By on October 20, 2008

Many cars are so middle-of-the-road in so many ways that nothing about them, good or bad, is memorable. You know they’re out there, somewhere, carrying on in quiet servitude. Some of them even have sport packages and/or sports appearance packages in a failed attempt to lift them above the mundane. And then there’s the Chevrolet Cobalt SS, a vehicle from the same school that somehow manages to rise above its station in life. If only just.

The Cobalt isn’t a bad-looking car…if you stand 50 feet away and view it with 2004 eyes from an angle that doesn’t include the front end. Unfortunately, it’s necessary to get much closer to drive the car, and you can’t always approach it from the rear quarter, where the coupe’s clean sweep of a roofline comes off to best effect. Once you’ve seen the wide, uneven gaps around the googly headlamps, it’s hard to forget them. At least the “look at me I’m 17” rear wing is off the standard features list.

Every time you get in the Cobalt, the hard plastic oval door pulls will answer “Can the interior of the Mk IV Jetta be reproduced for half of VW’s cost?” with “no, no it can’t.” The other interior surfaces don’t rise much above the dime store door pulls. If you coat cheap plastic with silver paint, it still looks cheap. Cheaper, in fact.

Every penny saved on the interior went into the engine. The original Cobalt SS’ supercharger has been dumped in favor of a turbo abetted by direct injection. Literage remains 2.0, but peak horsepower jumps from 205 to 260. And this power isn’t all up high: torque reaches 260 foot-pounds at 2,000 rpm, and stays there until just before the 5,300 rpm power peak.

This isn’t the best engine— or car— for doing what most Cobalt’s do best: toodle around town. Get on the throttle, then change your mind, and the engine gives a little kick when the boost you requested a second ago— but no longer desire— arrives anyway. The manual shifter is better than GM’s usual stick-in-a-bucket-of-balls. But smooth shifts aren’t effortless in casual driving. Road noise is on the high side, and the ride can get busy. (Much more livable than a late model Evo or STI, though.)

But who buys a track-tuned 260-horsepower compact for grocery runs? Go for big numbers on the goofy-looking but addictively entertaining pillar-mounted “Performance Display” and good stuff happens. From the engine, there’s none of the on-off behavior that once defined high-pressure turbos. Boost comes on smoothly, with a clearly audible whistle but no sudden surges and little lag. This refinement isn’t all for the best: the Cobalt’s 2.0 doesn’t deliver the midrange punch of the larger turbo fours in some competitors, and as a result the car doesn’t feel as quick as it is. But make no mistake; with this much power in a 2,975-pound coupe, the Cobalt SS is very quick, and it’s easy to end up well over the posted limit. Which is where the firm, fade-free Brembos come in handy.

The Cobalt SS is a relatively light compact with 260 foot-pounds of torque shunted entirely through the front wheels. So of course there’s torque steer. But not too much. GM firmed up the electric-assist steering, and then firmed it up some more. So, when you lay into the throttle, the steering merely takes a set a few degrees off center rather than yanking the car towards the curb. Traction is aided by an optional limited-slip diff (you want it).

The steering isn’t chatty— the war against torque steer has a price— but natural weighting and an urge to turn (when not at WOT) compensate. The chassis’ balance and composure belie its nose-heavy weight distribution and twist-beam rear axle, while roll in turns is minimal. The grip of the tires on asphalt is only exceeded by that of the heavily bolstered, faux suede-trimmed buckets on your…torso. Instrumented tests reinforce these impressions: on a curvy track the Cobalt SS can shame any other U.S.-market sport compact, even the Evo and STI.

But you don’t need a track to enjoy this car. There’s a non-monetary benefit to cheap: the Cobalt SS team was free to pursue the visceral thrill of driving in a way that the developers of BMWs (and wannabe BMWs) are not, post-Lexus. Simply put, the Cobalt SS is fun.

If you’re willing to forgive the SS its residual Cobaltness (you won’t be able to forget it). you can take home the top-performing sport compact for a price in the lower twenties. If you can’t, the Cruze is coming.

But the Cruze will be heavier. And it will still be WWD (Wrong Wheel-Drive). Which makes one wonder: if GM’s track addicts can make a Cobalt handle this well, what could they do with a compact rear-wheel-drive chassis unencumbered by BMW envy? Put the turbo 2.0 into that chassis, avoid aesthetically off-putting trim, price the combo in the mid-twenties, and you’d have a compact that wouldn’t need to be renamed with every redesign. We’d all forget that the Corvair, Vega, Cavalier, and Cobalt ever existed.

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71 Comments on “Review: 2009 Chevy Cobalt SS Coupe...”

  • avatar

    Thanks for the review. I must say that while I have no desire to own this car, but I would love to take it out for an extended drive. Put that engine in a Saturn Astra, and I am sold.

    I really wish TTAC did instrument testing. I would love to see some performance stats for the cars you test. Also, it tends to support “Truthful” reporting, as it is pretty difficult to say the brakes were terrible or the acceleration was lacking when the numbers dont support those statements. Not a reference to this review, but in general it would lead to more complete reviews IMO.

