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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier Overview

A Very Nice Slice Of Bread and Butter

The Cavalier is what is known as a bread and butter car. For Chevrolet, the mass-produced yet affordable Cavalier makes up a big part of their profitable automobile sales as well as offering first time buyers an easy way to get acquainted with the Chevrolet family. The Cavalier is proof that even budget-conscious buyers don't have to settle for boring, featherweight micro cars with no content and even less personality. Sadly, the performance-oriented Z24 model has dropped, leaving the base Cavalier, LS and LS Sport as the only trim levels.

For 2003, Chevrolet has restyled the Cavalier, adding a new front fascia and redesigned taillights. We like the design of the Cavalier, it has a wide, substantial look to it, with smooth flowing sheet metal that makes this sporty compact look far more expensive than it really is. Chevrolet is pushing the Cavalier as an easily modifiable pocket rocket that can be tricked out and improved upon by the average backyard mechanic. This marketing approach is an attempt to put the Cavalier square in the sites of those young drivers who currently flock to Honda, Nissan and VW cars.

Engine choices for the Cavalier have been reduced to just one. The Cavalier is now powered by GM's latest four-cylinder innovation, the Ecotec 2.2-liter engine. This all-new aluminum engine has 16-valves-four per cylinder-to help it breathe easier, thus providing more power and better fuel efficiency. The Ecotec also features twin balance shafts, a design that cancels out vibrations usually associated with small, inline engines; the addition of these balance shafts result in a quieter, vibration-free ride that gives the impression of a small V6 under the hood. The Ecotoc engine produces 140 horsepower and can be ordered with your choice of a Getrag 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission.

On the road, the Cavalier delivers an exceptionally smooth and quiet ride for such a small car. Chevrolet has used a good deal of sound deadening material to keep tire and engine noise out of the passenger cabin. The Cavalier's steering could do with a bit more feeling and tends toward the light side, but it is not completely devoid of road feel and you can still have fun rounding sharp turns and tackling steep winding switchbacks. The Ecotec engine accelerates smoothly and delivers its torque relatively low in the rpm band. The 2.2-liter engine has plenty of spunk and delivers good passing power at highway speeds. Chevrolet reports that the Ecotec teamed with the 5-speed manual will earn and EPA fuel rating of 26-mles per gallon in city driving and 33 miles per gallon on the highway.

The Cavalier's interior provides a good deal of room for four passengers and can even accommodate two adults in the rear, provided the front seats are not fully extended. We did find that the head restraints are angled back a bit too far to rest against, and that the front cup holders are too close to the ventilation control, which can interfere with the placement of anything larger than a 12-ounce can. Though the interior plastics and fabrics have been upgraded this year, you'll probably find that the Cavalier's interior color choices are limited to sea of gray or beige plastic; this is one area that could use a little more color and contrast. Some of our medium-sized testers also noticed that the dashboard is a bit on the high side and the low-slung bucket seats can add to the feeling of being boxed in. This minor observation aside, most people will find the Cavalier's controls are well placed, simple to find and easy to use. The newly designed seats are nicely bolstered and comfortable for passengers of all sizes.

The base model Cavalier represents a real bargain for money. With a base MSRP of just $14,745, you get the Ecotec 2.2-liter engine, a 5-speed manual transmission, air conditioning, rear-window defroster, dual outside mirrors, daytime running lights, AM/FM Stereo radio, cloth bucket seats with split-folding rear seat, a tachometer, power trunk release and full wheel covers. LS models feature even more equipment including anti-lock brakes (ABS), power door locks, keyless entry, power mirrors, interior reading lights, AM/FM stereo with CD and premium speakers, power windows, tilt wheel, cruise control, intermittent wipers and a tachometer. The LS Sport adds 16-inch alloy wheels and performance tires, sport suspension, lower rocker and body-side moldings and a rear spoiler. Options include front side-impact airbags, XM satellite radio and the OnStar system.

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