2007 Chevrolet Cobalt

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2005 Chevrolet Cobalt

This 2005 review is representative of model years 2005 to 2010.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Long overdue replacement for Chevrolet Cavalier.
Pros:
  • Nifty Cavalier replacement
  • Fairly roomy
  • Lively acceleration, especially with supercharged engine
Cons:
  • Me-too styling
  • High trunk opening
  • Rear seatbacks don't sit flat when moved forward

The Chevrolet Cobalt coupe and sedan replaces the aged Cavalier as one of the automaker's entry models and is a surprisingly good Toyota and Honda small car rival. It's an encouraging sign that General Motors no longer is settling for a "just good enough" car.

The Cobalt is larger and more expensive than Chevrolet's Korean-built Aveo and is the automaker's first new compact car in years. It seems so good partly because the Cavalier has become quite dated.

Introduced 23 years ago, the Cavalier had a significant upgrade for 1995 and still was offered at the beginning of the 2005 model year, although it's slowly being phased out. Old is old, and the Cavalier no longer is a viable rival against newer, more polished small cars.

Strong Player
The $13,625-$21,430 Cobalt compact looks like a strong player. Unlike the Cavalier, it feels refined and more surefooted—and more costly than it is, with a quiet interior largely provided by lots of sound insulation. Rigid construction allows above-average ride and handling.

The Cobalt sedan comes in base, LS and LT trim levels, while coupes offer base, LS and SS Supercharged versions. The Cobalt shares General Motors' front-wheel-drive Delta platform with the Saturn Ion, but is a better car.

The standard engine is a 2.2-liter dual overhead camshaft 4-cylinder that produces 140 horsepower. Chevy has made this 16-valve GM "Ecotech" engine smooth and quiet, which is almost miraculous if you know how less refined it is in other GM small cars.

Hot Supercharged Version
Powering the $21,430 SS Supercharged coupe is a supercharged 2.0-liter 205-horsepower 4-cylinder engine with special oil-jet piston cooling, steel crankshaft and sodium-filled exhaust valves. It's also got dual overhead camshafts and 16 valves. No wonder it lets the supercharged Cobalt hit 60 mph in just six seconds.

The supercharged Cobalt has a modified sport suspension developed at demanding race tracks and wide 45-series tires on large 18-inch wheels. It also has anti-lock 4-wheel disc brakes, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 player sound system and a huge rear spoiler that should draw the attention of young drivers. Optional are Recaro front bucket seats.

Regular Cobalts have smooth but rather innocuous styling, while the supercharged version's spoiler, large tires and slightly lower height make it stand out more.

Lively Standard Engine
The more mainstream Cobalt LT sedan with the 2.2-liter engine is no match for the supercharged version but provides lively in-town acceleration and 65-75 mph passing times. However, the 4-speed automatic transmission upshifts at about 70 mph and thus doesn't hold passing gear until 75 or 80 mph are reached for the quickest passing.

The automatic transmission is standard in the LT and an $850 extra for base and LS Cobalts, which have a standard 5-speed manual gearbox. The LS adds traction control when the automatic is ordered. Only the manual gearbox is offered for the supercharged Cobalt.

Fuel economy with the base engine is an estimated 25 mpg in the city and 34 on highways with the manual gearbox and 24 and 32 with the automatic. It's 23 and 29 for the supercharged engine. Both only call for 87-octane gasoline.

Fairly Well Equipped
The base Cobalt has a fair amount of standard items, including air conditioning, a rear defroster, an AM/FM/CD, height-adjustable driver's seat, a tilt wheel, a console, intermittent wipers, a tachometer and folding split-bench rear seat with a fairly large pass-through opening to the trunk for added cargo space. But it only has average 60-series tires on 15-inch wheels.

Move up to the LS, LT and SS Supercharged versions and you get standard cruise control, anti-lock brakes and power windows, mirrors and locks with remote keyless entry.

The LT adds leather upholstery, leather-wrapped wheel with radio controls, heated front seats, traction control and wider 55-series tires on 16-inch wheels. (The SS Supercharged version has no heated-seat feature.)

Optional Equipment
Extras include $400 anti-lock brakes for the base Cobalt, $395 side-curtain and side airbags for all trim levels, $695 OnStar assistance system, $695 leather upholstery for the LS—and a $725 power sunroof for the LS, LT and SS Supercharged versions. The base, LS and LT also can be had with upgraded sound systems.

One need not get the racer-style supercharged Cobalt for driving fun. The variable-speed steering on my test LT was fast and accurate, with little of the artificial feel gotten with some versions of this GM electric power-assisted steering.

While LT handling is sharp, the base version isn't quite as agile with its smaller wheels and tires. Of course, the supercharged version has the best handling. The ride is supple with all versions, and stopping distances are short, with good brake pedal feel.

Roomy
There's comfortable room for four 6-footers, or for a third rear passenger if he doesn't mind a hard center seat area. Rear windows don't roll all the way down, but the interior is a cut above previous Chevy small car interiors, despite the use of some hard plastics.

Good support is provided by the front seats, and gauges can be quickly read. Sound system controls are small, as is the case with most compact cars, but climate controls are fairly large, which is not the case with many compacts. Cupholders are nicely positioned to avoid spills.

High Trunk Opening
The trunk is roomy, but has a high opening. At least its lid rises on hydraulic struts instead of space-eating manual hinges. Rear seatbacks flip forward to allow more cargo room but should sit flatter when moved forward.

Chevrolet sold lots of Cavaliers, but the car had little competition for much of its life. The Cobalt has far more competition, but was designed to be prepared for it.

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BB03 - 7/31/2014 11:06:50 PM