In terms of engine and transmission, quality and exceptional engineering is the theme for this economical machine. In fact, it is probably the best kept secret in Detroit, because most of you are no doubt used to the old cavaliers with the clumsy 8 valve pushrod 4 that Chevy kept around for 15 years too long.
The engine is GM's all new 16 valve OHC 2.2 L Ecotec. I bought this car based on price alone. I did not test drive it, and did not even know it had the Ecotec in it (or even know about the Ecotec) until I drove it off the lot, and instantly knew that the car did not have the engine I thought it had (the old one).
This is a very well engineered engine, with high quality components. The reliability has been flawless. I was blown away when I opened up the hood, and saw a stainless steel exhaust system. This is unheard of on an economy car, but it is a testament to GM's comittment to quality on its new models. The driveline is full of these kind of high quality touches.
The car also has a silky smooth Getrag manual transmission, which is the brand of transmissions used in the European cars (BMW, Volkswagen, and others). Another wonderful surprise.
While the engine and transmission are great, but the suspension does not follow suit. There is nothing wrong with it; it will get you from point a to point b, but do not let the great performance of the engine make you fool you into thinking you can throw it into any corners. This is still a cheap economy car.
The interior is bare bones, but very serviceable. The AC, which is standard, will blow you out of the car. The seats have cheap materials, and look cheap. But, I do not care.
Being an American car, the exterior sheet metal is thick two sided galvanized. Rust should not be a problem. This is in large contrast to Japanese cars, which as a rule, have sheet metal which is assembled very well, but is of a horrible quality.
I got this car for $9600.00 brand new (I bought it at the end of the model year and played hardball), and it has blown me away in terms of exceeding my expectations.
This car is high performance for what it is, but do not abuse it. I have no doubt that with proper care, this car will get me 250K+ miles, with no sweat.
If you are looking for an economy car, with some very nice touches thrown in, you cannot do any better than this one!