This Cavalier was my first car. We bought it from a private owner that was acquainted with my Mother. It had around 129,000 miles on it already, but it was cheap and I needed a car, so we went for it.
It was a decent first car. I got it my senior year of high school, and drove it until almost the beginning of my sophomore year of college, until a brakes-related wreck totaled it (see below). I took it for short trips across town, as well as for multiple-hour trips to college, etc., and it always did fine.
The car was rather noisy, inside and out, but it was largely due to the amount of miles that were on it, according to the mechanic. I took good care of it, although maybe not as well as I should have. I took it for regular oil changes, and I usually had the mechanics check it out to see what else it could need, and took care of those as well. So, basically, I didn't pamper it, but I do feel I maintained it well.
Over all, there weren't very many small problems. The paint was OK, the stereo...well, it worked, all of the plastic parts on the inside seemed to be of good quality and did not break or warp. It handled decently, although the steering was hypersensitive (which, to some, is not a bad thing). Pickup was decent with one or two people in the car, but any more, and everyone felt the car "grunt" to try and get up to speed.
It definitely was a gas saver, although sometimes I did not feel that the gas gage displayed the correct amount of fuel.
The real problem with this car was the brakes. They had a tendency to, at slow speeds or when the car was cold, pulse in and out, making it almost impossible to stop. This was not the ABS kicking in because I was stopping to quickly, it would happen cruising slowly and cautiously out of parking lots. I had it checked out, but they changed my brake pads and sent me on my merry way when they could not duplicate the problem.
Unfortunately, a few days before I was going to take the car in to be looked at, the brakes had an "episode" while I was stopping at a red light, behind a large, industrial truck. I was going maybe 10 mph at most, and that amount of speed caused the radiator to bust, as well as lots of damage to the front end. This small crash effectively totaled my car. When I told the truck driver what had happened, he took one look at my car and said, "That's a '96, isn't it. My daughter had the same problem with hers, although she got a hefty ticket for running a stop sign when she couldn't stop."