  • avatar

    The Cobalt SS has received some very good reviews for its engine and handling. Yet it continues to get bad feedback on its interior. And GM leaves it alone, as usual (see XLR, Corvette, etc.).

    Is an interior upgrade THAT expensive or difficult? Why is something everyone sees every day get overlooked? Does anyone with experience in the car building business have any insights to offer?

  • avatar

    One thing I couldn’t slide gracefully into the review…

    From the time I spent inside GM, I think I know how the headlights ended up looking the way they do. Around the time this car was designed, GM had an internal push to get top-rated headlamps. But they also didn’t want to spend money for xenons or other expensive technology. The solution: huge conventional headlamps.

    On the reliability front, the Cobalt and G5 have been average and maybe even a bit better than average in TrueDelta’s survey–sample sizes have been too small to be conclusive. We also can’t yet say how this new engine will fare.

    For both reasons, it would help if more Cobalt and especially Cobalt SS owners participated in the research.

  • avatar


    They won’t upgrade the interior at this point because–as noted in the conclusion–the Cruze is just around the corner. Photos have been released of that car’s interior, and it appears MUCH nicer.

    How bad is the interior, really? I actually remember thinking it wasn’t so bad when I first drove a Cobalt sedan four years ago. But the interior of the 2009 Cobalt SS coupe would keep me from buying the car, personally. I don’t know if they took cost out, or my reference point has shifted, but some of the trim is just awful. It’s not just the Cobalt SS–I felt the same way about the previous generation Evo.

  • avatar
    John R

    This is a fantastic car (so I’ve heard/read) at a great price. Its my understanding that GM benchmarked this model against an Evo 8. Not a bad vintage. Unfortunately its a real tragedy, too, as you have to look at it from the outside and drive it from the inside.

    I was of the mind that GM would sell every one if they could eat some humble pie and ape a late 90s Japanese design (3rd Gen Integra, for example)…then I looked at the rear. Nissan should have sued.

  • avatar

    Put that engine in a Saturn Astra, and I am sold.

    Word. I drove a European Opel Astra, and while not quite as nice as a golf, it’s a very decent car, with a good interior, great styling, and solid steering. But the American model suffers from a boring engine. That 2.0T looks lively.

    C&D recently tested the Cobalt SS and a whole bunch of other cars around the track, and the Cobalt beat a whole host of cars costing 2-3 times the price. But let’s not forget that track numbers are not everything. If the interior is of the same grade than the cavalier, there’s no way I’d get into one of those.

  • avatar

    For what it’s worth, Car & Driver ran this car at the Virginia Raceway against a bunch of other cars. It posted a faster lap time than the BMW 135, the Mitsu Lancer, and a bunch of stronger cars.

    I remember that Heinricy (the GM race guy) had a big hand in developing this car. The guy’s got talent if he can turn a junky Cobalt in a car that’s so imposing on track.

  • avatar
    John R

    Here’s what I’m talking about:

  • avatar

    I highly doubt this does better than a late model STi/Evo. Did you take it to the track & test all 3? What times did you get? What were track conditions? Was dirt/snow tested?

    Also, the reviews coming out on the 09 WRX (non-sti) is putting the 0-60 at sub 5 seconds. What times are you getting in the SS?

    If GM/Chevy/etc were not so close to bankruptcy this might be an option.

    It’s too bad this was not available 3-4 years ago when I was looking for american competitors to the STi I ended up buying. It might have been a consideration for me. At 10k cheaper, I would have looked several times before spending the $$ on the STi.

    Also, this seems like MORE than a 3* car from the review…no? I dont’ see alot of negatives in this review. Looks ? Interior? When you have good performance, who cares? Deduct 1* for the looks/interior and give it the 4* it seems to deserve.

    It is great to see a positive review on an american product. With the new 300hp car for $23k the other day and this, perhaps the first signs of a turnaround by the aircraft carrier known as the big 2.8 has begun? We can only hope….

    In a bad economy, it’s nice to have more toy choices that are economical on both price and gas usage!

  • avatar

    John R.

    Look at 2008-2009 Mitsubishi Lancer and compare the rear with the 2008 Toyota Camry and 2008 Lexus IS they have the same style.

    The Cobalt SS is freakin fast. Used in drifting at 2008 Formula Drift In Irwindale Speedway.
    Lots of performance parts and very very good on gas. My friend said he gets 40 mpg on highway and 30 mpg on city.

    Are you kidding me the interior is not acceptable for an Econo box just look at the seats. Not even Honda offer that kind of seats, short shifter and performance look in a Econo Box.

    The car is not really expensive to buy compared to Kia or Hyundai.

    I will buy this car if I have the money

    I race my stock 08 Lancer with SRI and catback exhaust on time attack the cobalt ss I was just ahead about Thousands of a second. (it was stock too)

    I was faster because the Lancer performs better on sharp curved with minimal understeer and oversteer. The Cobalt doesn’t perform well on curves but on a straight line. It is a different car

  • avatar

    Every penny saved on the interior went into the engine.

