I've owned this car from April 2006 until now (November 2007). Before that, my friend owned it from August 2004 until April 2006. I know the repair history from both those times. I also have reports about the interior/exterior and performance of the car. I'll let you decide whether it is a winner or not.
Here is the repair history from August 2004 until November 2007:
Water pump (internal seal broke)
Blower motor resistor (known issue on Cavaliers)
Fuel injectors (two of them; they started to leak)
Wheel speed sensor wires
Wheel hub and bearing assembly
Window motors (numerous ones)
Power steering pump (it leaked)
(This list does not include regular maintenance items that we've done like spark plugs, spark plug wires, exhaust system, brake pads/shoes and rotors/drums, PCV valve, convertible top repair, and trunk support struts failing).
Here are some things that are still wrong with the car:
Rear main bearing seal oil leak
A/C compressor/clutch not working
Convertible top mechanism is slightly out of alignment
Rust in three places (top of driver-side rocker panel, driver-side rear quarter panel, rear of car under trunk)
Steering wheel is nice and cushy
Seats are comfortable
Door panels have cracks
Plastic around the radio has a crack
Door panels and other plastic panels do not fit very tightly
Squeaks are numerous
Cramped space in the rear for passengers
I like the looks of the car. It is nothing spectacular, but I like it. I have the LS convertible model. It is manta green with a spoiler.
The convertible top does not look great when in the down position. There is a boot that comes attached to the car that covers up most of it. But, it is a pain to get out and put it on. There are side boots you can buy to cover up the rest of it.
Like I mentioned, however, it does have some rust. (It was in northwest Pennsylvania for most of its life, so I guess that makes sense).
Putting the pedal to the metal, I get slow acceleration on the highway. Sometimes when going uphill, I cannot keep my speed steady. I have a Honda Accord that is two years older with the same size engine (2.2 liters), but it has 20 more horsepower and I can really feel the difference. But, if you're looking for a 4-cylinder car, you're probably not too concerned about performance.
It gets about 26-27 miles per gallon.
As for the convertible model, it is probably one of the cheapest convertibles you'll find. So, if you're interested in a convertible, look for this. However, in my experience, it is also one of the cheapest
you'll find... in terms of quality.
As far as non-convertible models, you'll just have to review the above to make your decision. Personally, after buying my 1994 Honda Accord a few months ago and comparing my Honda with this Chevrolet, I've become a convinced Japanese car enthusiast. There really is something to what they say about the reliability/quality of Hondas and Toyotas. But, I'm a nit-picky kind of guy who is into auto-mechanics, so stuff bothers me easily. You might not have the same experience.
Amount Paid (US$):
1996Model and Options:
LS Convertible, automatic, 2.2 liter