By KBB.com Editors
Soaring fuel costs have changed the face of the compact-car customer. First-time buyers and budget-conscious consumers are no longer the only market for small carsSUV drivers looking for an economical second car are also flooding showrooms. But these people have a bit more cash on hand and, although they want something that's good on gas, they don't want bare-bones transportation. Enter the 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt, an attractive small car with a bit more size, style and equipment than its entry-level competitors, but with a reasonable price tag and good gas mileage. Available as either a coupe or sedan, the Cobalt definitely merits a test drive.You'll Like This Car If...
If you're looking for a small car with an upscale interior, a smooth ride and an all-American nameplate, the 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt is a worthy alternative to the Ford Focus. The Cobalt is also easy on gas, a key point of interest for many new car shoppers.You May Not Like This Car If...
If you're looking for a small car with a big back seat, the Cobalt can't compare to the Dodge Caliber or Scion xB. The Cobalt's engine is a bit coarse and its exhaust note is even louder.What's Significant About This Car?
Trim names change to LS, LT and Sport, while XM Satellite Radio, head-curtain airbags and a tire-pressure monitoring system are made standard across the line. SS and SS Supercharged models are temporarily off the order menu.Driving It Driving Impressions
Clearly a cut above previous-generation GM smaller cars, the 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt delivers reasonably spirited performance and a surprisingly good ride for a generally enjoyable experienceapart from the exhaust noise. Suspension is more effective than in some other GM automobiles, with a firm, direct feel. Only the nastier bumps and holes are likely to be bothersome. With the easy-shifting automatic transmission, this sedan accelerates enthusiastically enough for its class. Nimble handling is accompanied by well-assisted, confident steering, which enhances agility in around-town driving, and the Cobalt is stable on the highway.Favorite Features
XM Satellite Radio
Standard XM Satellite Radio is rare in this price range. Once you've tried it on a long trip, you're likely to become a satisfied customer.
In many recent vehicles, a large glovebox door opens onto a constricted storage space, but the Cobalt's glovebox is ample in size.
The 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt sedans have a high seating position for a more commanding view of the road, and all-around visibility is impressive. The interiors, crafted to offer five-passenger seating, are attractive, if rather basic. The only gauge on the instrument panel is for fuel level, but digital readouts deliver other data. Front passengers enjoy good head, leg and elbow space, but rear-seat passengers must accept a confining experience. An average-size person may have trouble getting in and out of the rear of the coupe. The 60/40-split rear seatback includes a pass-through to the trunk, which holds 13.9 cubic feet of luggage.Exterior
Chevrolet claims the 2008 Cobalt's rigid body structure contributes to benefits in quality, ride and handling. Based on GM's global Delta architecture, its dimensions are comparable to the old Cavalier's, except that the Cobalt is more than two inches taller. Each trim level has specific 15-, 16- or 17-inch wheels and appearance touches, though an overall kinship to the Cavalier is discernable. Coupes mimic the sedan's profile from the A-pillar forward, but a tapered reverse C-pillar leads back to Chevrolet's signature quartet of round tail lamps. Chevrolet claims a turning radius, curb-to-curb, of just 37.4 feet.Notable Standard Equipment
The base LS Cobalt comes equipped with air conditioning, a CD audio system with auxiliary input jack, a tilt steering column, head-curtain side airbags, XM Satellite Radio, driver information center and electric rear-window defroster. Speed-sensitive electric power steering is tuned to match the tires and suspension. Brakes are front discs and rear drums. Stepping up to the 2LT adds anti-lock braking (ABS), StabiliTrak stability control, keyless entry system, cruise control and power windows and mirrors. The Sport coupe and sedan get a larger 2.4-liter engine, 17-inch wheels, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (ABS), FE3 suspension and more standard features.Notable Optional Equipment
The Cobalt offers a number of nice optional features, including GM's OnStar communications system (standard on 2LT and Sport), AM/FM stereo with six-disc MP3-compatible CD player, remote start, a four-speed automatic transmission, heated leather seats, power glass sunroof, cruise control, rear spoiler and 16-inch alloy wheels.Under the Hood
Both the base 2.2- and 2.4-liter engines lack the refinement and quiet operation that has become the trademark of the Honda and Toyota powerplants. On the positive side, these engines are strong performers, offering good acceleration and passing power while returning better-than-average fuel economy.
2.2-liter in-line 4
148 horsepower @ 5600 rpm
152 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/31 (manual), 21/29 (automatic)
2.4-liter in-line 4
171 horsepower @ 5800 rpm
167 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/32 (manual), 21/29 (automatic)
The 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt LS coupe and sedan have a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $14,000, the Cobalt LT adds another $700 and the Sport starts just under $20,000. To get your best price, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price. It shows the typical transaction price being paid in your area. As for resale, the Cobalt holds an average five-year projected residual value, falling far below such competitors as the Honda Civic, Scion tC, Mazda Mazda3 and Hyundai Elantra. The Kia Spectra also has a lower-than-average projected residual and falls just below the Cobalt.