By on April 25, 2008

popup_cobalt_xfe.jpgPlug-in Volt, hydrogen fuel cell Equinox, two-mode hybrid Tahoe, belt-assist hybrid Malibu, yada, yada, yada. With all this high mileage hype, how come GM's not making a big deal out of the XFE (eXtra Fuel Efficiency) Cobalt? If it weren't for our good friend at AUTOSAVANT, we would've never known that as of May 17, all Cobalts with the five-speed manual tranny get 36 mpg on the highway. (That's second in its class to the Honda Civic Hybrid AND the Cobalt XFE offers class-leading hp from its 2.2-liter Ecotec engine.) GM squeezed the last few mpgs from the Cobalt by calibrating the engine, decreasing the tires' rolling resistance and (probably) offering a taller fifth gear. These are exactly the kind of common-sense efficiency improvements Chevy (et al) should spread across their lineup. Yes, well, come the '09 model year, the Cobalt sedan will no longer be available with a manual transmission. So if you want best-in-class horsepower and efficiency from a four-door, buy a Cobalt XFE now or you'll be looking at the Civic. Because practical, efficient cars just aren't Chevy's future, are they? Oh wait… 

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35 Comments on “Chevy (Quietly) Launches Fuel Efficient XFE Trim...”


  • avatar

    Y’know, I don’t think a return to the 70s and 80s game of offering specific models competing for best-in-class fuel economy (which spawned cars like the CRX HF) would be a bad thing at all.

  • avatar
    Bancho

    I wonder how it drives with the tweaks. If it’s not too different it makes you wonder why they didn’t do this earlier.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    Why am I not impressed? My GTI gets 33mpg with summer performance tires and 34.5 with OEM width all seasons. I’ve got tons more torque (and hp) as well. AND it’s spinning 3000rpm at 70mph.

    If VW would put that engine in a decently sized (weighted) car with decent gearing, you could easily have a 40mpg rocket.

  • avatar
    Jonathon

    Is “calibrating” code-word for “detuning”?

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    Why did they go through all that trouble if they are only going to sell the car for a year. I get the idea GM is AGAINST making their cars more efficient. I wonder how many manual Cobalts you can find on dealer lots, probably not many. Until this news story I didn’t even know they offered it in a 5 speed, and it wont be for much longer.

  • avatar
    blautens

    Much like the 89-94 Geo Metro XFi? From http://gtkgeo.50megs.com/:

    The XFi model was designed for maximum fuel efficiency. It had a lighter curb weight, different computer, camshaft and transmission than the base or LSi models. It also had less comfort and convenience options than the other models. It boasted 53 city/58 highway mpg numbers and received “Most Fuel Efficient car in America” for all six years of it’s production. It was dropped after the ’94 model year because of slow sales.

  • avatar
    gawdodirt

    “Calibrating” is a function not just a verb. It’s most likely got a leaner cruise, and power enrichment cal. Not bad and it STILL is leading on hp in that class.

    Yeah, I know that it hurts to admit that when you bought a Japanese car…

  • avatar
    KixStart

    This thing can’t be “launched” quietly enough.

    The badge almost certainly adds more to the unit production cost than any of the other changes, save, perhaps, the tires.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    gawdodirt, My Japanese car doesn’t need as much power as a Cobalt because it doesn’t weigh as much as a Cobalt.

  • avatar
    marc

    This is a no-brainer. It’s time for a moratorium on bigger tires, more horsepower, heavier features (at least on “economy” cars). I can only imagine that some mfrs of fuel efficient vehicles have known these tricks all along, and have been building cars with fuel savings in mind, at the expense of a superior driving experience. (Yes, I’m lookin at you, Corolla and Yaris.)

  • avatar
    bfg9k

    # marc :
    April 25th, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    This is a no-brainer. It’s time for a moratorium on bigger tires, more horsepower, heavier features (at least on “economy” cars).

    No need for a gov moratorium…
    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/oil-headed-for-225-a-barrel/

  • avatar

    You won’t find many manual Cobalts on dealer lots because there aren’t many people that want them or will buy them. Dealers generally order what they know they can sell. That doesn’t prevent anyone from ordering a Cobalt with a manual if they really want it.

