By on August 25, 2014

$_20 (1)

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.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

49 Comments on “Crapwagon Outtake: It Doesn’t Get Much Cheaper Than This...”


  • avatar
    86er

    Rode hard, put away wet.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Derek, agreed 100% on the four-door bit. I think coupes are mostly a waste of space, particularly when they don’t offer any inherent performance advantage over an equivalent sedan.

    I too would love it if Honda would offer a manual Accord V6 sedan again. I’d probably be one of about two buyers.

    • 0 avatar

      There are 7 for sale near me (2007 model year). All are pretty rough.

    • 0 avatar
      TwoTone Loser

      There is absolutely an advantage to coupes. The doors are bigger. For me, that means I get in and out easier, or, if I need to transport a large item or gigantic box of something, its just a matter of tipping back the seat. Also Coupe seats tip forward(4 door seats DONT) allowing for options when carrying oddly shaped items. When moving, My old T-bird did most of the work, as the Wife’s G20’s doors were too small to be of any real help.

      Of course I do realize that the rooflines and sometimes even the wheelbases are different in two and four door cars.

      Some cars look better as 4 doors. My B-body station wagon is definitely better as one. Saw some renders and customizations of two door caprice wagons(vomit)

      But when I see four doors specifically on a cobalt or cavalier, the doors look comically tiny(Why not six doors then???? or eight?)

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        I assume you’ve never taken your coupe in a tight parking lot? The big doors are an asset until you can’t open them far enough (not that it stopped me when I had my old Cavalier, as I didn’t care if anyone dented it).

        • 0 avatar
          TwoTone Loser

          I never had any problems. Course, I am tall, not fat, and I don’t park next to people who cant. With that I also like a two door because when I look to my left I can see out the window. In a four door, I am looking smack at the B pillar.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            @TwoTone Loser,

            I agree with you 100% that the driver seat in a coupe is awesome, having the B-Pillar NOT directly beside your left shoulder.

            I had to abandon my coupe though, my home and work parking spots are SO tight, ingress and egress became such a pain. If you are able to avoid tight parking (ie have a driveway) then coupes are still awesome.

      • 0 avatar
        SlowMyke

        As far as I’m aware, most four door seats will come flat forward. The ones I’ve owned have- jeeps and sedans.

        Edit: unless you’re talking compact only, then I have no experience and you may be right.

        • 0 avatar
          TwoTone Loser

          I’m sure there are some, but I’ve never seen one. None of my 4 door cars had front seats that would fold forward. Some of those had seats that didn’t fold at all.

          • 0 avatar

            Four doors are more practical, but two doors are better looking. CTS Coupe vs. CTS sedan, for example.

            I’ve often thought that a sedan design is more rigid.

            Oh, and in some parking lots, thin folks can’t get out either due to poor parking jobs. People have way different views about the sanctity of no door dings

          • 0 avatar
            ringomon

            Hmm that’s interesting. Every four door car I’ve owned had seats that did fold forward… Maybe it’s a brand by brand thing.

  • avatar
    anti121hero

    What about trucks? I much prefer the 2 door cherokee over the 4 door.

  • avatar
    bikephil

    Derek, you forgot about the 03-05 Dodge SRT-4. Our 2005 has embarrassed many cars costing 5 times as much on a stock tune. Still going strong after 130k miles.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      I would be embarrassed to ride around in an SRT-4. Maybe if it were bone bone bone bone stock and in a very subdued color. But most of the ones I see are “backwards cap”ed out, with badly painted wheels, loud farty exhausts, silly stickers, tints and a dbag behind the wheel. Real shame as they are damn good cars.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnnyFirebird

      I’m curious how they would perform against each other in Stage I tuning. I assume both would smoke my 2009 SRT4… hey Derek, how much would you pay for a Canadian SRT-4 with 50,000 miles anyhow? :)

      I think the 2005 Neon SRT-4 was way lighter than the Cobalt SS and they underestimated the power output considering in all the magazines it seemed to run faster than my 2004 Mustang GT.

      • 0 avatar
        blppt

        IIRC, they were pretty close stock, both running near a 5.3 0-60 and 14 flat 1/4s @ around 102mph. The SS was supposedly one of the best handling FWD cars ever, though. Some people compared it to the much-heralded ITR.

    • 0 avatar

      I feel the the SRT-4 had its day. I recall being enthralled with them as a pubescent boy, when they bested every other machine in Sport Compact Car’s comparison test. Jack owned one and loved it.

      The Cobalt SS seems to have been lost in the fog of the BK.

      • 0 avatar
        Synchromesh

        What about Mazdaspeed 3? Starting 2007 model year it put out 263hp and was fwd. WRX also deserves and honorable mention although it is awd. I’d take either one of those over a Cobalt any day of the week.