    That’s been the case with just about every GM performance car for a while. At least, though, they’re starting to dump money into the chassis and steering rack recently.

    I liked this combination when it first debuted as the Ion Redline. It was cheap, and it pushed like a truck in corners, but you could alleviate that with a mild amount of suspension tuning and otherwise the engine was brilliant. If they’d spent a little more on the interior and adjusted the gear ratios (the old supercharged car used a commodity Saab transmission that wasn’t quite right) it would have been a winner, even with the SRT-4 in the ring.

    Where the real pity is, though, is the Ford SVT Focus and MazdaSpeed Protege. If either of those cars could have been blessed with GM’s powertrain, they’d have been unstoppable. The Focus, notably, was brilliant.

  • avatar

    I won’t berate GM for the Cobalt’s interior as it was the same thing that happened when the Neon SRT-4 was introduced: a performance compact let down by rental grade interior treatments.

    When the first Cobalt SS came on the scene I did numerous test drives and was able to look past the interior for what the car really was, a supercharged American sport compact competitor to the Japanese blue bloods of the segment. And with the new TURBOcharged SS, it means more performance for virtually the same cash. That’s a bargain if there ever was one and I’d be more willing than before to look past the low grade interior trim. And to tell the truth, the front end doesn’t look that bad either.

    Trouble is, I already have a Speed3 in my sights. Now if only the credit market would unfreeze just a tad.

  • avatar

    Great review, Michael. What surprises me is how little they promote this car’s stellar engine, while Ford talks up their various iterations of EcoBoost. At least the SS is its own model designation, unlike the XFE (which gets lost in translation). But GM is so bad about killing a platform/brand/model just when it starts to sizzle: Fiero, Allante, and many others.

    I’d like this motor in a mid-90s Civic. Seriously. That might be the best FWD econobox ever made.

  • avatar

    if GM’s track addicts can make a Cobalt handle this well, what could they do with a compact rear-wheel-drive chassis unencumbered by BMW envy?

    Doesn’t the upcoming Solstice coupe fit this description? It won’t be priced in the mid 20s, but shuold be fun nonetheless.

    Nice review.

  • avatar
    John R


    The Cobalt SS is freakin fast. Used in drifting at 2008 Formula Drift In Irwindale Speedway.

    A FWD car used in drifting? Was this some kind of RWD conversion?

    Are you kidding me the interior is not acceptable for an Econo box just look at the seats. Not even Honda offer that kind of seats, short shifter and performance look in a Econo Box.

    Mugen Civic? RSX Type-S? Nonetheless, the Cobalt is faster, but you can’t say Honda never offered a good interior in its compacts.

  • avatar
    Matthew Danda

    You kindof buried the praise about it being the “top performing sport compact”. GM is on the ground bleeding, man, they could use all the praise they can get!!

    I would have spun it something like this:

    Yes, it is a poorly constructed pile of plastic that sums up all that is wrong with GM, but holy crap it has 260HP! Add a subwoofer and a case of Clearasil for the quintessential cheap-ass teenage burnout machine.

  • avatar


    I don’t have any times myself. Those published elsewhere are, as noted by other commenters, highly impressive. All such times were achieved on a dry paved track. On other surfaces the AWD cars would of course pull ahead.

    The overall score comes down to how much weight various aspects of the car are given. Can I give a car more than three stars if I can’t conceive buying it myself, despite being a huge fan of this class of car?

    Of course, if one was dirt cheap as a used car…

    …but as a new car the price is to close to other cars that perform nearly as well but that have nicer exteriors and much nicer interiors.

  • avatar


    The Solstice coupe doesn’t fit the bill–many of us need a place to stash the kids.

    Instead, I’m hoping for a killer Alpha from Chevrolet and/or Pontiac. It’s a segment I’ve been waiting for someone to create for nearly a decade.

  • avatar

    One other note: the wing (shown in the photos) isn’t exactly gone–it’s just optional now.

  • avatar

    Yes they used front wheel drive in Drifting
    but depends on the driver who drives it but majority are RWD. That’s why it awesome to see a front wheel drive drift on F1 drift series.
    They usually use a lot E-Brake or Hand Brake when they drift.

    Remember what they say in racing? It is the driver not the car.

    My 2008 lancer drift believe it or not but I don’t use it for drifiting. why? I don’t want to damage my car. You need very expensive dampers, shocks, drift tires,a very tough axel and much more. A drift tire alone can cost $1,000 a piece.

    Mugen Performance are not a standard equipment You have to be very rich to install Mugen performance parts on your car just like when you install Humman performance parts on a BMW or Porsche.

    The only Honda I know that is performance is Honda Si but the price is higher.

    If you don’t believe me about Front Wheel Drive drifting go to You Tube search for it.

    You will find one. The Cobalt was not in the F1 competition they were just showing the new Cobalt SS.

    Superman – Yes this car is a good competitor for Japanese Econo Box. It will be a hot seller as long they upgrade the performance, interior and exterior every year and it will be a hot seller and Good news — It is an American Sport Sedan.

