Chevrolet Cobalt Test Drive

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The Cobalt has been presented to us by GM as the American answer to the Corolla/Civic crowd.
Once again, GM claimed that this time “they got it right”.

It looks fine. The front end even reminds me of some German car.
But some details actually make the car look cheaper than the competition.
Like the lines that separate the bumpers from the body. They are very long and quite visible.
They make the car look awkward from some angles.

I also noticed that some of the panels didn’t align properly.
On the picture the trunk is not open…

Inside, the look is much more plain and “inexpensive” looking than outside.
Some plastics are actually soft but manage to look cheaper than the hard plastics in the new Hyundai Accent.
And the plain, flat look of the dash gets really boring after.. A few seconds.

It’s just a detail, but the vent housings aren’t even separate parts. It just helps make the interior look even cheaper…

The 2.2 Liter engine is pertty smooth as soon as you start it. I never felt is was noisy or rough like most of the “Automotive press” claims. I drove an Ion with the same engine a couple of years ago and felt the same way.

The only thing that bothered me was a weird vibration in the seat. Nowhere else.
So that would have to come from the seat itself.
Not really a good thing. You want the seat to be as secure as it can be…

The steering did have quite a bit of that video game feel to it.. But the ride was very smooth.
Smooth but pretty noisy, especially at speed. Every bump is heard if not felt.
Despite the quiet engine, this is a much noisier car than the cheaper Accent.

Inside I noticed something I had never seen before.
Some weird difference in the way the windshield was connected to the A pillars.
I couldn’t tell if it was a windshield or an interior trim problem. It’s just not aligned properly.
Again, it looks like the car wasn’t put together by people who care.

The Cobalt isn’t really that much cheaper than a Corolla or a Civic.
And the cheaper Hyundai Accent is about as roomy, drives better and feels more expensive.

The Cobalt suffers a common GM syndrome. The “good enough” syndrome.
It is good enough if you compare it to the model it replaces, but not compared to the current competition.
GM needs to really look at what other car makers are offering and stop living in a giant bubble.

Bob Lutz recently mentioned they are working on making their interiors look more expensive than they are (“a $20 000 car interior should look like a $30 000 car).
Good idea.
But we need less talk and more action.

Here is a picture of the revised interior for the 2007 Cobalt.
I’m not sure it is such a giant step forward.
The Cadillac SRX and Chevy Equinox will also get much needed new interiors for 2007.

The Cobalt is an OK car. But I couldn’t recommend it to anyone looking for a small car.
Pretty much everything in this price range is better. And looks better made.

$15 000 is a lot of money for many people. It means years of car payments.
The Cobalt just doesn’t feel like it would hold up well for that many years…

Conversation 21 comments

  1. Well reviewed here. Best thing to say about the Cobalt is that it’s better than the Cavalier.

    GM should have done better–they knew what their competiton was and should have made the same test Vince made before introducing this consummate rental car.

  2. I had a Chevy Cobalt LT Coupe as a rental for a week. It was exactly as Vince says–good enough and it actually had a few surprising features, like an outside temperature readout and the (black with silver trim) interior was slightly better than the base trim in the sedan Vince drove.

    But after driving it for 5 miles it felt horribly similar to the 1992 Pontiac Grand Am SE I had in high school and college. It was a terrible car and fell apart within 5 years–just long enough for me to pay off the loan….

  3. I had much the same reactions when I drove a Cobalt, but the interior was certainly on par with the last generation Civic ((01-05). Chevy has really improved its bread-and-butter cars, but they still feel like rentals. For most of the buying public, this isn’t a problem.

    The biggest with the Cobalt has been its poor reliability. For this reason alone, I wouldn’t consider the Cobalt. Chevy would be wise to make it as reliable as their Impala.

    Still, just good enough.

  4. Good review…i agree with your comments. I have rented a cobalt before and like to further gripe about how uncomfortable the front bucket seats are; there wasn’t much back/lumbar support.

    It is strange that Chevy had killed the Prizm. I wonder why they didn’t continue on with that Corolla-based sedan. They should have chucked the idea of creating the Cobalt as a Cavalier replacement. They should have used the Prizm instead. The Prizm was so much better, since it has Toyota quality.

  5. It looks like Chevy copied the interior or the last-generation Jetta then cheapified it. I actually like the way the Colbalt coupe looks on the outside—like a mini Mustang, but you see so much Cavalier influence in these cars. The Colbalt is more evolutionary than revolutionary, and that’s where the problems start.

  6. I rented Cobalts twice, a 06 from Enterprise and then a 05 from Avis. The steering wheel definitely has a video game feel to it because it uses hydraulics. Also, the one thing I hated most about it? NO center console. Right where it should be, there’s the E-brake. Not good, at least in my opinion.