  • avatar
    Bancho

    I agree with KixStart.

    Any class leading HP is wasted on the extra mass the Cobalt is saddled with. It’s also an engine that’s not much fun to rev.

  • avatar
    davey49

    Cobalt Coupe 2681
    Cobalt Sedan 2747
    Civic Coupe 2586
    Civic Sedan 2628
    Corolla 2822
    Mazda 3 2780
    Sentra 2885
    Elantra 2723

    The Cobalt does OK weight wise compared to it’s competition.

  • avatar
    davey49

    There’s 1 sedan and 6 coupes with manual trans within 50 miles from me.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    davey49, Edmunds lists the Cobalt sedan at over 3200. Where did you get your figures? Edmunds might well be wrong, of course.

  • avatar
    Mj0lnir

    KixStart :
    April 25th, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    davey49, Edmunds lists the Cobalt sedan at over 3200. Where did you get your figures? Edmunds might well be wrong, of course.
    Yahoo autos has a Cobalt LT2 Sedan with a manual listed at 3216.

  • avatar
    gawdodirt

    Wow. More HP and similar mileage!

    Alert the media. Oh, you already have.

    It’s a sad rationalization that you don’t WANT the extra hp. It’s more efficient if it GETS the hp and is still as economical.

    But you’ve been trained to expect better results from the foreign competition.

  • avatar
    Juniper

    chevy website lists cobalt weights at approx 2700 lbs.

  • avatar
    davey49

    The weights are off the Chevy web site. Don’t know where Edmunds got it’s numbers. Maybe they used the GVWR instead of the curb weight.
    I can’t find an official weight for the Ford Focus. Consumer Reports has it at 2800#
    I’m hoping for GM to bring something the size of the Opel Corsa with an approximately 110-120HP VVT/maybe direct injection 1.6L engine to the US.

  • avatar
    davey49

    My Saturn ION weighs 2677 according to it’s sticker. Can’t imagine there’s 500# extra weight in the Cobalt

  • avatar
    poltergeist

    The current Civic rates 25/36MPG (same as this Cobalt) and that’s with the auto trans. Plus that’s every one (except the Si), not a “special” model. Of course it’s more coin up front…..but I know which I’d rather drive.

  • avatar
    CarShark

    I remain unimpressed because nearly all people will get the automatic and see no benefit whatsoever. Try again, GM.

  • avatar
    rtz

    XFE, I’m kinda impressed. The General can kick a little ass once in a while. I guess when they feel like it, or feel it’s worth it. Beat the Corolla at it’s own game. Wouldn’t take much to beat that hybrid Civic either… Can we get a hybrid Cobalt? How about a plug in model? A full blown electric model? A performance model that will damn near beat a Vette?

    A manager at 7/11 said $4/gal gas is two weeks away. Take that FWIW.

    How about a full electric Volt that will beat a Tesla?

    Every `09 model should be able to shut the engine off automatically when the vehicle is not moving(stop lights).

    • 0 avatar
      Gary Cee

      Not only beat them at their own game but did it without sticky throttle recalls that forced an assembly line shutdown. In fact, GM has been surpassing Toyota on many quality related issues lately.
      As far as mileage; My old Park Avenue Ultra (A rather LARGE car) easily acheived 32 MPG on the highway . Manual shift Cobalts ? I have two within 50 feet of my front door. My neighbor tried my 2005 Cobalt and replaced his Camry with a Cobalt. A very happy camper to this day.

  • avatar
    limmin

    Perhaps I read the main article incorrectly. But I understood that while the stick will be dropped for uplevel Cobalt sedans, it will still be available for base sedans (and the coupe).

    No up-optioned small sedan has a stick anyway. So what GM is doing is not remarkable. It is basically retaining the stick for the entry-level model.

    I’ve always said it: the Cobalt is a remarkable value and superior to its competition. Take that, Honda and Toyota!!!

