The Chevrolet Cavalier was a compact automobile produced from 1982 to 2005 by General Motors. Built on the company's J platform, the Cavalier produced the highest sales in 1984.
The Cavalier replaced the Monza, which was available as a 2-door coupe, a 3-door hatchback and a 3-door wagon (using the same body as the discontinued Vega wagon, the model it replaced). The inexpensive Chevette was retained even as sales declined, and was formally replaced by even smaller captive imports. Both previous platforms had rear-drive layouts while the new design followed the front wheel drive trend, as in the Dodge Omni and Honda Civic. Ford and Chrysler also introduced new front drive compacts. The largely successful mission of capturing the bulk of domestic compact sales would fall on the Cavalier's 2-door coupe, 4-door sedan and 4-door station wagon, the relatively short-lived 3-door hatchback (which replaced the Monza 2+2 Sport 2-door hatchback) and, in later years, a 2-door convertible. The small Cavalier even helped fill in lagging sales of the compact Citation (a Nova replacement).
The Cavalier first went on sale in early 1981 as a 1982 model with front-wheel-drive, a choice of two carbureted versions of GM's 122 four-cylinder pushrod engine, and 2 and 4-door sedan, hatchback, and station wagon body styles. Convertibles were added in 1983, initial production totaling less than 1000.
1983 Cavaliers offered throttle body fuel injection, and a V6 engine became available in 1985. The 1984 models received a mild facelift featuring quad headlights.
The Cavalier was largely identical to the Pontiac Sunbird. Before the Pontiac brand was officially introduced in Mexico in 1992, Cavaliers sold there featured Sunbird body panels, as opposed to US-spec Cavalier panels. From 1993 on, the sibling marques were both offered, much in the same way as in the United States.
The Cavalier was restyled in 1988. The two door hatchback was dropped, while the coupe, sedan, wagon and convertible carried over. The sedan and wagon were unchanged from the doors back, while the coupe's exterior was completely redesigned. This resulted in different trunk designs for the coupe and sedan. Three trim levels were available in 1988: VL, RS, and Z24. The convertible was only available as a Z24. The VL and RS came standard with the 2.0 L OHV L4 engine, now upgraded to throttle-body injection, or TBI, producing 90 hp (67 kW), while the 2.8 L V6 producing 125 hp (93 kW) was optional on the RS and standard on the Z24. With 2 door models, 5-speed manual transmission was standard, and a 3-speed automatic was optional, however the 3-speed automatic was made standard on sedans and wagons. An electronic dashboard was available with the RS and Z24 trims.
In 1989, the steering column was redesigned to be adjustable, as well as the addition of 3-point seat belts for the rear outboard seats. The optional V6 was retooled to 130 hp.
In 1990, the base engine was enlarged to a 2.2 L OHV L4, and power increased to 95 horsepower (71 kW). The optional V6 engine was also upgraded to the 3.1 L V6 and 140 horsepower. The convertible was dropped from availability to prevent internal competition with a planned Beretta convertible. However, the Beretta convertible was shelved at the eleventh hour, before a 1990 Cavalier convertible could be prepared.
The Cavalier got a more extensive restyling in 1991 that involved a new hood, bumpers, headlights, taillights, wheel covers and a redesigned interior, however with the body style remaining unchanged. Most notably, the cooling system was redesigned to draw air from the bumper, giving it a Ford Taurus-style bumper and grille-less nose. The new bumpers were unpainted, with the option to have them colored grey, black or white; the latter only available on white-colored models. The Z24 eschewed this for a color keyed body kit. Z24 models also gained the options for a height adjustable driver's seat and a CD player. The platform and trim lines were carried over, while the convertible was brought back mid-year in the RS trim only with the V6 standard.
In 1992, the 2.2 L OHV standard engine adopted multi-point fuel injection, or MPFI to improve output to 110 horsepower (82 kW), however unlike the SFI version of the 2.2L in the Chevrolet Corsica. The convertible was now available in both RS and Z24 trims, with the V6 standard in the Z24 and optional with the RS. Antilock brakes were added as a standard feature, as Delco Moraine had managed to develop a low-cost system. Power locks were also standard, and were designed to automatically lock when the car is shifted out of park, or if the car is traveling at least 8 miles per hour in manual transmission equipped models.
1993 brought minimal changes to the Cavalier line. The convertibles receive a glass rear window, allowing rear window defrost as an option. Also, General Motors received a new grille for the final time in this generation of the Chevrolet Cavalier.
1994 models were also carryovers, as a redesign of the Cavalier was in development. The VL trim was dropped on the wagon, while the 2.2 L OHV L4 was now the SFI version borrowed from the Corsica, which delivered an output of 120 horsepower. Additional changes included a slightly redesigned climate control interface and the power locking system being again redesigned: the doors would still lock automatically when put into gear, but they would also unlock automatically when the ignition was switched off.