  • avatar

    Sajeev Mehta: “What surprises me is how little they promote this car’s stellar engine, while Ford talks up their various iterations of EcoBoost.”

    They had the bad luck to be bringing it to market as gas prices were cresting $4/gallon. Pushing a thirstier version of an economy car would make little sense.

    Fuel has retreated to $2.549 (here, this AM), so perhaps we’ll see them take a chance on a little advertising. But folks are going to be skittish on thirsy cars for a while and that wil include the thirstier version of an economy car.

    Michael Karesh: “The overall score comes down to how much weight various aspects of the car are given. Can I give a car more than three stars if I can’t conceive buying it myself, despite being a huge fan of this class of car?”

    I think that’s fair. You wrote candidly about the aspects of the car that impress you. It’s clear to me from the review that people looking for performance and willing to compromise on things like interior expectations should take a close look at this car.

    From the review: “At least the “look at me I’m 17” rear wing is gone.”

    I’m confused… there’s a wing in the picture. Is that the “look at me I’m 19 wing?”

  • avatar

    The 800 word limit is a b****–otherwise that sentence would have ended “gone from the standard features list.” I’ll see if RF can squeeze the words in.

    The wing was not on the car I drove. Just a lip spoiler. It’s still hard to see out the rear window because the trunk is so tall…that limit again.

  • avatar
    John R

    BEAT, you can order a Mugen Civic from a Honda dealer. Albeit, it ain’t cheap ( ), or worth it given the cost. It isn’t a DIY or some kind of deal where you have to buy the car first then ship it somewhere for installation. Its straight from the factory.

    Yeah, I’ve seen the videos. But I was under the impression there was one in competition, not exhibition.

  • avatar

    There is a reason why Honda will sell every single Civic Si coupe and sedan it can manufacture while GM will continue to struggle trying to sell this Colbolt SS.

    Honda success is due to the fact that they start out with a EXCELLENT car and than decide to jazzing it up a little in the sport/ performance department. On the otherhand GM starts out with a car that is so-so at best and than trys to make you forget how lackluster it is by adding what GM believes to be “excitement”.
    This formula has consistantly failed GM yet GM keeps marching down the same road.

    Given the choice between a Civic LX and a Colbolt LS, 99% of us will choose the Civic simply because it is the better, more desireable car. Add some “sportiness” into the mix and the majority of people will still go for the Civic Si even though it is out-performed by the Colbolt SS.

    The Colbolt SS is that type of car that we all want to drive and have fun with but no one actually wants to own it.That makes this Colbolt SS the equivalent of a “cheap slut” (not a good thing)! Like that chick you invite over, wear out for a few hours, and than send on her way, the Colbolt SS will have you saying; “that was a fun, but ILL, what the hell am I doing?”

    We all know women like that can be a great deal of fun until you realize they are just plain tacky with their Walmart purple pumps, and cheap polyester dress. You enjoy their company when you can but at the end of the day you know you will never bring her home to meet your mother or even your close friends.

    The Colbolt SS brings out the same feelings; driven like an animal this car will have you grinning from ear to ear and begging for more. Outside of that there is little to no substance to be enjoyed during your mundane day to day existance. Once you come to that stop light or hit some traffic and have a second look at the horrid two-tone interior and the all-round rental car details you will quickly come to remember what “class” is and why you like “real” cars and women.

    BTW, The irony is the Colbolt SS is exactly the type of car one would expect that “cheap slut” to drive and that is why you like her so much!

  • avatar

    BEAT : My friend said he gets 40 mpg on highway and 30 mpg on city.

    I find this highly suspect. Your friend is lying or doesn’t know how to calculate gas mileage… or GM made a deal with the devil when designing this drivetrain. I can get over 40mpg on single highway trips in my GTI on ideal highway condition trips (completely flat, no stops, 55mph), but I never get it over a full tank. My peak has been 34.8mpg over a full tank.

  • avatar

    My friend said he gets 40 mpg on highway and 30 mpg on city.


    My Saab gets that kind of mileage on the highway, but unless your friend is granny-shifting to keep the car off-boost, there’s no way you’re going to hit 30mpg in a blown car.

    Believe me, I’ve tried. Hard.

  • avatar
    Joe O

    BEAT –

    You appear to be under the impression that you know what you are talking about.

    As an 06 Civic SI owner, I can tell you that Honda does, in fact, put better seats and shifter in their “sporty” econobox. And a “performance look” (whatever that meant). It has done so for almost 3 years now, and I bought mine in Feb. 2006 for under 20k. The seats and shifter are un-matched in this category of car (except the now dead RSX-S). I genuinely mean that…I’ve driven the Cobalt SS, MazdaSpeed 3, SRT-4 (the neon variety), etc…

    You need to step up to 30k before you get the same incredibly comfortable and supportive seat, and damn-near perfect shifter.

    Enough about the SI.

