On a budget? Get a Cobalt

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Thread: On a budget? Get a Cobalt

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    On a budget? Get a Cobalt

    On a budget? Get a Cobalt

    Chevy creates a modern compact that's affordable and appealing

    By Paul Lienert and Anita Lienert / Special to The Detroit News

    Unlike many of its GM siblings, the 2005 Chevy Cobalt boasts a tastefully designed ****************pit with high-quality materials.; 2005 Toyota Corolla XRS

    The Cobalt SS coupe with a supercharged engine should reach showrooms later this month.

    When our now-grown sons were preschoolers in the early 1980s, we shopped carefully for an affordable small family car and settled on a silver Chevrolet Cavalier that had all the fun of a Puritan sermon.

    Settled was the operative word back then when it came to our entry-level Chevrolet.

    The Cavalier was functional, but lackluster, with a less-than-memorable exterior and a bland, cheap-looking cabin that didn't measure up to European competitors like the Volkswagen Jetta.

    So we were eager to check out the all-new 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt, General Motors Corp.'s long-awaited successor to the Cavalier.



    Would this be a vehicle that would please dollar-conscious adults and still appeal to fussy young buyers?

    The answer is maybe.

    With the Cobalt, GM has finally created a modern compact car that is affordable and appealing.

    That achievement is noteworthy, if somewhat belated, considering that the Cobalt's antediluvian predecessor, the Cavalier, is more than 20 years old, and that GM's previous small-car attempt--the ill-conceived and poorly executed Saturn Ion -- was a disaster and an embarrassment for the brand and its parent company when it debuted in late 2002.We just wish GM and Chevy had reached a little higher. The Cobalt is pleasant and competent, but not groundbreaking, in a segment populated by one strong contender after another, including the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Ford Focus, Mazda3, Volkswagen Jetta and Kia Spectra.

    While it is miles ahead of the Cavalier, which is finally being put out to pasture, the Cobalt is by no means the segment leader.

    In fact, Cobalt not only is late to the party, but it lacks some of the features and punch of its competitors.

    Nor does it stand out in a crowd.

    The design is fresh, but not particularly distinctive (tucked away in the parking garage, a relative asked if it was a new Volkswagen).

    In its favor, Cobalt has a comfortable, compliant ride and exhibits excellent chassis dynamics.

    Unlike many of its GM siblings, this new Chevy also boasts a tastefully designed ****************pit with high-quality materials -- a dramatic departure from too many of the General's current vehicles.

    We spent a week in late December driving around southeastern Michigan in the new Cobalt sedan, a top-of-the-line LT version with leather upholstery and wood trim, priced at $20,465 including destination charges.

    We put several hundred miles on the car and appreciated a number of the car's attributes, notably its comfort, responsiveness and ease of operation.

    About that price. If $20,000 seems a bit stiff for a compact, consider that you can get a well-furnished mid-size sedan -- a Honda Accord or a Toyota Camry -- for about the same price. Hyundai will throw in a V-6 engine on its mid-size Sonata for even less money.

    For buyers who may be more financially challenged, the standard Cobalt sedan and coupe start at $14,190, including destination, which is competitive with the class leaders.

    That price includes such features as air conditioning, a CD player, split folding rear seat and battery rundown protection. But to get standard antilock brakes, traction control, power windows and other amenities on a Cobalt coupe or sedan, you'll have to move up to the mid-level LS, which starts at $16,485.

    The LT sedan is priced from $18,760, while the racy Cobalt SS stickers for $21,995. Cobalt sedans already have begun arriving at dealerships while coupes should reach showrooms later this month.

    Chevy's new small car has been a long time in planning and gestation. The development group started with GM's sturdy Delta architecture, which underpins the Ion.

    To the basic chassis formula of a strut-type front end and twist-beam rear axle, the Delta engineers added front and rear stabilizer bars and made provisions for tire sizes from 15 inches to 18 inches.

    GM's speed-sensitive, variable-assist electric power steering has been tuned to provide relatively good feedback and response, and the front disc/rear drum brakes with four-wheel antilock provide decent grip.

    The standard engine on most Cobalts is an all-aluminum, twin-cam 2.2-liter four-cylinder and the Cobalt SS gets a more potent, supercharged 2.0-liter unit. On paper, the 2.2 looks like a winner. It makes 145 horsepower and 155 pounds-feet of torque, which beats Toyota, Honda and Ford.

