best-selling car line for the 2002 model year and are equipped with a new EcoTec 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 140 horsepower. A sporty Z24 sedan joins the Z24 coupe, and both are fitted with a 150-hp, twin-cam four-cylinder; they will be available for a limited time. The base Cavalier, which uses a 115-hp engine, can have an optional Sport Package.
Chevrolets front-drive subcompact coupe and sedan are similar to the Pontiac Sunfire. In a couple of years, GM is expected to replace these two aging cars with new models that can be sold elsewhere around the world. A face-lift could take place before that time.
Both the two-door coupe and four-door sedan have a 104.1-inch wheelbase and are nearly 181 inches long, which makes them 6 inches longer than the Ford Focus or Honda Civic. Both body styles come in a base trim level, while the sedan also is offered in upscale LS trim. Sporty Z24 versions of each body style are equipped with a rear spoiler, fog lamps and 16-inch aluminum wheels. The new LS sport models include ground-effects body components, chrome-aluminum wheels, an FE2 sport suspension and a high-profile rear spoiler.
All Cavaliers seat five occupants. The rear seatback folds down to add cargo space beyond the trunk's basic capacity, which is 13.2 cubic feet in the coupe and 13.6 cubic feet in the sedan. A standard center console contains five cupholders - three for front occupants and two for rear passengers - as well as slots for coins, cassettes and CDs. A CD player is standard on the LS and Z24 editions, and an optional sound system includes Radio Data System technology. The RDS can interrupt regular programs, tapes or CDs to broadcast weather and traffic bulletins.
Under the Hood
Base-model Cavaliers use a 115-hp, 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine. The LS gets a new EcoTec 2.2-liter four-cylinder that develops 140 hp. Both Z24 models hold a dual-camshaft 2.4-liter four-cylinder that is rated at 150 hp. Cavaliers are available with a four-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission.
Antilock brakes are standard, but side-impact airbags are not available. GM's PassLock theft-deterrent system must read an electronic code embedded in the key before the engine will start.
Driving a Cavalier might not qualify as a memorable experience, but the long-lived Chevrolet subcompact is a capable and practical automobile that even manages to exhibit a dash of sportiness - at least in two-door form. Ride and handling set no standards, but the Cavalier scores passably well on both counts, maneuvering with relative ease and yielding reasonable comfort. Performance is lackluster with the base 115-hp engine, but either of the more potent power plants is likely to deliver acceleration that satisfies most drivers.