  7. I’m glad you mentioned the line between the bumper and body panels. This is horrible looking and a problem even for the newest BMW 3-series, too. It adds a certain cheapness to the designs. Even in dark colors, the Cobalt (and the Bimmer) can’t shake the fact that the line calls attention to itself.

  8. Hi Vince

    I love your blog but it ain’t working fine in IE. It give a error “stack over flow” when I try to click on the comments.

    When Using Firefox, no problems what so ever.

    Please fix that.


  9. Someone else jut told me that.
    I can’t see it because it works fine on my computer, using Safari and Firefox. But even when I use Explorer. No problems.

    I contacted Blogger about the issue some of you have.
    I am waiting for an answer from them (That might take a while…)

  10. I’ve had a problem with the stack overflow using IE 7 beta. All other browsers work fine, so I use them instead.

    Ain’t your fix to do, Vince.

  11. ive rented cobalts numerous times. they are pretty bad cars i think, the only problem i have with your review is.. i think the cobalt engines is really noisy and rough. and also, it is still quieter than a hyundai accent though.

    i would think the cobalt is the least comfortable car in its class. and the second worst handling (the worst handling is the corolla)

  12. Douchebag Jones is a joke.
    Can you imagine a guy who drives a Monte Carlo and lives in Modesto?

    Two time loser!

  13. I’ve owned about 15 economy cars over the past 6 years – several Focus ZX3’s, a couple of Neons, a Cavalier, a Honda coupe, a Scion xA, so I think I’m qualified to defend the Cobalt.

    I have a 2006 Cobalt Coupe, stick shift, LS. I paid less than 10 grand for it (repriced by GM to 12,990 with no options – but that does include aircon and a great radio) after a $1,000 dealer discount, application of a $1,000 “floating rebate” coupon the dealer had from GM, and a $1,000 GM Card discount. You can’t beat the price. I know I’ve tried, but the only ZX3 I got for that price didn’t have aircon.

    For that really bargain price, I got a trip computer (mpg, miles to empty, outside temperature, oil life remaining); automatic headlamps, and an RDS (radio data system) CD player.

    On a trip to Yosemite from San Franciso this weekend, I got 36.6 mpg average (my actual calcuation, not the computer)with the aircon running all day. In my workweek commute, I regularlly get 35 mpg or better.

    This from the largest, strongest, and fastest (except Mazda3) engine in an economy car.

    I also get a 5 year, 60,000 mile power train warranty. Tuneups are virtually non-existent. It’s PZEV (super clean, with 150,000 mile warranty on all emission parts).

    Wow. How far we’ve come that we can ignore all this and worry about some nitpicks. Yes, the steering can’t hold a candle to the Focus, but the ride is pretty good, and the car grips the road very well (especially considering that Chevy doesn’t have a Cobalt that exactly compares to the ZXE in the Focus line). Yes, I have also noted a couple of quality control issues (a intermittent scratching noise from the dashboard, some gurgling a couple of times from the heater hoses) that I didn’t have with my Focii (except the 2000 ZX3) or Neons, but to be honest the Scion xA and Honda 2003 coupe had the same number of problems (it surprised me that the ZX3s, VWs, and Neons had fewere initial quality control issues than the Toyota and Honda!), but I can get them fixed.

    On the other hand, if you say the Accent is REALLY quiet, that makes me want to try one. BUT in Europe, the Accent is a whole size class below the Focus/Cobalt/VW Golfs, and that has to count for something too.

  14. If you paid $10 000 for a Cobalt, this is a whole different story.
    I was comparing MSRPs.
    At this price I would not have been so picky.
    It is a great buy.

  15. That’s not a picture of the revised Cobalt interior. That’s the interior of the Pontiac G5 (already on sale in Canada and Mexico) with the new corporate radio installed. That’s all.

  16. GM = Grand- Ma cars these days.

    Sorry folks, I’ll take a Hyundai over this any day. Maybe even a Suzuki in a few years, when their new cars come out.

    They need something different. Cobalt is ok, but ok don’t cut it to me.

    Lieke someone else has stated, 10K price would beone thing, 15K and up? Lot better cars out there for similar price( base Civic, Corolla, Elantra, are 3 examples).

    Civic gets 40(or more) MPG, same for Corolla, and for 15K, the (07) Elantra will getr you more stuff, and 17K, leather, too(maybe 4-HP less than Cobalt,but that 10/100K warranty is a comfort).

    Buy what you like. But… I don’t like.

  17. Forgot to add to my above comment, Mazda3 and Scion tC can be had in 15-18K range MSRP, too.
    (or higher). Think Mazda3 base is under 15K.

    Buy what you like, but I don’t like.

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