        • 0 avatar
          blppt

          Pretty sure both the Neon SRT4 and the SS were faster than the MS3 (never saw any mag get a MS3 into the low 5s 0-60), and the SS handled better than all of them. MS3 interior and quality was probably lightyears ahead of the rest, though.

          • 0 avatar
            APaGttH

            Really hard to get faster than low 5s out of FWD and still have a normal, street able car the average slob can drive.

          • 0 avatar
            Power6

            None of these FWD cars is really about 0-60. Even though 99% of the kids with the SRT-4s wanted to drag race!

            I loved my SRT-4, sure all the other owners were young kids badly accessorizing and slamming them…I was 29 and kept it mostly stock…except for the OEM stage 2 kit…tons of fun. Mine was silver too, so about as subdued as you can get for a too powerful FWD with a giant spoiler and no mufflers.

            I never drove the turbo SS Cobalt but I read the suspension tuning was quite sophisticated, so it may probably eclipsed the SRT-4 from a total performance standpoint. The MS3 was very comparable as well, all very close. The SRT-4 was a screaming deal though I bought my 04 leftover for 18.5k in 05 with both Kicker stereo and Sunroof option.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Figure out what the drivetrain itself is worth and then add $500-750 for the hulk of the car. I can’t see it being much more than $3K in true valuation.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    I test drove one before I purchase a 2008 Jetta Wolfsburg 2.0T. The Jetta was a better car, even if it was down 60 HP, and stickered for less. Unlike the Cobalt, the Jetta was a place that I enjoyed spending time.

    The Mazdaspeed3 was also on sale at the time, and had 263 HP. If I wanted a go fast small car that rattled and had a plastic fantastic interior, I would have purchased that for the same price as a Cobalt SS.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    I consider the Verano T sort of a spiritual successor to the Cobalt SS Turbo, though it trades in all of the handling prowess for a much much better interior.

    Works for me!

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      If GM had the Verano T avialable back in 2008, I would have purchased it instead of the Jetta Wolfsburg. The interior of the Cobalt made it a non-starter for me. Plus, I want the back of my car to frown unapprovingly at motorists behind me.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    These have enough problems even as plain Cobalts, HHRs, Ions and that, dunno if I’d feel safe with a turbo being added to it.

    I will say that I too have a weird aversion to coupes, moreso because they lack a 4-doors practicality.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    “But those days, like the days of high-performance compact Chevys, are long gone”

    The Camaro’s compact, isn’t it? At least on the inside.

  • avatar
    DevilsRotary86

    I am the opposite. I pretty much refuse to buy a 4-door car ever, and have so far avoided buying one with my own money.

    Unfortunately, my requirements of “less than 3,000lbs, 2 door only, and stick shift” really cut down on my choices and make excursions to used lots mandatory.

    • 0 avatar
      epsilonkore

      +1
      I have only bought 2 and 3 door vehicles using my own money. Seems we have the same goals, make it light (Id love to have a sub 2500lb car if I could, but 3000 is not a bad goal) 2-3 doors and stick. My next goal evolution may very well be to eliminate the STICK first by going to a pure electric vehicle. I am just waiting for that “affordable” electric coupe that is at or under 3000lbs.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    You might want to consider—no, wait for it-!–the Epsilon Saab 9-3 as an alternative. The 2.0T is not a bad engine, it’s got slightly more sophisticated chassis tuning and a much nicer interior. Not exactly friendly to mod or keep up, but it does have four (sometimes five!) doors.

    You could even, if feel slightly unhinged, opt for the 98-02 9-3 Viggen. Four doors, takes well to tuning, chassis flexes like a wet noodle. Really fun car to drive.

    Both are cheap to buy, but the Viggen is probably somewhat cheaper to keep running. If you’re in Toronto, go to Jeremy’s at Queen and Parliament for your upkeep.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I infinitely prefer odd numbers of doors. But for small cars, I prefer the coupe/3dr for the simple reason that I am large, and the door openings in small cars with 4 or 5 doors are not. Big round peg will fit in small squarish hole, but much easier into much bigger hole. Those who need to get in the back can arrange alternate transportation if they don’t like the accommodations. I had to wedge my 6’2″ teenage self into the back of a 911 and/or a Grand Prix back in the day, I have ZERO sympathy. And I only weighed 145lbs back then!

  • avatar
    MrIcky

    I had a 2009 SS Coupe. It was staggeringly good to drive, and I honestly think the seats were the best in the segment-I still think they are better than most on the market in the compact class.

    It was one of those rare cars that kept getting better the faster you went. I had the GMS stage 1 on mine also and it was underrated (dyno’d at 283 hp/ 307 torques).

