Worst Car Wednesday: Chevy Corsica/Beretta, Two Names For One Dud

Worst Car Wednesday

Pundits sometimes try to pin down exactly when GM began its downhill slide into sub-mediocracy. Really, it was cumulative, one mistake stacked on another. In 2010 it all caught up and bankruptcy was the only solution if you can call that a solution? Mistakes are like shooting fish in a barrel, but we’ll point to the Worst Car twins by Chevy as emblematic. The Corsica sedan and Beretta coupe were two different names for one dud. They are more than worthy of a Worst Car Wednesday spin around the block.

Every model before and since that came as both a two-door and four-door had one name and common sheetmetal. Back then they all came in two-door, four-door, convertible, and wagon. Not so the Corsica and Beretta.

Maybe Chevy thought a bad Corsica wouldn’t be associated with a bad Beretta?

black 1988 chevy corsica
1988 Chevy Corsica sedan | GM

While under the blandtastic skin they were the same, Chevy marketing decided to name them differently. It might have been because they were such nothing cars. Maybe Chevy thought if you had a bad Corsica you wouldn’t assume the Beretta was also bad?

Not only did they have different, hip new names but they also got unique sheetmetal. Why? Why go through the extra expense of doing that? Especially, when both end results were so forgettable? Supposedly, Chevy engineered both with fewer parts and less assembly time so why undo your money-saving craftiness by adding sheetmetal complexity? Ah, but that’s one reason it is a Worst Car Wednesday find.

It was an unworthy, unholy combo no matter which engine options one got

red 1990 Chevy Beretta coupe
1990 Chevy Beretta coupe | GM

Fewer body seams, no end caps, and lots of two-sided galvanized steel added to what GM hoped would be a cheaper car without consumers seeing the cheap. To that end, it stuck with the craptastic Cavalier front-wheel-drive suspension and rear axle. The Cavalier also gave up its 2.0-liter 90 hp banger or 2.8-liter V6. In all, it was an unworthy, unholy combo to be using no matter which engine options one got. 

Over the years the engines saw power improvements in typical GM fashion. GM is notorious for offering the bleakest of specs and options upon initial release. Then, over the years, it improves and fixes what it didn’t get right in the beginning. That is another reason why GM was cratering. As we said, it was a combination of missteps over many years. It’s also why you’ll be seeing more from this era in future Worst Car Wednesdays.

Debuting as 1988 models they fit in between the Cavalier econobox and Celebrity/Lumina sedan. They supposedly incorporated lots of juicy takeaways from GM’s joint venture with Toyota. As an aside, the plant they shared is now where Tesla is made.

Cracking, sagging, warping, and bloated beige plastic met you upon entering

sunset shot of 1990 Chevy Beretta
1990 Chevy Beretta coupe | GM

Inside there was more plastic than in a toy factory. In no time at all cracking, sagging, warping, and bloated beige plastic met you upon entering. It was like a plastic car model; even the seats felt cheap. 

If there was one common feature for both it was paint delamination. Within a year, whether a Beretta or Corsica it was almost like following a unicorn. What seemed like glitter trailed behind like some sparkling cloud. Alas, it was only the clear-coat flaking off as the miles rode on. Maybe they should have been made with no paint at all. What’s worse looking: delaminating Moss Green paint or rust?

Clogged fuel injectors was an option many got whether they wanted it or not

1990 Beretta convertible Indy 500 Pace Cars
Chevy made five Indy 500 Pace Car convertibles | GM

The list of problems and complaints is a familiar read if you know your 1980s GM products. Clogged fuel injectors was an option many got whether they wanted it or not. Blown head gaskets, air conditioning failures, steering racks binding up, alternators had to be seasonally replaced, motor mounts, gas lines, computers, brake rotors; it was a hot mess of no good Worst Car-ness.

Chevy planned on hacking the top off of Berettas and adding a Targa-like bar for a convertible. Five examples made it to the 1990 Indy 500 as pace cars. But the quality and amount of reinforcement necessary to compensate for the missing top were never sorted out. Rear impact tests were supposedly disastrous. The $20 million investment in a Beretta ‘vert was for naught. Chevy never made one available to the public.

They sold well for GM, but the bad taste left in owners’ mouths lasted decades

red 1988 chevy corsica sedan front 3/4
1988 Chevy Corsica sedan | GM

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Soon after killing the convertible idea, both models were killed. So 1990 was its swan song. And what a sour song it was. They sold well for GM, but the bad taste left in owners’ mouths lasted decades.

One key to whether a vehicle makes it to the Worst Car list is how long it takes before they disappear. It was but a few short years that all evidence of Corsicas and Berettas was gone. You just stopped seeing them smoking down the road. We assume owners quickly sold or junked them. No one dared pass one down to a son or daughter, niece or nephew.