2003 Chevrolet Cavalier

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$14,030

starting MSRP

2003 Chevrolet Cavalier

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

3 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier trim comparison will help you decide.

2003 Chevrolet Cavalier review: Our expert's take

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The verdict:

Versus the competiton:

Chevrolet Cavalier soldiers on another year, outdated and outgunned by the imports but still offering solid and sporty transportation at a bargain price.

Cavalier remains the best selling automobile for all of General Motors. Cavalier was revamped in 1995 with a new body and interior, plus mechanical upgrades that turned it from a chunky economy car into a tight and sharp-looking little cruiser.

For 2003, the basic shape remains, though freshened with new front and rear styling, and can be ordered with monochromatic body parts, a new spoiler and 16-inch aluminum wheels that make the little Chevy look something akin to a tuned import.

There’s also a new standard engine, a twin-cam four that delivers 140 horsepower.

But let’s not forget the major upgrade best appreciated by the young target audience: optional XM radio that offers 100-channel, fade-free audio. For those who believe a great audio system is the key component to a great ride, Cavalier has taken on a new sheen.

What it is:

Cavalier is Chevrolet’s cheapest car, a little runabout with a stylish body that’s an enduring favorite among young drivers, especially females.

Cavaliers rest on a platform that’s more than two decades old, and small-car engineering has moved a long way since then. Steering and handling are responsive but lack the sophistication of the import brands. GM promises that Cavalier will be upgraded to the platform of the new Saturn Ion in the near future.

Engine and transmission:

The standard “Ecotek” engine is a four-cylinder, aluminum 2.2-liter mill that also is found in the Ion. With 140 horsepower, Ecotek has plenty of pull for this 2,600-pound car. This is a major improvement over the standard 115-horse engine that formerly struggled to motivate Cavalier.

The downside to Ecotek is a noisy harshness that compares unfavorably with smooth four-bangers such as those found in Honda Civic and Mazda Protege. This is a problem with GM fours. They put out decent power but feel downright agricultural. GM has expended serious time and money to quiet this engine, including the installation of twin balance shafts. It could still be better.

The five-speed stick shift felt notchy, though the gears were well-spaced for performance.

Handling, drivability:

Though Cavalier sits on an ancient chassis, the steering and cornering are crisp and responsive. The steering would benefit from less power boost and more road feel. It helped that the LS Sport Coupe as tested comes standard with a firmer sport suspension and low-profile performance tires, with rack-and-pinion steering standard across the board. The old platform becomes noticeable over rough surfaces, when Cavalier is felt flexing, vibrating and skittering to the side. Otherwise, the ride is secure and comfortable.

Front-disc, rear-drum brakes are unexceptional, with fairly good stopping power . Anti-lock is standard in the upgraded LS, optional on the base models.

Styling:

The two-door sport coupe, in bright yellow, looked appropriately sporty with monochromatic trim, rear spoiler, integrated fog lamps and lower body ground effects. The Cavalier still tends toward the cute side of the equation, and the overall style seems more appropriate to a young female than a snarling boy racer. The 16-inch aluminum wheels look very sharp.

The body design is 8 years old, and although updated for 2003 and reasonably attractive, it doesn’t really stand out as anything special. Hopefully the next transformation will bring Cavalier’s looks up to date.

Interior:

The front seats have been upgraded, becoming more supportive than those in past Cavaliers, but the interior is cramped for anyone taller or bigger than average. For this tall driver, finding a comfortable driving position was impossible, settling for a tilted-up steering wheel and re ard-raked seat.

The rear seat supposedly has room for three abreast, but only young children or really small adults will find happiness back there. Otherwise, treat it strictly as room for two.

Side-impact air bags are standard for 2003.

The XM satellite radio is great. Bluegrass to modern jazz, comedy to Top 40, hip-hop to country, it’s all there.

Pricing:

Cavalier’s ace in the hole is a modest price tag for this attractive, well-equipped car. This is a benefit of keeping a vehicle for years on the same platform with minimal style changes. The LS Sport Coupe starts at $16,625 with a nice collection of standard features. The test car included a sunroof at $595 and XM radio at $350, though the satellite service requires a subscription fee. Shipping is $565, for a total of $18,110. Not bad.

Bottom line:

There are small cars that are sharper and more sophisticated, but Cavalier offers a good deal of sporty style and performance at a bargain-basement price.

Chevrolet Cavalier LS Sport Coupe

Vehicle type: five-passenger, two-door coupe, front-wheel drive.

Base price: $16,625.

Price as tested: $18,110.

Engine: 2.2-liter inline four, 140 horsepower at 5,600 rpm, 150 pounds-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm.

Transmission: Five-speed manual.

Wheelbase: 104.1 inches.

Curb weight: 2,617 pounds.

EPA mileage: 26 city, 33 highway.

Highs:

Moderate price.

Engine power.

Decent handling.

Lows:

Engine roar.

Cramped interior.

Needs update.

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.0
  • Interior design 3.7
  • Performance 4.3
  • Value for the money 4.5
  • Exterior styling 4.0
  • Reliability 4.4

Most recent consumer reviews

4.0

The 2.2ecotec I love it wish it was in new cars !

It has been a great commuting car never let me down with regular oil changes and 3 sets of tires 210,000miles and still going strong !

4.4

180,000 miles and not a leak or problem

Bought in 2008, had 50,000 on it. Now have 180,000...all its ever had is oil changes, a few batteries, tires and front brakes...that's it ! It still has the original belts and hoses.. 14 years and still going strong... now the bad.. subframe is rotting out (Chicago rust belt car) seat cover wore out.. and AC quit in 2018.... but hey I only paid $7k for it in 2008.. gonna be hard to say goodbye. We've been through snowstorms, ice storms, hail, floods and a deer encounter.

2.0

Unsafe steering issues, gauge's don't work

This car is Unsafe and GM needs to prevent people from getting hurt or worse not one of my guages are working and it's a very common problem and same yr trucks are recall but not cavalier and my car was trying to start without me or key in car just cranking away it's hard to steer and I don't know if I will make it to work ok or home alive it's a nightmare everyday and I don't have a way to fix it or any other options but to drive it till I die or it burns down because of all the issues- five stars and GM is worst car maker and customer support and protector in auto industry shame on them greedy xxxxxxx's

See all 45 consumer reviews

Warranty

New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Chevrolet
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
5 model years or newer/up to 75,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
12 months/12,000 miles bumper-to-bumper original warranty, then may continue to 6 years/100,000 miles limited (depending on variables)
Powertrain
6 years/100,000 miles
Dealer certification required
172-point inspection
Roadside assistance
Yes
View all cpo program details

Have questions about warranties or CPO programs?

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See all 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier articles