Working hard to reclaim "USA-1," Chevy redesigned two of its biggest sellers for 1995. The Lumina sedan got more of a reskin than a total revamping, and a rather conservative one at that, but the similarly restyled coupe resurrected the Monte Carlo name in an effort to stand more clearly apart.
Each offered plain and fancy models: base and LS for Lumina, LS and Z34 for Monte. The usual 3.1 V-6 was standard for all but Z34, whose 210-bhp 3.4-liter twincam engine was optional for Lumina LS.
Recalling the "baby Cadillac" Chevys of 1955-57, Monte Carlo looked faintly like Cadillac's latest Eldorado, but even the sporty Z34 wasn't exactly "eye candy." Nor was it that thrilling to drive despite the usual firm chassis and "enthusiast" appointments.
At least these Chevys finally had dual airbags (which the market much preferred over motorized "mousebelts" to meet the government's 1994 mandate for front passive restraints).
They were also aggressively priced: as little as $15,500 for a Lumina, about $16,800 for a Monte. Critics initially felt Chevy had done too little with its midsize cars -- until the new '96 Ford Taurus came along with controversial looks and much higher prices.
Cavalier was not only way overdue for an overhaul, it needed a very good one to stay competitive in the bruising small-car sales battle. Chevy came through with fresh, clean styling that looked good despite being a tad taller and two inches shorter than previous models. Wheelbase grew by 2.8 inches to help open up extra room inside.
Wagons vanished, leaving base coupe and sedan, LS sedan and convertible, and Z24 coupe (the last two bowing in spring '95). V-6 power was also gone, as Z24 switched to the latest 150-bhp "balance shaft" version of the twincam Quad-4. LS models could be had with this engine. Base Cavs stuck with the familiar pushrod 2.2.
Transmissions comprised a five-speed manual and an optional three-speed automatic (still). For '96, Quad-4 Cavaliers gained a little displacement and 10 pound-feet of torque (to 2.4 liters and 150), and were available in LS trim.
Apart from that, newly standard PASSLock ignition, daytime running lights, and optional low-speed traction control (included with a newly available four-speed automatic), Cavalier was unchanged for '96. Though production snags hampered early sales, output remained quite substantial at well over 229,000 units for calendar '95.
For more on Chevrolet cars, old and new, see:
- Chevrolet New Car Reviews and Prices
- Chevrolet Used Car Reviews and Prices