Launched for 2005, the front-wheel-drive subcompact Cobalt comes in sedan and coupe body styles. Cobalts are powered by a choice of two four-cylinder engines, with the most powerful making 171 horsepower in the Sport model. Last year's SS and supercharged SS trim levels have been dropped. The Cobalt's competitors include the Honda Civic, Ford Focus and Toyota Corolla. Changes for 2008 include new standard safety features and standard satellite radio.
Cobalts come in LS, LT and Sport trim levels. Distinct interiors and wheels help differentiate the models. The Sport coupe and sedan get 17-inch wheels, a performance suspension and a 171-hp four-cylinder engine.
Chevrolet says the Cobalt coupe has an "elegantly tapered reverse C-pillar leading the eye to Chevrolet's signature four round taillamps." Both body styles feature a horizontally split grille with a gold bow tie badge. A power sunroof is optional.
A Chrome Package is now available on LT sedans that includes chrome accents on the front grille, body moldings and door handles.
Base models are equipped with disc brakes in front and drums in the rear, and Sport models have all-disc brakes. Built on a 103.3-inch wheelbase, the Cobalt measures a bit more than 180 inches long overall and 67.9 inches wide. LS and LT models ride on 15-inch tires. Sixteen-inch wheels are optional on the LT.
With front bucket seats and a 60/40-split folding rear seat, all Cobalts seat five occupants. Chevrolet says higher-than-usual seating positions are intended to give sedan occupants a more commanding view of the road. Occupants can access the trunk area from inside the car.
Standard equipment includes air conditioning, an electric rear defogger, a tilt steering column, a driver information center and a CD player with an auxiliary input jack for iPods or other MP3 players. XM Satellite Radio is now standard on all models, and OnStar is standard on 2LT and Sport trims. It's offered as an option on the 1LT trim. Heated leather seats and MP3 playback capability are optional. On models with an automatic transmission, an optional remote start system allows drivers to start the engine with a key fob.
Under the Hood
LS and LT models use a 2.2-liter four-cylinder that makes 148 hp and 152 pounds-feet of torque. Sport models hold a 171-hp 2.4-liter engine. Both engines are available with a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission.
Antilock brakes are standard on 2LT and Sport models and optional on LS models. Cobalts with the automatic gearbox and ABS also have traction control. Side curtain airbags are now standard on all models, but side-impact airbags for the front seats are not available.
The Cobalt offers good front passenger space and reasonably spirited performance, even with an automatic transmission. It's agile around town and stable enough on the highway, but you must pay attention to remain on course. The ride is surprisingly good, with only larger bumps and holes causing trouble.
Backseat space is awful, with marginal headroom and virtually no legroom unless the front seat is well forward. Getting in and out is a battle. The handbrake is in an awkward position when the center armrest is down.