KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
Soaring fuel costs have changed the mix of compact-car customers. First-time buyers and budget-conscious consumers are no longer the only potential owners for small cars – SUV 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 also want more than bare-bones transportation. Enter the 2009 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 and in a number of trims including the super fuel-efficient XFE and spicy SS models, 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 2009 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 New for 2009
For 2009 the Cobalt has a number of improvements. They include a revised 2.2-liter Ecotec engine delivering more power and better fuel economy, 15-inch low-rolling-resistance tires, a USB port added to the radio, standard OnStar and available Bluetooth phone connectivity, new 15- and 16-inch wheel options and a tire inflation kit as standard equipment. The Sport trim and 2.4-liter engine have been dropped.
Clearly a cut above previous-generation GM smaller cars, the 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt delivers reasonably spirited performance and a surprisingly good ride for a generally enjoyable driving experience – apart from the exhaust noise. Suspension is more effective than in some other GM automobiles, with a firm, direct feel. Only the nastier bumps and potholes 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.
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 2009 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 somewhat confined space and 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.
Chevrolet claims the 2009 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 former 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. 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 taillamps. Chevrolet claims a turning radius, curb-to-curb, of just 37.4 feet, handy for dealing with tight spots.
Notable Standard Equipment
The base LS Cobalt comes equipped with air conditioning, a CD audio system with USB and auxiliary input jack, a tilt steering column, head-curtain side airbags, GM's OnStar communications system, XM Satellite Radio, driver information center, traction control (models with automatic transmission and ABS only) 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.
Notable Optional Equipment
The Cobalt offers a number of nice optional features, including AM/FM stereo with six-disc MP3-compatible CD player, remote start, a four-speed automatic transmission, heated leather seats, power glass sunroof, Bluetooth hands-free communication, cruise control, rear spoiler and 16-inch alloy wheels.
Under the Hood
The newly-improved 2.2-liter engine still lacks the refinement and quiet operation that has become the trademark of the Honda and Toyota powerplants, but it is not so raw as to be unlivable. On the positive side, the 2.2-liter engine is a strong performer, offering good acceleration and passing power while returning better-than-average fuel economy.
2.2-liter in-line 4
155 horsepower @ 6100 rpm
150 lb.-ft. of torque @4900 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/37 (XFE, manual), 24/33 (automatic)
The 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt LS Coupe and Sedan have a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $15,500, the Cobalt LT adds another $700 and the SS starts around the $23,000 mark. 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.