1995 Chevrolet Lumina

By November 10, 1999
1995 Chevrolet Lumina

For four years now, the Chevrolet Lumina has been the invisible family sedan, hidden in the shadows while rivals, most notably the Chrysler LH cars, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Ford Taurus, were updated with brand-new exteriors, more amenities and state-of-the-art safety features.

Not any longer. The latest Lumina is a great leap forward for Chevrolet, an improvement over past models by almost any measure you care to make. It is, at last, a serious contender for sales stardom in the midsize class.

The changes are more than skin deep, going well beyond the obvious and extending into the way the Lumina is packaged. The coupe version is gone. Instead, a Lumina-derived Monte Carlo revives the familiar Chevrolet model name and strives for its own identity both on the street and on NASCAR racetracks.

What’s left is a pair of Lumina trim levels – base and LS, both 4-door sedans – each with its own distinct features and short list of options.

An impressive lineup of standard features is offered on both Luminas. The base-level car has, for example, air conditioning, driver and front-passenger airbags, GM’s effective PASS-Key II theft deterrent system and power door locks. The LS adds anti-lock brakes (ABS) and power windows (both optional on the base model), along with fancier upholstery and trim.

But the Lumina’s most compelling attribute may well be its low price/amenity ratio. The base model’s sticker price undercuts some rivals by a four-figure sum. The LS beats the opposition on price, too, especially when standard equipment is factored in.

And Chevrolet has made giant strides in build quality, too. You won’t find loose ends dangling or the thousand-and-one trivial faults that have plagued some past Chevrolets. Today’s Lumina shows every sign of being a durable, reliable car that will outlast its warranty.

Each car in the midsize class has its own personality, strengths and features, and the Lumina can now go head-to-head in al-most every category with the best of them.


Rather than creating a totally different look for the Lumina, Chevrolet designers have modernized the previous car’s appearance. The concept of a sloped nose and small air intake above the bumper has been retained in front, though it’s now handled with much more skill.

The same can be said for the profile, where the past hard-edged look has been softened. In fact, the only radical visual change is in back, where larger lamp clusters emphasize a more rounded stern. And though dimensionally similar to the 1994 model, the ’95 Lumina looks larger.

Much of the work done to make the Lumina more attractive has practical value as well. Smoothing rough edges improves airflow, which in turn has a positive effect on noise. This, plus some newly added sound-deadening materials, makes the Lumina a very quiet cruiser.

Interior Features

When compared with its ’94 predecessor, the new Lumina’s interior is a major change and a vast improvement.

The sweeping, sculpted dashboard holds the expected array of instruments – including, on our LS tester, a tachometer – and new, user-friendly controls. All major functions – headlights, sound system and climate control – are operated by soft-feel rotary knobs, which are easy to find and operate.

The only major holdout is the windshield wiper switch, which is still somewhat inconveniently located on the turn signal lever.

Though the Lumina’s base front bench seat suggests otherwise, six passengers will be slightly crowded; five should be far more comfortable. Those five will have plenty of head- and legroom, and they’ll ride on well-padded seats.

In terms of both choice and quality, materials used inside the Lumina are up to class standards. Scotchgard brand fabric protector is applied to the seats, just as it is throughout the Chevrolet lineup, greatly increasing stain resistance and making cleanup easier.

One desirable option added to the list this year is a dual-control air conditioning system that allows driver and front-seat passengers to set temperatures individually.

As always, a range of sound systems is available, from an AM/FM stereo (standard) to an AM/FM stereo with cassette (LS) to an AM/FM/CD unit with four speakers and an automatic control that adjusts the volume level to match your vehicle speed.

Driving Impressions

Experienced Lumina drivers will be in for a surprise when they get behind the wheel of the ’95 model. It is quieter, smoother and far more comfortable on the highway than its ancestors were, equaling the best of its competitors in those key areas.

A major increase in the Lumina’s structural strength produces benefits driver and passengers can feel and hear. Squeaks and rattles have been almost totally banished, and the rigid platform transmits little or no noise or vibration from rough pavement.

That said, there are ways in which the Lumina does not shine. The most important is in hard braking, where a mushy pedal and premature fade will keep even the most determined operators from driving too enthusiastically.

Even though sporty driving is not something most Lumina buyers will care about, they are sure to drive their cars with a full load of passengers and luggage from time to time, so they should be aware that repeated braking – as on a mountain road – may produce the same less-than-sterling results. The optional ABS, although no cure for the basic condition, should be considered essential by any customer.

Ride and handling produce equally mixed results. Our test LS was fitted with the optional heavy-duty suspension, which does give the driver some valuable feedback, reduces body roll through corners and delivers a firm though not harsh ride. But Luminas, with or without this component, are at their best when driven conservatively.

That’s about all the base engine can deliver anyway. The 3.1-liter V6 deals with the 3300-lb. Lumina in fine fashion, delivering quiet power and good fuel economy. But there isn’t any performance to spare. With the optional 3.4-liter DOHC V6, the Lumina is quicker but less refined. It’s your choice.

With either engine, the sole transmission offered is a 4-speed electronically controlled automatic unit that is as good as any on the market. Both up- and downshifts are smooth but positive, and kick-down response is immediate.


Buyers who approach the Lumina with an eye toward replacing their traditional large American sedan with something smaller, more fuel efficient and easier to thread through city traffic will be delighted with the new midsize Chevrolet.

Though its design, inside and out, is a step away from what these buyers are used to, they will find that the Lumina handles, rides and performs in a familiar fashion. And they will be impressed with its fit-and-finish.

Others, who might be thinking of the Lumina as an alternative to the Accord, Camry, Taurus or LH cars, may not be so easily convinced. Each of these makes can top the Lumina in one or more categories. Each has, at the moment, a track record of a couple of years or longer during which production-line bugs have been able to be worked out. And each has better brakes.

But the Lumina certainly is a contender right now, and we think this vehicle is worth adding to your midsize shopping list.

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