For those of you who have been waiting for the new Chevrolet small car after a decade of the less-than-wonderful Cavalier, meet the Cobalt, a small car better in every way than its predecessor. This is Chevrolet's attempt to offer the kind of equipment, power, value and price that competes directly against the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Ford Focus.
Chevrolet says the Cobalt is the quietest, stiffest, strongest, most refined small car it has ever built, and after a test drive, we give them high marks on almost all counts. If you're looking for inexpensive, high-value transportation with a new-car warranty, Cobalt is worth a long look.
The all-new 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt is designed to be a premium compact car, complementing the entry-level Chevrolet Aveo, which was introduced as an all-new model for 2005. Cobalt features an expressive design and a dynamic driving experience. Premium features are available like heated leather seats, XM Satellite Radio, MP3, and OnStar.
The 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt comprises four models, the base coupe and sedan ($14,190), the LS coupe and sedan ($16,485), the LT sedan ($18,760), and the special high –performance SS coupe ($21,995).
Base and LS models come with small but smooth- and quiet-riding 15-inch wheels and Continental tires, the LT comes with 16-inch Pirelli tires and alloy wheels, and the SS comes with 18-inch high-performance Pirelli tires and alloy wheels. The base car comes with disc/drum brakes, and the others come with disc/disc brakes with ABS. The 4T45-E four-speed automatic is an option on lower models ($850), standard on the LT, and not available on the manual-only performance SS version.
For a small car, the Cobalt has an option list that is a very complete one: power sunroof ($725); the OnStar system ($695); XM Satellite Radio ($325), a rear spoiler ($275), a radio upgrade to MP3 ($150). The Sport package ($595) includes a brushed metal trim package for the dashboard, white-faced gauges, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, rear spoiler and 16-inch alloy wheels with Pirelli tires.
Safety features include dual-stage front air bags, front seatbelt pre-tensioners, rear center shoulder belts, and the LATCH child seat retention system. All but base models come with ABS. Other safety features cost extra. Head curtain side air bags ($395) designed to provide head protection are optional. Also optional: OnStar ($695) whose operators can provide assistance after an accident and will direct emergency crews to your exact location should your airbag go off.
Cobalt is built on the GM Delta platform that it shares with the Saturn Ion and the upcoming Chevrolet HHR retro truck in the U.S. and the Opel Astra in Europe. But with its single-bar grille and bowtie emblem, it looks like a proper Chevrolet small car right down to its shoes and socks.
There are huge plastic bumper fascias on both ends of the car and the body panel fits are extremely tight. So tight, in fact, that there are no rubber trim gaskets around the compound complex headlamps.
The coupe bears a stronger resemblance in its shape to the Cavalier than the sedan, which has a new and more modern roofline sweep. The base, LS and LT coupe and sedan models have no spoiler as standard (it's optional), and the SS coupe version carries a huge, tall rear spoiler than certainly makes a design and intent statement.
Cobalt is heavier, longer, wider and lower than most of its direct competitors, its engine is the most powerful base engine in the class, and its interior dimensions and trunk capacity are close to the competition in every respect. After 10 years and 6 million Cavaliers, Chevrolet has learned a few lessons, and that's apparent in the size, shape and equipment of the Cobalt.
Inside the Cobalt, the design theme is simple and straightforward, but far from the el cheapo appointments of the old Cavalier. Materials are better, there are far fewer individual pieces, and the fit and finish on our very early production LT sedan were very, very good, but not perfect, like a typical Honda or Toyota. There's just enough chrome trim here and there on knobs and instruments to brighten things up without a lot of glare from the shiny parts. Instruments are large, well placed, and easy to read, with nice graphic treatment throughout.
Cobalt is unique in the subcompact class in that three completely different seats are offered in base, LS and LT, and SS versions, each with detail changes in foam, padding and trim. There was plenty of fore/aft and rake adjustment for a 6-foot, 4-inch driver, plus seat height adjustment with a ratcheting handle. The LT seats were very comfortable and grabbed us in the fast corners exactly where we needed to be grabbed and held.
In our LT sedan tester, the Delphi AM/FM/CD player carried a complete Pioneer seven-speaker sound system with a huge subwoofer mounted on the left side trunk wall, as well as an XM satellite tuner, so the entertainment factor and sound quality were very high indeed, especially considering the price and class. The heating, ventilation and defroster system worked quickly and intuitively.
