Decent car at the time, high mileage will require some repairs
- Head gasket blew at 113,000 miles.
- Water pump just shortly before the head gasket; I suppose it could be related.
- Spark plug and wires were changed around 40k; just because.
- Fuel filter twice around 33 and 80k miles.
- Alternator replaced around 75k miles.
In general it was a fine car. I owned it from the get go and drove it hard, but took good care of it.
Like almost all 95/96 2.2L Cavaliers, the head gasket did me in. Mine was involved in a rear end/sandwich accident that technically "totaled" the car. I bought it back from the insurance company, pounded out the dents, replaced the shattered headlight and let her rip. That was around 85k miles, so another 25k or so.
The brakes were prone to heavy wear. In 100k miles I was on my fifth set. I did learn early on that the floating disc design contributed to part of the heavy wear, especially on one side of the pad surface. It was also VERY important to clean and lubricate the caliper slides when doing a front brake job (I burnt through my third set of pads in 10k miles before I realized this).
There were a few problems, but nothing out of the ordinary. People have mentioned the "piston slap"... at this point I'm going to roll my eyes and say you've been watching too many youtube videos. Real piston slap (not that a Cavalier couldn't have it, but what most people are hearing isn't it) would get louder and more violent as the engine speed increased. It would also get rougher the more load you had on the engine. Now when it was cold (below freezing) the valves sounded horrible. It was like marbles floating around inside the head. Now give it 5-10 minutes, let it warm up and it wasn't nearly as bad. It did tick at idle however, and it did this most of the time. Perhaps it was a slightly stuck lifter, don't know. It didn't seem to affect anything, so I didn't see a need to investigate it more.
The handling was fine, not as good as a Neon, but better than some. It was very predictable, which made it easy to push it fairly hard. My Corolla I own now is not so forgiving.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 28th August, 2010