During the early '80s Chevy needed a compact, economical sedan to keep up with the influx of imports that were beginning to steal the show. Enter the Chevy Cavalier. The Cavalier premiered for 1982, and was made available as a sedan, coupe, convertible, and wagon, covering the whole spectrum of body styles. It was outfitted with an inline four-cylinder engine mated to a four-speed manual transmission (later a five-speed) or a three-speed automatic, and used front-wheel drive layout. For the first few years, there weren't many changes to the styling or underhood parts of the Chevy Cavalier. However, in 1985, Chevy added a V6 engine into the mix. In 1986, the Chevy Z24 Cavalier was introduced, showing off a sport-tuned suspension, alloy wheels, and a standard V6. The remainder of the decade saw few alterations to the vehicle but come the early '90s, ABS brakes, an increase in horsepower, and additional accessories were brought into effect.
Chevy rolled out the second generation of the Cavalier in 1995. Gone was the wagon bodyshell but the model was still available as a sedan, coupe, and convertible. The base engine was a 2.2L four-cylinder capable of around 120 horsepower with a heftier 2.3L four-cylinder (the Quad 4) also on the table, throwing out additional 30 HP. A year later, the 2.3 was dropped and replaced with a 2.4L engine with the same output. 1999 saw the base 2.4L engine restructured to allow for lower emissions and improved gas mileage, while in 2000 modifications to such exterior Chevy Cavalier accessories as headlights, tail lights, and front/rear fascias were revealed. The Cavalier's antilock brakes were upgrades during this period, as well. Even though no major redesign took place, over the course of the next few years, the company continued to tweak certain parts of the Chevy Cavalier.
In 2002, the 2.2L DOHC Ecotec four-cylinder engine was introduced, leaving the base as the OHV 2.2L with the Z24 holding onto the 2.4L configuration. The Ecotec engine generated a nice buzz for the Cavalier and was a certain improvement over the previous engine. 2003 is the last year when a bevy of changes was implemented. The 2.4L V6 was dropped from the lineup and the exterior underwent a handful of minor updates. However, the techno-aspect of the Cavalier was attended to, with XM Satellite Radio being added as an option. For 2004, the audio system was refined once again, bringing in MP3 compatibility. The model wasn't short on praise, as the Chevy Cavalier was dubbed a Consumer Guide Best (1999) and nominated for the Car & Driver's Ten Best List (2003).
Combining equal parts of efficiency and sportiness, the Chevy Cavalier is a car that withstands the true test of time. You could put this vehicle in virtually any era and it would still be relevant. What makes the Chevy Cavalier so special is the versatile image it holds. Sure, it's got an appealing sleekness to it as well as enough performance to make an impression on the highway. But it is also economical and comfortable, something few in its class can claim.
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