Crapwagon Outtake: It Doesn't Get Much Cheaper Than This

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler

I have an unnatural aversion to two-door cars. Jack’s Accord V6 Coupe would, in my eyes, be perfect if it were only a sedan. Give me an Audi S4 or a BMW M3 over their coupe siblings, no matter how attractive the lines. Ok, maybe I’d take an S5. I’d much prefer a 4-door GTI to the three door variant, and I’m glad that our Fiesta ST has a set of rear entry ports. Most people didn’t feel that way when it came to the Chevrolet Cobalt SS.

Even six years on, no front-drive car has been able to touch the Cobalt SS for outright, front-drive performance. Today’s Focus ST, making 250 horsepower is considered brawny for its class. The Cobalt SS was besting those numbers in 2008, making 260 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque.

A GM-sanctioned Stage 1 power kit can boost output to 290 horsepower and 340 lb-ft for a mere $500. Every review, from magazine journalists to friends who have owned them, is full of praise for their outright speed and front-drive dynamics. It steers, stops and goes brilliantly.

But the rest of the car is still a pre-bankruptcy GM, and the interior is as unpleasant as the car is fast. The example shown above has 131,000 miles on it, and costs $5370 (USD). From a pure horsepower per dollar standpoint, that is absolutely unbeatable. I wish it had fewer miles on it, but with a one year production run of about 500 units, finding any sedan is going to be tough. Even so, I don’t think I’d pull the trigger. Maybe if I were 17 and looking for the absolute fastest car I could afford with the meager earnings from my summer job. But those days, like the days of high-performance compact Chevys, are long gone.

Derek Kreindler
Derek Kreindler

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5 of 49 comments
  • Mikeg216 Mikeg216 on Aug 26, 2014

    With the srt 4,you knew it was a crap car but with a bunch of go fast bits added on. As long as you didn't enter the dealer delusional all was okay. The cobalt ss and hhr looked like GM really tried but still with being the biggest auto manufacturer in the world it was the best they could do. It only took them what? 40 years to come up with the cruze and sonic? All previous small cars were the automotive version of a consolation prize. Sorry buddy we know you tried, but with the divorce and the foreclosure and all....well here's the keys to your new Pontiac g3!

    • Power6 Power6 on Aug 26, 2014

      The Neon did have a sort of performance pedigree, mostly the first gen but the second gen ACR with the dynamic struts was well known to auto-x as well. The SRT-4 built on that so not quite crap car with add-ons but I do get your point. Very cheap car of course, none of that stuff enthusiasts like to claim they don't need, like rear power windows...

  • Kkop Kkop on Aug 26, 2014

    The problem with four-door sedans is that the B-pillar is where my shoulder and elbow want to be. Even in larger sedans such as the Charger or Impala, the B-pillar is in exactly the wrong place. Also not good for visibility. Two doors are perfect for me.

  • Power6 Power6 on Aug 26, 2014

    What a fabulous car, in such an undesirable package...even in the coupe. I still kinda want one, or to at least drive one.

  • Doug-g Doug-g on Aug 26, 2014

    Derek, you're probably the only guy your age already suffering from "pants creep", the curse of old men. My favorite body styles have always been four door hardtops followed by station wagons. Two doors and convertibles not so much.