    Your friend said he got 40mpg highway and 30mpg city in his Cobalt SS? Your friend is smoking things or is hypermiling the highway and considers city to be easy-going suburbs. It’s a fuel miser, absolutely, but it’s more of a 23 city, 30-35 highway car. Absolutely phenomenal for the power it puts out. But it’s no Jetta TDI.

    Your 08 Lancer w/ SRI and Catback beat a stock Cobalt on a time attack and you attribute it to the car? Am I in the twilight zone? The Cobalt SS comes with a far fatter powerband, superior handling, and much stickier summer tires. Your modifications do pretty much nothing for you in terms of actual power and don’t help you in the twisties. You are just a better driver than said Cobalt SS driver (or was it one of the Cobalt SS’s with just the badge, chrome 17″ wheels, and a light bodykit but no supercharged engine….Chevy sold (sells?) those).

    …going back to more comments you made….The Mugen Civic SI is a standalone car. You cannot build a Mugen SI from parts. You must own the car to even buy the parts made for it. I think the car is a rip-off, but for the 25k some of them go for it’s a pretty good FWD autocrosser or technical track car.

    Lastly, you said, “Yes this car is a good competitor for Japanese Econo Box. It will be a hot seller as long they upgrade the performance, interior and exterior every year and it will be a hot seller and Good news — It is an American Sport Sedan.”

    It will not be successful for the exact reasons you named. They have not upgraded the interior or exterior any year, let alone every year. The SRT-4 was a hit with some tuner crowds because it was incredibly cheap and had the most output for it’s dollar at the time. This is not cheap anymore, nor does it have the most output.

    Now excuse me. I woke up on the wrong side of the bed for the past week.

    Michael – Nice review. I’m surprised you didn’t comment on the size of the trunk and pass-through in this car, compared to it’s competitors (the Civic SI, Mazdaspeed 3, etc.)


  • avatar

    Who said my friend drives a Cobalt SS?

    He drives the regular Cobalt LS. 25-28 city and 38-40 highway and he drives slow with a stick shift I mentioned it because it is still a Cobalt just the performance parts that makes it different.

    GTI and Saab doesn’t get that mileage especially with an Automatic. You guys telling me that your car has the same gas mileage with Toyota and a Honda.

    You are pulling my leg. My 2008 Lancer doesn’t even come close to 40 mpg on higways and I have a MIVEC 4 cylinder engine.

    What’s the big deal about Cobalt SS gas mileage? You should be happy to hear that it doesn’t eat a lot gas compared to other performance car out there like the Evo and Wrx Sti.

    I know what I am talking because I learned from people who actually has the car not from reading car review.

    Honda does not come cheap especially your lovable SI.
    By the way who want to drive a car that has the stick shift on the dash board?

    Saab and GTI are not cheap on gas.

    Did you know where I went for my time attack?

    Time Attack doesn’t mean you race your car my friend. It just beating the time, you don’t race other cars.

    if the cars is faster than you. You raise your hand to inform the car behind that he/she can overtake you because he/she is faster. Time attack is not about racing it is beating the time.

    If you don’t believe that’s your big problem.
    Thank god you didn’t wake up with a stiff neck?

    The Cobalt has better handling than A RALLY BREED Lancer? You really did woke up the wrong side of your bed.

    Honestly I get all my facts from friends who race at Bakersfield and Irwindale.

    Dodge SRT-4 is better than a Cobalt? I think I am having a nightmare.

    What are you trying to say about Mugen again?

    Remember what they say in marketing never judge a product by the way it is labeled not all products are exactly the same.

  • avatar

    The performance is respectable but pretty much everything else about the car is godawful. Especially the styling and name. It’s a modern Cavalier with Civic me-too styling. The Cruze doesn’t look appreciably better either.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    By the way who want to drive a car that has the stick shift on the dash board?

    Rally car drivers and people that like to keep their right hand on the steering wheel, so they can shift quickly.

    You’re talking about the older generation Civic Si, made from 2002-2005.
    See picture

    The 2005-present model has the stick shift on the “floor” just like most other cars
    See picture

  • avatar

    a light, RWD coupe with the 2.0 DI Turbo Ecotec? You mean like the Solstice GXP Coupe?

  • avatar

    I checked out the Cobalt SS and it wasn’t a bad car at all. The big let down obviously is the crap interior (except for those great seats!). It wouldn’t bother me so much except for the fact that the Saturn Astra manages to have a really nice interior in terms of design, materials, fit and finish. It shows that GM is *capable* of making a really good interior but on US made compact models (and most others for that matter) just doesn’t give a crap.

    I spend a lot of time driving in conditions where it doesn’t matter how great the motor is in my car. I have to experience the interior of my vehicle every single second I’m in it. Weird seams in the plastic, ugly gaps between various parts, unfinished edges and brittle rattle prone materials piss me off. Here’s hoping the Cruze gets better treatment than the Cobalt did (but I’m not holding my breath).

  • avatar

    Thanks for the pic.

    Honda are nice cars but just sick and tired of seeing the same cars on the street everyday. The “Unique Whips” is no longer exciting to see every day on the road. It takes the thrill out of me just like Toyota and Nissan.