    Chevy offers buyers a choice of a Getrag five-speed manual transmission or a Hydra-matic four-speed automatic.

    Here's where the anomalies begin. Despite its impressive specs, the 2.2-liter engine often sounds like it's laboring to produce that power, especially under full throttle, even with only two adults on board.

    The driveline noise is not pleasant, sounding vaguely agricultural.

    Our test car had the four-speed automatic, which is smooth enough, but some competitors like Mazda and VW are offering more efficient five-speed automatics, with six-speeds just around the corner.

    Curiously, the automatic transmission enables better fuel economy than the manual. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the 2.2/automatic combination at 24 miles per gallon in city driving and 32 on the highway while the 2.2/manual gets only 23 in the city and 29 on the highway.

    In comparison, Corolla's twin-cam, 130-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine carries EPA ratings of 32 in the city and 41 on the highway.

    Our test Cobalt was loaded with features, including a fancy Pioneer audio system and keyless entry, as well as such desirable options as XM satellite radio ($325). Yet surprisingly it lacked some basic items.

    The driver-information center in the instrument binnacle includes an outside-temperature display -- but there's no engine-temp gauge, so you can't tell how quickly your engine is warming up on a frosty winter morning.

    And while the comfy front bucket seats were heated and trimmed in leather, there was no power adjustment. Nor did our fancy wood-and-leather ****************pit have lighted visor vanity mirrors.

    Perhaps our biggest disappointment, after the lengthy buildup from GM executives about the company's renewed efforts to improve quality, was the apparent lack of attention to tight trim fits on the Cobalt we tested.

    The passenger-side windshield pillar displayed a noticeable gap behind the plastic, with a piece of cloth headliner sticking out ahead of the pillar.

    Antilock brakes cost extra on the base Cobalt. They're standard on up-level models and come bundled with traction control on vehicles equipped with automatic transmission. Side curtain air bags are a $395 option on all models.

    After our introduction to the Cobalt, we felt much better than we did in our old Cavalier. There was little sense that we were doing automotive penance for not being able to afford something a little better.

    Bottom line: Cobalt may not be the most thrilling new entry in this segment, but overall, it's a solid offering that lives up to its tough name.
    http://www.detnews.com/2005/autoscon.../G01-50272.htm
    Last edited by ProjectRS; 01-09-2005 at 01:53 PM.

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    Re: On a budget? Get a Cobalt

    Yet another example of the anti-American (and especially anti-GM) bias in the media. GM builds a very attractive small car and they're (the press is) mad because it's not a $20K Lexus.

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    Re: On a budget? Get a Cobalt

    Perhaps our biggest disappointment, after the lengthy buildup from GM executives about the company's renewed efforts to improve quality, was the apparent lack of attention to tight trim fits on the Cobalt we tested.
    I wonder if this is a problem with the engineering or the UAW, or both...

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    Re: On a budget? Get a Cobalt

    I test drove a Cobalt last week and liked it very much. I did have a few reservations though. The interior looked good. I did notice two small problem on the dash. At the top of the stereo the plastic surround is very thin and looks like it is just floating there. In fact, when I touched it I found I could easily move it in most any direction. The metal-look strip going across the passenger side of the dash is another thing I noticed. I didn't try this, but I am somewhat sure the gap between that piece and the center stack surround could accomodate a quarter at the top of its uneven gap.

    Second, the trunk opening is very small. I play in a band and we have large equipment, some of which would fit in the trunk were it not for the small opening. Also, the switch to lower the rear seats is in the trunk. While this is a good idea, I feel that there should be a redundant switch inside. I noticed that the driver side seat came down easily with one person just walking around the car, but the passenger side did not 'pop forward' enough to free itself from the latch.

    Also, on the exterior where the front and rear fenders meet the front and rear fascias, they form an odd diagonal line. I can't really see how this would be a problem per-se, but it looks odd when it doesn't need to.

    Lastly, the electric steering. While it worked well in most circumstances and I don't think that most people would ever know the difference, driving enthusiasts will be able to notice the lack of feedback pretty quickly. When braking quickly for a corner, the steering angles and effort seem to change suddenly, which I feel is a safety issue.

