Demand for compact cars soared back in the 1980's partly due to rising fuel costs and the subsequent need for more fuel efficient vehicles. The Chevrolet Cavalier was General Motor's answer to these demands. The car proved to be a hit among buyers and frequently became a top selling vehicle. Between 1982 and 1998, General Motors sold, on average, between 200,000 to 300,000 Cavaliers every year with sales figures reaching their highest in 1984, with 462,000 Cavaliers sold.
1982: First generation
The first Cavalier was sold as a sedan and a hatchback. It came with a carbureted 1.8 liter inline-four engine was that upgraded to a more powerful 2.0 liter version of the same engine. A Z24 trim for the Cavalier was eventually released and included an upgraded suspension, improved wheels and a fuel injection system that was paired with a much more powerful 2.8 liter V6 engine.
1988: Second generation
The next Cavalier was offered in coupe, sedan and convertible body variants. Trims included the standard VL, the RS, and the high-performance Z24. A 2.0 liter inline-four engine came with the VL and RS trim while a 2.8 liter V6 came with the Z24 trim. All trims came with a five-speed manual transmission while a three-speed automatic was optional. The basic design of the Cavalier was improved from time to time, but despite that, the car started to show its age. Some of the little improvements included a change to the sheet metal, and adjustable steering wheel, engine upgrades, airconditioning, and a CD audio system. In 1990, a 2.2 liter inline-four engine became the standard engine for the VL and RS trims while the Z24 was equipped with a 3.1 liter V6 engine.
1995: Third generation
The third generation Cavalier was sold as a sedan and a coupe. A convertible variant was also offered but was discontinued in 2001 due to poor sales. The same VL, RS and Z24 trim was initially offered but the lineup was soon changed to a basic trim, LS and LS sport. The car came equipped with a 2.2 liter four-cylinder engine while an optional and more powerful 2.3 liter four-cylinder was eventually made available as well. The optional 2.3 liter engine was soon replaced with a 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine. Another optional engine would be added in 2002, the 2.2 liter double-overhead-camshaft four-cylinder engine. The production of the Cavalier was stopped in 2004. In its last year of production, the Cavalier managed to sell almost 240,000 vehicles.