    Kids know a days wants to be different that’s why they pick a car that nobody drives like the Chevy Cobalt SS and the availability of performance parts.
    The Cobalt SS has performance parts.

    Did you notice a lot of Cars are being catered to younger generations? Car manufacturers now putting carbon fiber dash board,Recaro seats, bigger rims, better speakers, more horsepower and list goes on.

    The older generations does not get this kind of Marketing.
    They only think one thing exterior and interior LOOKS.

    which is so old school.

  • avatar

    Good review Mr. Karesh. I used to read your reviews on Epinions before I had ever heard of TTAC. I’ve always found your reviews to be informed and well-written.

    On a more personal note, when I was looking for a fuel-efficient car, I didn’t bother looking at the Cobalt – my little time with the Aveo left me cold to GM’s offerings. But, my friend owned a Cobalt (when they were first released) and I don’t recall the interior being as bad as everyone mentions. Maybe it’s just my memory?

  • avatar
    John The Accountant


    That is exactly right, but then it doesn’t have a “huge” trunk like a Mazda Miata or rivals an Accord for its space, or it doesn’t look like a bar of soap like the MX-5, and even though it has 90+HP more it isn’t as light, etc.

    Trust me, I agree about the plasticky interior as well (my GXP has hideous interior plastics), but I have so many features that I can overlook it…

    Oh and about the mid-range: I’m sure the Mustang GT driver didn’t think that when he saw my exhaust pipes the other day…

  • avatar

    John Heinricy’s mark is all over this car – it performs very well at the track (he’s got almost a dozen SCCA Showroom Stock championships – he knows what it takes to win) – and damn the rest of it.

    All the interior bits people complain about get ripped out anyway eventually, if the owner gets serious about the track. And some of the driving dynamics that make a good track car can be a little annoying on the street, particularly if you don’t drive on glass smooth roads and you hate tire noise.

    This is a pretty good car for its (rather small) market – but for the person who’s thinking of buying this car without recognizing the tradeoffs in a performance package that costs this little – it might not be the right car for them.

  • avatar

    BEAT : Who said my friend drives a Cobalt SS?

    He drives the regular Cobalt LS. 25-28 city and 38-40 highway and he drives slow with a stick shift I mentioned it because it is still a Cobalt just the performance parts that makes it different.

    GTI and Saab doesn’t get that mileage especially with an Automatic.

    You certainly implied that he drove an SS in your post. I’ve also had the misfortune of driving a Cobalt LS as rental over the summer. It got around 31mpg in slightly-highway leaning mixed driving the week I had it.

    BTW, I have an excel sheet that I use to track my MPG. When I fill up the tank I record the miles driven to the number of gallons to fill on my phone. I honestly do average over 30 MPG in my 07 GTI.

  • avatar

    So much for Cobalt bashing and with me.

    Here’s some forums from real honest wanne be “Kids” opinion why they like the Cobalt.

    You drove a rental? LOL

    I wonder when was the last time they clean the carpet, ash tray and tune up their cars.

    Why do people in TTAC always think that renting a car can distinguish a good car from a bad car? I don’t get that

    The last time I rented a car was Mazda 3. I was gunning the car until the tires were almost bald and put the gear until it was on redline. Well! the car smelled like burning oil.

    The probably next person who will drive that Mazda 3 I rented think that Mazdas are a piece of “S” even though they are not.

    Remember consumer the only way to find out a good car if you drove and own it for years not because you drove it has a rental or drove for 15 mins and decided it is A piece of “S”

    My car 2008 Lancer has 37,000 miles on it. the only thing I fix on it was changing the brakes and having a it tune up. which is typical for that mileage.

    My Aunt has a Ford Taurus with 123,000 miles and tell me Taurus a piece of “S”
    Because it is Ford.

    Honestly if you know how take car of your car it will LAST FOREVER not because it is a Mazda, Honda, Nissan or Toyota

    Blauten – I saw John H. that’s why I thought if this guy like the Cobalt SS it must be exciting to drive. I was right

    John R.

    I think they use FWD drifting in Japan but rarely in California or Las Vegas.

    It is really hard to use FWD.
    I haven’t seen a Cobalt drift too only on time attack.

  • avatar

    If that car was only available here… I’d hit it immediately for daily driver duty.

    And with 100 kms commute… it would be tons of fun =)

  • avatar

    Michael — Last paragraph: the Cruze will be AWD? Or was that supposed to be FWD?

    (If it’s AWD, that suddenly becomes more interesting, if not necessarily better.)

  • avatar

    Whew…I am torn.

    Will my next car be a G8 GT/GXP or Cobalt SS? The Cobalt is just as fast, handles better than most cars on the road, gets good MPGs, and is CHEAP!

    I was at a local dealer yesterday and they had two 2008 Cobalt SS on their lot. One had 95 miles on it ($22,xxx), the other had 1200 miles on it ($21,xxx). And they both were considered “pre-owned”

    This is a phenomoinal car…and it is FULLY understandable why this car has the same Cobalt interior…WHY SHOULD GM SPEND MONEY ON IT?