Unlike the Saturn Ion, the Cobalt does not use space-eating gooseneck hinges on its decklid, opting instead for simple outside corner hinges and not one, but two hydraulic assist struts. (The hood also has a large single strut, so you don't have to hold up the hood while you find and engage the prop rod. It raises and stays in position by itself.) The trunk is wide and deep with a low liftover height, and almost 14 cubic feet of capacity, more than competitive in the class. In addition, there's a 60/40-split, fold-down rear seat with a trunk pass-through feature.
We found the Cobalt quite pleasant to drive, and almost eerily quiet for a car that costs well under $20,000. Chevrolet has put what feels like hundreds of dollars worth of special door seals, sandwich steel panels, thick carpets and pads, noise blockers and noise absorbers throughout the front, middle and rear of the car, and normal front-seat conversation is possible at speeds over 90 mph.
The Cobalt LT is not the address of driving excitement, however. It's not made for that, but rather for delivering four people comfortably, five only in a pinch, on a minimal outlay for fuel and monthly payments, a transportation appliance in the longtime Chevrolet mold of the Corvair, the Vega, the Chevette, the Monza, and most recently the Cavalier.
If you want to tangle with the Japanese front-drive performance competition on the street, then you'll have to step up to the $22,000 supercharged model, which we view as a very potent competitor with a high-performance parts program already in place.
We thought the Cobalt steering wheel was a trifle small, like the one on the original Ion, but it was connected to one of GM's electric power steering units that has been tailored for good but not sports-car response, with assist tailored for easy parking, and a nice, solid feel that doesn't include a lot of road shock.
We drove an LT with ABS and four-wheel disc brakes and found them to be powerful, and progressive, with a good ratio between pedal travel and braking action.
The 2.2-liter engine, which is rated at 145 horsepower, was a bit of a disappointment. (Note that rating is at 5400 rpm and the torque peak is even higher, at 5600 rpm.) It was smooth, but never felt truly powerful until it was revving very high.
The automatic, a straightforward four-speed instead of the more modern and desirable five-speed automatic, worked perfectly.
Estimated fuel economy is expected to be 24/32 mpg City/Highway for the 2.2-liter automatic, 25/34 with the manual, and 23/29 for the SS model with the supercharged 2.0-liter manual.
The Chevrolet Cobalt will satisfy the needs of drivers looking for economy of price, economy of operation, and a nice, quiet ride. We think it's a handsome, well-equipped car. The standard engine could offer more responsive low-end power, however.
|Model Line Overview|
|Base Price (MSRP)|| $14,190|
|As Tested (MSRP)|| $20,465|
|Model lineup:||Chevrolet Cobalt coupe or sedan ($13,625); LS ($15,920); LT ($18,195); SS ($21,430)|
|Engines:||145-hp 2.2-liter inline-4; 210-hp 2.0-liter supercharged inline-4|
|Transmissions:||5-speed manual; 4-speed automatic|
|Safety equipment (Standard):||front airbags|
|Safety equipment (Optional):||ABS, side head curtain air bags|
|Basic warranty:||3 years/36,000 miles|
|Assembled in:||Lordstown, Ohio|
|Specifications As Tested|
|Model tested (MSRP):||Chevrolet Cobalt LT sedan ($18,195)|
|Standard equipment:||air conditioning, heated leather seats, power windows, power locks, keyless entry, power mirrors, cruise control, message center, console|
|Options as tested:||curtain air bags ($395); OnStar ($695); XM Satellite Radio ($325); rear spoiler ($275), cigarette lighter ($15)|
|Gas Guzzler Tax:||N/A|
|Price as tested (MSRP):|| $20,465|
|Engine:||2.2-liter dohc 16-valve inline-4|
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm):||145 @ 5400 |
|Torque(lb.-ft. @ rpm):||152 @ 5600|
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:||24/32 mpg|
|Track, f/r:||58.7/58.1 in.|
|Turning circle:||37.4 ft.|
|Head/hip/leg room, f:||38.5/49.6/41.8 in.|
|Head/hip/leg room, m:||N/A|
|Head/hip/leg room, r:||43.8/46.4/42 in.|
|Cargo volume:||13.2 cu. ft.|
|Towing capacity:||1000 Lbs.|
|Suspension F:||independent, MacPherson strut|
|Suspension R:||semi-independent, torsion beam|
|Ground Clearance:||6.8 in.|
|Curb weight:||2989 Lbs.|
|Brakes, f/r:||disc/disc with ABS|
|Fuel capacity:||13.2 gal.|
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle.|
All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) effective as of 12/Aug/2004.
Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges.
N/A: Information not available or not applicable.
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