    Then you had launch control and no lift shift with a Saab gearbox. The GMS kit lowered the launch control rpm to 4300’ish and after that it was perfect. I had it for 5 years and 60k something miles and it was problem free and took off like a scalded cat. I no-lift-shifted every time I had a free on-ramp and the gearbox never complained.

    I’m not blind to it’s faults, the dash was awful and the gray plastic inserts were terrible. You could see gaps and molding burrs. And it was a Cobalt. It will always find a soft spot in my heart.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    Derek I agree completely about 4 doors. My biggest complaint about my parent’s Fiat 500 is the difficulty in accessing the back seat. I use my back seat as extra storage and rear doors make it so much easier to load and unload stuff. Buying a 4 door 330i instead of the 2 door was one of the smartest decisions I made. I wish there were more fun to drive 4 doors out there. If only Hyundai made a 4 door version of the Genesis coupe or Scion would pull the trigger on the rumored FRS 4 door. I was also in the minority who were glad to see the Fiesta ST being offered as a 4 door. I’m looking for a fuel efficient beater to take some of the driving duties off the BMW, and I’ve been looking at used Civics. However, good luck finding a stick shift 4 door ex trimline – very very rare. Unless the two door body is something incredibly drop dead beautiful (like say the S5, and I would even say an E92 vs E90), I don’t see a compelling reason to buy it.

  • avatar
    Freddie

    When, in March 2010, I went to a far-away Chevy dealer to get a fantastic deal on my new 2009 HHR SS manual that was sitting on the lot for a year and no one else wanted, there was also a Cobalt SS for about two grand less. Mechanically the same car, but the HHR was worth the extra money for a nicer, roomier interior and stylng which, ok, an aquired taste for some but at least I don’t have trouble finding my car in a parking lot. It’s a blast to drive, no problems (not even the ignition switch) at ~65K miles. For GM it’s a case of even a broken clock is right twice a day.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    I remember badly jonesin’ for an ’08 turbo sedan. True ‘Balt fans will note the one in your pic is likely a 2007 supercharged model. The much more desirable ’08 turbo model has different rims with thin spokes.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I don’t think Chevrolet ever made a supercharged Cobalt sedan. I believe a forced induction/turbo SS sedan was only available in ’09 and the naturally aspirated SS sedan was available in ’06-’07.

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        You are correct sir, per the wiki article on the Cobalt SS, the gold standard for Cobalt SS analysis (ok, it’s the Only Cobalt SS analysis but it’s still pretty good). I was going on memory, which was wrong.

        It also says the turbo could hit 60 in 5.5 seconds and do the quarter in 13.9 seconds. Wow! I didn’t recall that they were that fast. I imagine with the Stage 1 kit you’d have a mid 13 second car.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      The interior pictures from the ad show the more heavily bolstered seats of a SS/TC, along with the Saab-sourced shifter, instead of the N/A SS’s chrome ball.

      I’d guess at some point one of the thin spoked wheels got curbed, and it was easier to find the wheels from an older SS.

  • avatar
    kobo1d

    Good condition / low mileage Cobalt SS Turbo Sedans are quickly becoming unicorns. Not too many to start, 75% of them have been run into the ground already, and the other 25% of them don’t exactly have the most durable platform to maintain.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    If any geeks are interested, here’s a great long thread on the Cobalt board about VINs and production numbers and the like.

    http://www.cobaltss.net/forums/08-10-ss-turbocharged-general-discussion-152/2008-2009-numbers-coupe-sedan-color-189818/

    Unicorn indeed! The last page shows that there were only 474 turbo sedans built in ’09. Kind of funny to think that after all that hype and nerdy documentation, 75% of these cars are probably all but dead, and another 18% will probably follow in the next couple years, leaving maybe 35-40 to carry the torch. And how many of those will be presentable in 10 years?

    It would be great if Murilee could dredge one up for a Junkyard Find!

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    I have a definite preference for four-door sedans (possibly due to coupes in the ’80s being either trashy mullet cars or leftover ’70s abominations), but I somehow ended up with two notchback coupes and two 3-door hatchbacks. Go figure.

  • avatar
    mikeg216

    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!

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      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…

  • avatar
    kkop

    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.

  • avatar
    Power6

    What a fabulous car, in such an undesirable package…even in the coupe.

    I still kinda want one, or to at least drive one.

  • avatar
    doug-g

    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.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Hydromatic: Iraq proved the U.S. can knock around small armies with almost laughable ease, but chokes when faced with...
  • ToolGuy: OK, but when TVA was formed they put hands in a lot of pockets, and much more. Growing up, the dad next door...
  • eggsalad: Abysmal mileage for a 1.6 liter anything
  • ToolGuy: ttacgreg, Apparently there was an issue in the 70’s or 80’s with several manufacturers who got...
  • MoparRocker74: Im suprised this hasn’t happened sooner myself. Jeep is usually running some kind of patriotic...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States