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2006 Chevrolet Cobalt SS

Martha Hindes

Chevrolet Cobalt SS
Chevrolet Cobalt interior

Ss in Chevy speak has to be the ultimate in performance and personality. The biggest in General Motors' stable of divisions has dubbed some of its most respected vehicles as SS models, a super sporty designation tagged onto such offerings as the legendary Corvette, the Impala and Monte Carlo, and even the midsize Malibu and Malibu Maxx. So by adding an SS version to the compact Cobalt sedan or coupe for '06, Chevy gives small car buyers a chance to enhance their ownership experience with a similar touch of performance salsa.

Cobalt isn't the base among Chevy's small car models. The more modest and imported 27/35 mpg Aveo subcompact gets that honor. But homegrown buyers might be better off opting for the five-seater, roomier Cobalt model if they want a wider range of choice (each with its own trim touches) and a taut, performance-capable vehicle meant to compete on the scale of Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.

Think entry level and you might not expect to find heated leather seating, MP3 and XM Satellite radio availability and GM's ubiquitous OnStar safety/communications system. But it's there, depending on which version one chooses. The SS badging brings with it Chevy's 2.4-liter Ecotec four, with 171-horsepower rating, while the supercharged SS version bangs out 205-horsepower for street dominance or more. Cobalt's best EPA ratings (145-hp, 2.2-liter four) are 25/34 in manual mode.

But enough of the techy stuff. Whether modest or more premium in execution, there's a Cobalt for just about everyone -- with variations of LS, LT, LTZ and SS. This two-year-old goes from basic, just under $14,000 admission price for a 2.2-liter inline four, stick shift and hand crank windows (modest by most driver's standards) to above the $20,000 threshold for loaded SS models. But a variety of amenities such as sunroof, upgraded sound, Sport Package complete with rear spoiler, or upmarket satin nickel or wood grain trims let the buyer play with price as desired. With Cobalt, Chevy proves that being value minded can still leave one breathless in the process.