    They have the Cruze coming out.

  • avatar

    I have to say…sounds like a blast, interior warts and all. And I don’t really mind how it looks from any angle, so long as the wing isn’t there. Maybe next spring…

    Not to go off on a tangent, but GM seems to be putting power in some unexpected places these days. I noticed that the GM website car configurer has a GMC Canyon with an optional 5.3L V8. That would be pretty damn fast, methinks.

  • avatar

    did anyone mention this ugly little beastie does the Nordschleiffe in 8:20 ???

    That’s seriously quick, for those who don’t know. Faster than an NSX.

    I still wouldn’t take one – some of the guys I race with have the, so I’ve seen them up close – the fit and finish is horrid.

  • avatar

    TriShield- The Cobalt came first. It can’t be Civic me-too styling. Every compact except the Lancer and the Focus is copying the Saturn ION these days.

  • avatar
    Michael Ayoub

    So… if you can get over the exterior styling and the, well, Cobalt interior, it’s a 5-star.

    Works for me!

  • avatar

    MK- I think the interior hasn’t changed since 2004. Other cars have gotten better. The new Civic, Corolla, Sentra, Jetta/Rabbit, and Elantra have come out since.

  • avatar

    So the Focus’ interior gets 3 points for design and 1 for F/F, while saying that “other than the Aveo, every other economy car’s cabin has something to recommend it.”

    The Cobalt isn’t an Aveo, so there must be something to recommend it, but it gets 1 in both categories – worse than the Focus.


  • avatar

    I consider the ugliness of the Cobalt to be a blessing in disguise. If you have an RSX or a Civic Si, or MazdaSpeed3, you’re guaranteed to be harassed at every light by some boy racer in his rattletrap 240SX or fartpiped Civic hatch back. If not them, then you’re a rolling cop magnet, whether you have a big wing on the back or not.

    A car like this (quietly) declares to the world that it’s a sleeper, or in old-school terms, a ‘Q-ship’. It doesn’t visually assault you with it’s performance credentials, as long as you don’t option up the monster wing. It doesn’t yell to the cops “Hey, I’m looking to street race!!!” and as long as you can stomach the typically plastic GM interior, you’ll be rewarded with a competent chassis and a stout engine, which if we’ve learned anything from the late John Lingenfelter, can be modified to put up some big numbers.

    The Neon SRT-4 earned my respect after seeing what it can do in the hands of capable tuners. The Cobalt SS simply picks up the ball that Chrysler tossed aside and ran with it.

    In all honesty, you’re only shorting yourself by passing this car without a second look. It’s on my short list.

  • avatar

    Not bad. Too bad the motor doesn’t come in the Astra.

    BEAT : Which team was driving the Cobalt SS, and
    which venue did you see this at? Are you sure you weren’t looking at the Charger or Soulstice?

  • avatar

    This is a good performance car (Which is what it’s designed to be). I don’t know why people are complaining about the interior. You want an expert interior, go out and by an import luxury which is twice the amount.

  • avatar

    Isn’t this a Daewoo Nubria/Lancetti?

  • avatar

    TriShield- The Cobalt came first. It can’t be Civic me-too styling. Every compact except the Lancer and the Focus is copying the Saturn ION these days.

    Seventh-gen Civic? Though even that isn’t fair as every compact car has more or less the same shape these days; only the details differ.

  • avatar

    brush- no, that car is sold here as the Suzuki Forenza
    psarhjinian- maybe the seventh-gen Civic, though that has the low and wide look that Honda used to be known for. (No headroom in the cabin)
    Mitsu deserves some credit for the look of the Lancer.

  • avatar

    My only Cobalt experience to date has been a couple rental LTs. To me the interior is fine for what it is, a Chevy. I see this car as a modern Omni GLH-S but much more driveable. I’m not looking for Audi or VW-like refinement in the interior materials. Heck, I’d take rubber floor matting if it were available.

    I was actually seriously considering the SS Turbo sedan until recently, when I realized I needed a little more room for adults than the Jetta TDI it would replace.

  • avatar

    Beat – Why can’t I judge it by the rental? The rental Camry, Yaris, Mazda Minivan, Sonata, Aura (LaCrosse), Malibu, and countless others that I’ve driven didn’t have a terrible, wheezing drivetrain that couldn’t get out of its own way. For that matter, my beaten and abused 2.5RS w/ 100k miles was better than the Cobalt in every way. Again, how is the fact that it was a rental make my opinion invalid? The fact that the car was a rental isn’t the reason the interior plastics and fitment felt like a garbage bin.

  • avatar

    I think it’s safe to say that no one has ever thought of copying the Ion. If anyone did, they should be pink slipped immediately.

  • avatar

    When the engine is that good, all is forgiven.

  • avatar

    I didn’t think the last-gen Cobalt’s interior was all that bad. The seats were great and the shifter didn’t dig into my leg like in the Civic Si. I mean, the interior wasn’t even nearly bad as my friend’s old, blessed, 3.1 liter torque-beast ’91 Z24. Seems like people expect more than what they’re paying for. Nothing wrong with that but it’s a shame to discount how far GM has come with fit-and-finish. My ’01 Saturn shitbox is a lot more solid than my ’98 Prelude.