    Other than these few things, I was very impressed with the car and will probably buy one in a few months when I have enough money, unless I can afford a Malibu Maxx (remember: band equipment). Overall, I don't see these as real deterents from buying the car, just annoyances that may get worked out.
    Last edited by Slack; 01-29-2005 at 03:24 PM.

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    Re: On a budget? Get a Cobalt

    But the problem is, in this segment, the competition is very strong. Unless I want to specifically buy GM or I'm getting a great deal, why should I put up with any "little annoyances?"

    What everyone seems to forget is that the last Cav got reviews much like this when it was released -- ten years ago. It's interior was "much improved." It's driving dynamics were a step forward. It's styling was near class-leading. All over, it wasn't quite as strong as the Civic or Corolla, but it was getting a lot closer.

    But, GM decided to do very little to address the car's weaknesses over its run, and it slipped farther behind the head of the class as new designs entered the market. In typicaly GM fashion, they kept the volume up through incentives. At the end of its life, GM was nearly giving away the cars.

    I haven't driven the Cobalt, but I have driven the Mazda3, and its a pretty impressive car. From everything I've read, the Cobalt is a mid-pack entry into the market that with some ongoing development by GM could appoach the head of the pack. This also seems to be true of the Malibu and the G6. The question is: will GM continue to improve the cars during their run and address weak areas or start the incentive cycle again?

    On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with offering a decent car at a great price, which is what the Cavilier ended up being. It's just that GM keeps saying it wants to compete on product and get away from incentives, but based on product that only seems to be true in its more expensive vehicles -- the Cadillac line, the Corvette.

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    Re: On a budget? Get a Cobalt

    Quote Originally Posted by ProjectRS
    boasts a tastefully designed ****************pit with high-quality materials
    This filter is really getting annoying.

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    Re: On a budget? Get a Cobalt

    I love this board.

    Wait, wait, wait, I have to give this a try: ****************pit.

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    Cool Re: On a budget? Get a Cobalt

    c o c k pit

    ****************suckers!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    Re: On a budget? Get a Cobalt


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    Re: On a budget? Get a Cobalt

    Quote from above:
    "Curiously, the automatic transmission enables better fuel economy than the manual. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the 2.2/automatic combination at 24 miles per gallon in city driving and 32 on the highway while the 2.2/manual gets only 23 in the city and 29 on the highway."

    Would this not sound wrong to an automobile reviewer? Why can't these "professionals" check their facts? A simple trip to http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/findacar.htm will confirm that the manual transmission figures are greater than the automatic transmission figures.

    The correct manual transmission figures are: 25 City and 34 Highway.

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    Re: On a budget? Get a Cobalt

    Speaking of bargains: does anyone know what the predicted residual is on this car? I read that Ford 500 production has been restricted to the point that residuals are predicted to be at 46% rather than the 30% a Taurus gets.

    Remember: high residuals = low lease payments.

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    Re: On a budget? Get a Cobalt

    I disagree with much of what they say, having driven the car myself, but they aren't entirely wrong. You can buy a new Hyundai Sonata with the same money. The question is, would you rather have a mid size car that has a design dating back to 1998, or a new compact. BTW, in order to get a leather interior, you have to spend more than the price of the Cobalt LT. It may have finally taken the top spot in initaly quality in the J. D. Power survey last year, but after deriding Cobalt for a lack of thrills, they really should not have mentioned the Sonata, which manages to be an even duller drive than a Camry. Actually, there are Camrys that can be bought at that price, but they are fairly basic cars. As an example, a basic Camry SE, with a 4 cyl. engine and f speed and option group A, is $21,360.

    It may also be that the Lordstown plant can still build a bad one from time to time. I have no idea.

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    Re: On a budget? Get a Cobalt

    Quote Originally Posted by lio45
    This filter is really getting annoying.
    LOL! I thought I was the only one thinking that.

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    Re: On a budget? Get a Cobalt

    You'd think the word ****************pit would be neccessary on a car forum but o well. It's a lot of fun. I just drove the first Cobalt coupe that came in and the thing is beautiful. When the SS comes out, I'll be the first guy in line.

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    Re: On a budget? Get a Cobalt

    i've seen price figures for the SS. pricey, lower it a couple thousand more and it'll be attractive

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