  • avatar
    Terry

    Gawdodirt posted:
    “But you’ve been trained to expect better results from the foreign competition.”
    And who did this training?? What do you think all these import owners drove BEFORE they switched?? And WHY did they switch??
    You think mpg figures are the whole story? GUESS AGAIN! Fit, finish, driving dynamics, dealer experience, and resale value all go into the mix.
    Tell me how the Cobalt stacks up against Corolla and Civic in areas OTHER than mpg…

  • avatar
    shaker

    Chevy just did this so they can squawk about the “Class-Leading” fuel economy in their TV spots. Certainly nothing wrong with that, since they have very few real vehicles to tout as “efficient”.
    Now, make a nicely-equipped Cobalt for 16k.
    Oh, and GM: How much does it cost to put trim around the windshield so it doesn’t look like the glass was just dropped onto the gasket?

    • 0 avatar
      Gary Cee

      Shaker, You are a bit under-informed. Chevrolet has quite a few vehicles that top the fuel economy ratings in their respective classes. Check out the Impala. Chevrolet trucks, size for size are beating the imports as well. It seems to me the Malibu was right there in the hunt in it’s class. Also, terms like “fuel efficiency” have meanings you may not yet fully grasp. For example, A GM hybrid bus is far more fuel efficient per passenger mile than a Toyota Prius. A GM Diesel locomotive is quite fuel efficient as well. A 50 year old GM diesel can move a ton of freght hundreds of miles on but a gallon of fuel. Fuel EFFICIENCY is a function of fuel consumed to move a given payload over a measured distance. You cannot safely carry 8 people in a Smart car, but a Suburban can do that.

      Terry, Many of the current import driver’s previous vehicles were two wheeled and pedal powered. They, like our friend shaker really know very little about domestic brands, having relied upon agenda driven media outlets for what they “know” about cars. Shaker’s mis-representation of the facts is actually typical of the media spawned “experts” People who actually beleived the NBC “news story” of the Chevrolet pickup bursting into flames. Real car people knew otherwise and in fact went to the scene and caught the media in the act. Overfilled tank, filler neck loose, no gas cap. Hit the car twice as fast as was stated and use some model rocket engines just to be sure. This type of reporting is not an anomaly. Just as Consumer reports has taken IDENTICAL cars that came down the same assembly line one receiving a domestic badge (say FORD) the other and import badge (like MAZDA) The import gets glowing feedback while the domestic is totally denegrated.
      BTW… I have owned over 15 imports, and I will continue to buy from wherever I see fit.

  • avatar
    ejacobs

    @ limmin:
    No up-optioned small sedan has a stick anyway.
    Maybe domestic brands.
    A loaded Civic EX Sedan w/ nav. is available in a stick. Plus, it gets the same gas mileage.

  • avatar
    rtz

    “and a few other special items we don’t want the competitors to know about..”

    I’d sure like to know what those are.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    I don’t thinks it’s 5th gear alone… I would bet it’s a taller FDR.

    Recallibrate a ECU is not the same as “detuning”. It’s putting a different fuel/timing map inside for better fuel economy/efficiency/performance. If for example, 5th gear ratio is changed, the ECU will have to be recallibrated… so…

    All the compact sedans shown above are porky, fat pigs. How come a “small” car weights between 1400-1600 kgs. They should have NEVER gone over 1200 kgs… the weight of a current sub-compact: Yaris, Aveo, et al. It’s insane to say the least.

    A 1991 4 door S-10 Blazer weighted between 1800 and 2000 kgs… and it was a full frame SUV.

  • avatar

    Chevy Colorado CC and RC XFE w/ 6-sp. manual, Tahoe Hybrid tires and aerodynamics, 4-cyl. engine with 190 hp and 190 lb-ft.

    I’ll bet they could squeeze at least 22 to 24 mpg out of that combo.

    I mean, if they can go from 33 to 36 mpg with the Cobalt, I’m thinking they can do it with their other models.

    It would give their Colorado a reason to exist.

  • avatar
    BrianK299

    Being a new owner of a 2008 Cobalt XFE, let me chime in on my first week observations:

    The car is easily getting between 40 and 42 MPG. I keep my RPM’s under 2,000 and anticipate starts and stops. Granted, in rush hour traffic, the mpg drops to the mid 30′s. The Cobalt has an in-dash mileage calculator which makes mileage tracking easy.