    Someone mentioned the Corvette has a chintzy interior. GM addressed that quickly.

    But, then again, when I’m in the Prelude, I don’t give a damn about the squeaks and rattles. I think if you’re overlooking the Cobalt SS at this price point for those reasons, you’ve outgrown this genre.

  • avatar

    I thought the interior of the Cobalt SS was more than adequate when I sat in it at the dealer. It’s not exactly an Audi in there, but then again it’s not an Audi.

  • avatar

    I think it’s safe to say that no one has ever thought of copying the Ion. If anyone did, they should be pink slipped immediately.


  • avatar

    I once owned an ’87 Accord hatchback and it was a versatile little car. Last I saw it the car had over 325K miles on it. Would I buy another today? Absolutely.

    This Cavalier missed the mark by that >< much for me b/c it has a trunk instead of a hatchback. I see no reason at ALL to put a trunk on a small car. I understand that much of America is of a different mind.

    GM sold an Opel called the Calibra back in the early 90s. It was very similar to this car but could be purchased with a turbo four, five and maybe six speeds and AWD. It was a hatchback. The few that I saw up close were really high quality vehicles I thought designed for adult tastes. I really wanted one too and could not figure out why GM didn’t sell them here. Of course now I have a better understanding of that question and it’s answer.

    Mostly it’s b/c GM doesn’t have a very faithful small car following and there are too many car buying consumers who wouldn’t know a good car if it ran them over. Gm hasn’t tried very hard in America to build and sell a real quality smal car either. Most Americans are good little consumers and content to buy the high margin SUVs and other vehicles whose girth and weight they might need a few times a year.

    And yes, I realize we are talking about a small car whose speed and power no normal person needs. Give me a light weight car and 150 HP and I’ll be plenty happy. The car and the engine better be Honda good though.

  • avatar

    quasimondo :


    That would explain their stellar Sentra sales… :D

  • avatar

    Areitu – Not sure which race track or car show that I saw the Cobalt SS must be last summer or this summer but I think Blauten will know, he remembered SCCA driver John Heinricy but I think it was not on Irwindale. probably TTAC fans will know. There is a video of the Cobalt SS on You Tube search for John Heinricy.

    (John H should give some payola after mentioning his name a lot)

    But the GM have been promoting the Cobalt SS in every major car show. they even showed it on tv too I think it was Speed channel or Spike

    Quentin sorry forgive me that was just a gesture about rental cars it is not about you.

  • avatar


    Your post reminded me of a girl I dated before I met my wife.

    I didn’t marry “that girl” and I don’t buy GM products with Tupperware interiors.


  • avatar

    BEAT –

    The show you’re thinking of was on Speed, back in 2005 (although they’ve repeated it). It was called Street Tuner Challenge, and 3 shops entered 3 different cars (Cobalt SS, VW Jetta, and Nissan Skyline GTR) in a “contest” of sorts.

    They were obviously using the old supercharged Cobalt SS, though. The Cobalt tuners definitely went for a track car, rather than load it up with electronics like the VW.

    In one episode they showed Heinricy doing laps at an SCCA event, although I think it was NOT the car the tuner was entering in the contest – it was a factory GM effort. He also appeared in another episode, and it was obvious that GM was providing some sort of minor factory assistance to the Cobalt team.

  • avatar

    Wow! And I though powertrain and suspension were more important than interior plastics.

    Silly me.

  • avatar

    Thanks for reviewing this car. Seats are nice and comfortable but ugly.

    GM belief that they need to sell a bad small car to the public to entice them to buy a big car that was nice has finally ended. The concept was inconceivable but GM did use this approach. Sell small cars that were uncomfortable, under powered, got bad gas mileage(small korean car badged as a chevy only gets 25), were unsafe….. They started this after the corvair failed. I ownned a Corvair Turbocharged Spyder and did get near 40 mpg on the highway just trucking away at 70 mph. I liked the car and it was comfortable.

    GM will now end their stupidity and will try to sell a good competitive small car. GM may go bankrupt before they release this new marketing concept “sell good cars no matter what Size or shape”. Look at the Corvette now compared to the late 79 to 82. Junk to world class

  • avatar

    While my BMW was in the shop, they gave me a Cobalt for a loaner car. And you know what? It was a pretty alright car. The interior could have been a little nicer, but I was impressed with the cheap little commuter car from Chevy.

  • avatar

    gosteelrz – you are funny

  • avatar

    I drove an SS today and was very impressed with the total package. Sure does not feel like 260hp though…

  • avatar

    The simple fact of the matter is still that the Cobalt SS is the fastest front wheel drive compact car ever tested @ Nurburgring. Combine that with a 5 year/100k mile powertrain warranty covering CV axle,joints, and hub bearings and a USB Port for your play list display @ around 21500, Preesh Stop-Best value by far.

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