Curbside Classic: 1996 Chevrolet Beretta – A Dash Of Sportiness

Some cars are invisible. Due to large production numbers and affordable pricing, certain cars are seen all over the place. Slowly and surely though, rust, deferred maintenance and fender benders take them off the road – and nobody notices. The Chevrolet Beretta (and its L-body Corsica cousin) is such a car. You never even notice they’re gone, until one day you spot one and finally realize: I haven’t seen one of those in years!

The Beretta came out in 1987, and along with its four door Corsica stablemate, essentially replaced the ill-fated X-body Citation. While sporty GT, GTU and GTZ models were available (a never-produced Beretta convertible even paced the 1990 Indy 500), most of them were the bread-and-butter standard model, like this 1989 version. A multitude of engines were offered during its long life (1987-1996), including 2.0, 2.2 and 2.3 “Quad Four” four cylinders and 2.8 and 3.1 liter V6s.

I believe our featured Beretta to be a 1996 model. Granted, the ’96 model was carryover from 1995, but I am going to go with ’96 as that was the last year for the Beretta/Corsica. The color is Light Adriatic Blue, a color that debuted in 1994, but I think these cars didn’t get it until 1995. This particular car is rather basic, as it appeared to be lightly optioned. I always liked the restyled-for-1991 interior, as it vastly improved the ergonomics inside.

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While perhaps a bit cheesy today, the slide-out cup holders on the dash were kind of innovative for the time, and unique for a domestic vehicle (yes, I know the 1991 Cavalier had that feature too). Also note the placement for the headlights and the wipers on each side of the steering wheel, for easy access.
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Another interesting feature of the Beretta was the fact that you actually had excellent visibility all around. It was also the last “large compact” coupe to come from Chevy. Personally, I wish they would do a car like this again, and in this size, as I would be very interested in one.
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Considering the design dated to the late Eighties, the overall design held up well. Styling was very smooth, and as a result the outgoing ’96 models still looked pretty fresh.
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The driver’s side airbag was added at the same time as the new instrument panel. Because of the contours of the 1991-and-up dashboard, the front radio speakers were moved from the top of the dash down to the floorboard, behind carpeted panels. It worked rather well, and took up minimal room in the footwell, though why GM didn’t just design the doors to accommodate them is anyone’s guess.
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Another neat feature found throughout the production run was the “beer tap” door handles, shared with the W-body Lumina, Grand Prix, and Regal coupes.
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I found this car sitting in the side lot of a Ford dealer in Pinconning, MI (Michigan’s Cheese Capital). Even though it’s almost an hour south of where I live, I had to return to that area the next day, and the car was gone, so I don’t what became of it. Maybe it just turned its invisibility shield back on.
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