Except for minor things on the instrument panel and a CD player instead of a tape, it was exactly the same as my '98.

But maybe that's a good thing. Not all changes that appear on the latest model are better. After all, the VW Beetle survived decades with only minor body and engine changes. That is, until the "new Beetle" came along for a generation of buyers with different expectations.

The model I tested, a two-door Z24 coupe, came with no options. The base price and total price is $16,365. For that you get a five-speed manual transmission, 2.4-liter twin-cam DOHC engine, and stainless-steel exhaust system. Safety equipment includes antilock brakes, air bags, remote keyless entry, power door locks, and theft deterrent. Surprisingly, a deck lid spoiler is standard, as is A/C, AM/FM stereo CD, tilt wheel, tachometer, and speed control. My '98 cost about this much without the tilt wheel and speed control, two items I now wish I had.

The L4 engine and manual transmission are pretty quiet through the gears, but not as quick as an automatic for getting up to speed. It's slow going from first gear through third. Moreover, I chose to drive in fourth gear in the city a lot even though the idiot shift light told me I could safely go to fifth. I frequently had the feeling it would stall, although I never did (except that one time I forgot it was a manual transmission and didn't depress the clutch when stopping for a light).

Chevrolet Div. claims the Cavalier holds the number-one status for GM as the corporation's best-selling car line for 12 of the last 16 years. My guess is that it's because Cavalier is the cheapest, most-reliable U.S. car you can buy. I speak from experience having owned four in the past 10 years. The only problem I had was with the '91 automatic transmission torque converter lock-up solenoid at 99,000 miles. It would stay engaged when it was supposed to unlock, such as when depressing the brake and slowing to a stop. This stalled the car and it wouldn't restart. It's like putting an old manual transmission in third gear and trying to start the car without depressing the clutch. (Of course, new cars won't even let you do that). Instead of spending hundreds of dollars getting it fixed, I simply disconnected the electrical connector from the transmission and got another hassle-free 50,000 miles at about the same gas mileage.

The "exciting changes" for 2000, according to GM's press release, includes a Z24 convertible added to the model lineup, and two new colors, Colorado Green Metallic and Ultra Silver metallic. Also listed are a new instrument cluster, illuminated automatic shift indicator plate, new radio line, three cup holders, and traction control with the four-speed automatic transmission. That's exciting enough for me. I would definitely buy another.