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By Jim Flammang
November 5, 2003
Vehicle Overview Chevrolets smallest car got a fresh exterior look for the 2003 model year. Some of the Cavaliers updated features included a restyled hood, grille and fascia. The fenders and greenhouse were essentially unchanged, but the headlights and taillights were new. An antilock braking system was offered as an option rather than standard equipment.
A CD/MP3 radio and a smokers package, which includes an ashtray and lighter, are optional on 2004 models. The Cavalier is still second in sales in Chevrolets passenger-car lineup, behind the full-size Impala. Base, LS and LS Sport trim levels are offered. A 140-horsepower, 2.2-liter four-cylinder Ecotec engine is standard in all models. LATCH child-safety seat hooks and a center three-point seat belt in the rear seat have been installed.
Similar to the Pontiac Sunfire coupe, the front-wheel-drive Cavalier comes in both coupe and sedan forms. A new Cobalt model will replace the Cavalier in the 2005 model year.
Both the two-door and four-door versions have a 104.1-inch wheelbase and measure 182.7 inches long overall, which makes them more than 14 inches longer than the Ford Focus and 8 inches longer than the Honda Civic. The LS Sport model includes ground-effects body components, chromed-aluminum wheels, a rear spoiler, rocker moldings and integrated fog lamps. Both LS models get an FE2 sport suspension.
The Cavaliers front end displays Chevrolets gold bowtie emblem. These compact cars may be equipped with a high-profile rear spoiler, chromed-aluminum wheels and body-colored door handles.
All Cavalier models seat five people. The rear seatback folds down to add cargo space beyond the trunks basic capacity, which is 13.2 cubic feet in the coupe and 13.6 cubic feet in the sedan. The center console contains slots for coins, cassettes and CDs, as well cupholders for front and rear passengers.
A CD player is standard in the LS editions, and an optional sound system includes Radio Data System (RDS) technology. GMs OnStar communication system, which is available only in the LS and LS Sport, can provide automatic notification of airbag deployment, remote door unlocking, convenience services and roadside assistance. XM Satellite Radio is also available.
Under the Hood
A 2.2-liter four-cylinder Ecotec engine develops 140 hp and teams with either a four-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission.
Antilock brakes and side-impact airbags are optional. GMs PassLock theft-deterrent system must read an electronic code embedded in the key before the engine will start.
Driving a Cavalier may not qualify as a memorable experience, but the long-lived Chevrolet compact is a capable and practical automobile that manages to exhibit a dash of sportiness at least in the two-door model. Its ride and handling set no standards, but this vehicle scores passably well on both counts by maneuvering with relative ease and yielding reasonable comfort. The occasional hard bump can produce quite a jolt inside the car.
The Cavaliers performance should satisfy most drivers. The current 140-hp engine responds eagerly; a manual shift isnt necessary in order to take advantage of the engines potential. The five-speed gearbox is a trifle rubbery, but it works acceptably and has long throws. Despite its merits, the Cavalier suffers from a rather old-fashioned feeling.