FSince 1982, entry level cars and Chevrolet equaled the Cavalier. But the Cavalier was last redesigned in 1995, and it was long overdue for replacement. Well, the car that’s taking its place is the all-new 2005 Cobalt. Chevy claims that the Cobalt is tighter, quieter, more refined, and ready to take on the best small cars in the world. So let’s get behind the wheel and see if we agree.
The 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt is a critical car for General Motors’ volume family brand. It must re-establish Chevy as a leader in entry level cars, and gain traction in the youth-oriented sport compact niche. To that end, Chevy has hit the road running, with a full Cobalt lineup ranging from basic 2- and 4-doors, to a supercharged SS performance coupe.
But whether designed for economy or sport, all Cobalts are built on GM’s Delta platform, shared with the Saturn Ion. And like the Ion, the Cobalt is supported by a MacPherson strut front, and semi-independent torsion beam rear suspension. The Cobalt package also boasts electrically-assisted power steering.
The standard engine is GM’s well known 2.2-liter dual-overhead-cam Ecotec 4-cylinder. With 140 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque on tap, it delivers the same power as the final Cavalier and 5 pound-feet more torque than the Ion. But the kicker for the Cobalt is in the SS Coupe. Here rules a frisky 2.0-liter supercharged Ecotec with 205 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque. Transmission choices are a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic. The SS is appropriately manual only. Our car’s optional Performance Package also included limited slip.
On the track the SS supercharged its way from 0 to 60 in 6.1 seconds. The quarter mile ended in 14.7 seconds at 97 ‘‘smiles’‘-per-hour. That’s a hair slower than the Dodge Neon SRT-4, but getting there is more satisfying. Power delivery is smooth, never thrashy. The 5-speed could be tighter and the clutch is a little grabby, like many of the imports the Cobalt aims to catch.
Ride and handling is impressively refined, taut but not harsh, and the Cobalt dives into turns with little lean or push. No slot car, but certainly Sport Compact. Compared to the base car, the SS gets the FE5 suspension hardware with stiffer springs, a larger front anti-roll bar, along with aluminum control arms. They control the 18-inch low profile performance tires that displayed secure traction in dry and wet. Steering effort is light, but feel is stronger than expected with tight response.
Brakes were pretty tight, too, with short stops and little fade. Average distance on a stone cold track from 60 was only 117 feet. ABS is standard on the SS and all but the base Cobalt.
On everyday roads, everyday Cobalts, in Base, LS, and LT trim, are a lot less frantic than the SS coupe. But our test LS sedan had the same solid feel and fine noise control.
The basic Cobalt shape is also controlled, and very evolutionary for an all-new model. The sedan is smoother with more refined details than its predecessor. It sits on 15-inch wheels with only rear styling favoring the Ion. The SS Coupe is a further departure, with its deep, aggressive front facia, sculptured ground effects, 5-spoke rims, huge rear wing, and 4 round taillights, just like a Corvette.
Features standard on all but the base cars include air conditioning with a pollen filter, keyless entry, power windows and mirrors, cruise control and tilt wheel. Side and side curtain airbags are optional. All seats are height adjustable and most have driver’s lumbar adjust. Support is good. The SS gets leather trimmed sport seats. The Performance Package adds high bolstered Recaros that wrap around you without squeezing. Controls for the air conditioning and standard CD stereo are big and sensible. Audio upgrades include MP3 capability, a 7-speaker Pioneer system, and XM satellite radio.
With its shorter wheelbase, Cobalt offers a few tenths-of-an-inch less rear seat room than the Cavalier. It is a little tight, but split folding seat backs are standard. While the trunk opening is also tight, trunk room grows to a big 13.9 cubic-feet.
But prices are Cobalt’s most critical numbers. They start at $14,190 for the base coupe and sedan. The LS in both 2-and-4-door form goes for $16,485. The LT sedan will run you $18,760, while the top-of-the-line SS coupe costs $21,995. The Performance Package is $1,500 more.
With the arrival of the 2005 Cobalt, entry level enters a new age at Chevrolet. The Cobalt is solid, sensible, and high quality, but also with some genuine fun and flash, making it a strong formula for success.
Engine: 2.0-Liter Supercharged Ecotec
Torque: 200 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 6.1 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 14.7 Seconds @ 97 MPH
60-0 MPH: 117 Feet