    It was tough to get one. Mine was assembled just two weeks ago in Lordstown, Ohio, and if not for a connection at the dealership, I wouldn’t have the car!

    The fit and finish is very nice, and I’m getting a lot of compliments! If you can get one, I highly recommend the Cobalt!

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    “A GM hybrid bus is far more fuel efficient per passenger mile than a Toyota Prius.”

    Well of course it is. So is an 8 mpg bus from the 1940s retrofitted with a 1970s 454 V-8 and a carburetor. The hybrid bus vs Prius comparison is an apples to oranges comparison.

    37ft Flxible Clipper bus getting 8 mpg holding 30 people vs a Prius carrying 4 people getting 45 mpg. The bus carries a bit over seven times more people or seven Prius loads worth of people. That’s about 16 gallons of Prius
    gasoline. 16 gallons would carry the 1940s Flxible Clipper about 130 miles carrying 30 people. Of course the modern hybrid bus better be doing much better. If you wanna dream a little – some of the newer conversions on these old buses get upwards of 14 mpg with a 5.9L Cummins turbo diesel and a patient driver. Then there are the times I’ve put gas in our GMC 2500 4WD and found the mileage to be 17 mpg. Hmmm, 17 mpg in a lightly driven 5000 lb p/u or potentially 12 mpg in a gasoline powered 14,000 lb vintage bus??? Strange how that adds up…

    If you want my take (c’mon you wanna read it, you know you do! LOL!) GM does pretty good when they try. The problem is that they are going to have to try much harder than anyone else for longer than anyone else to recover from their shaky reputation starting as far back as the 60s. GM too often puts all their eggs into too few baskets. They have either little attention span or little patience. Or maybe their investors just demand alot of quick returns on their investments. GM gives up and concede markets to the competition rather than fighting harder. See the minivan. See the small car market. Other brands are selling alot of both.

    I went from an American car to a series of imports and only then did I explore motorcycles. I have little interest in an American motorcycle. Mechanically not my style even if the look is right.

    Smaller American cars are from time to time interesting but not consistently appealing. Plenty of import smallish cars that gets my attention year after year. Admittedly Honda may be going down the wrong alley with their styling… LOL!

    It is as if Detroit occasionally puts some effort into a small car and then sits back while they look at other projects while their small cars get long in the tooth or fall behind in quality.

    See Saturn. Here at the end Saturn has some really nice products but it took GM 15 years to get around to doing that. The initial product was good and at the front of the class and then GM forgot about them until here at the end. I really love the Astra. The Aura and the recent Vue were interesting and possibilities on my shopping lists. The Outlook is good but completely out of step with the rest of the Saturn lineup. It’s a schoolbus from a division famous for small sedans. I’ve driven one and it’s a nice vehicle if you want a big SUV. The one I drove had about 30K lightduty miles and was creaking already and rattling. Compare that to my 191K CR-V which isn’t nearly as refined but has had no issues since new.

    As long as it is easy for a customer to make comparisons like that then Gm and Detroit will be playing catch up in consumer’s minds. Perhaps by various measures Detroit/GM does well but it the consumer’s opinions that matter – even if they are based on emotion rather than fact.

    Detroit needs to be selling style and price without forgetting to brag a little about some of their longest life products as well. The customers who had 250K miles on their sedan or their 20 year old Ford Tempo or S-10 p/u. It would be a great opportunity to steer people to quality service and parts at the dealers which I think can be an important part of the equation. Joe turning wrenches in the backyard using Chinese rebuilt economy replacement parts does not generally lead to 250K miles on the odometer. Each time I give cheap parts a try I find myself repeating a repair with either best quality aftermarket parts or OEM parts. Squeaky pads, warping rotors, noisy steering pumps, bad bearings, voltage regulators that fail, etc.

    Sure – I’ve had successes with average priced aftermarket parts but until my success rates with those parts gets better I’m going to start pricing the OEM parts first and work my way down.

    I’m glad that GM launched the XFE line with the Cobalt. I wish they would do so with many of their products. Might not be possible with their largest products but they could with their cars and CUVs.

    A hatchback Cobalt (similar to current body style) might tempt me to take a chance on a GM product.


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