There were two issues when I purchased it, and they were both checked. The rear struts were developing a squeak, but the mechanic verified that it would not affect the car on a mechanical level.
The other issue was the weather stripping in the driver side window, creating a "blowing" sound, which was a $100 fix at the GM dealer.
The car started developing a "brake shake", which meant the rotors had to be replaced. They were replaced about a week after it was discovered, that was done at 135,000 km.
I am a relatively new driver, only had my license for five years. I used to drive a small tin can (Chevy Sprint) for a few years before wear and tear got ahead of it. I purchased my Cavalier in 2009, it only had 113,000 km on it, paid about $3800 for it, and I never regretted the purchase since. It had its own bumps and squeaks, but it was easy to put up with them knowing that it was not going to affect the car on a mechanical level.
The car itself was a base model, it only had the basics. It had no tilt steering (wasn't required), roll-down windows, AM/FM radio, no A/C (who needs A/C when you got "260" air conditioning -- 2 windows open at 60 mph). It was relatively comfortable to sit in the driver's seat. The material for the seats is not the best material, but it is effective material. There were no tears, no stains, no damage. The car was in immaculate shape, save for the one small scratch on the driver side passenger door.
The engine on the car is great. It is a 4 cylinder 2.2 L Ecotec engine. It gives me the power I need, when I need it, and it is great on gas. The gas tank is 53 liters (according to the manual, I have yet to put more than 50 liters in on a fill-up), and I am able to drive about 600 km on a full tank before having to fill up. Driving strictly on the highway, and I am able to get over 800 km to the tank.
Just this past summer, I drove form my home in Central British Columbia to Vancouver via Coquihalla Highway, and the car performed magnificently. I was able to get 38 miles to the U.S. gallon (3.78 L) or 47 miles to the British gallon (4.55 L). The Coquihalla highway is an intense highway, and almost everyone goes higher than the posted speed, and the car handled perfectly. It did really well driving at speeds of 120 kph to 140 kph, and also did well at 160 kph. It also did great on some of the U.S. roads, such as the I-5 going into Seattle.
Now the car has about 140,000 kph on it. I am hoping to do the brakes and tires in the spring, as well as the rear struts. The car handles better than expected in the winter time, and has not failed me yet. For the price of the car, it was well worth the purchase. It is mechanically sound, and I have no doubt that it will make 300,000 km.