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2005 Chevrolet Cobalt Review

Santa Barbara is an awfully luxurious place. And the city's famous Four Seasons Biltmore is one of the loveliest properties there. It is a popular place for new car introductions, particularly among luxury brands. So why did Chevrolet choose this opulent place to launch its all-new Cobalt, the replacement for its very entry-level Cavalier? Because, in a word, it's not so entry-level anymore.

2005 Chevrolet Cobalt Exterior

Not that it's a full-boat luxury car, but it is a significant step up from its predecessor, which had long ago started to become less and less, um, cavalier in spite of regular styling and feature updates. So as the Cav's replacement was being contemplated, a decision was made to bring an even cheaper-and far better-entry-level car from Daewoo into Chevy showrooms, rebadged as the Chevrolet Aveo. This allowed Chevy to move the Cavalier replacement upmarket a bit, which warranted, among other things, a classy new name. Thus the Cobalt was born.

Sounds like a decent strategy, sure. But doing this propels Cobalt into a pretty heady competitive set that includes the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and even the slick new VW Jetta. For those who've owned, rented or evaluated Cavaliers in the past, it may seem like a stretch to see a Chevy in the mid-to-high-teens being qualified to take on such stalwarts, but after touring some of the fast, sweet roads around the Santa Barbara region in a variety of Cobalt coupe and sedan models (there are six in total)-as well as that set of competitors-the car proved itself to be nothing short of a revelation, surprising pretty much every driver with its packaging, styling and perhaps more than anything else, its quality. The Cobalt, my friends, is a truly outstanding vehicle. Read on.

I have to admit that I was one of the skeptics. We at ROAD & TRAVEL Magazine spent a year with a Cavalier Convertible some eight years ago, during which I personally put thousands of miles on it. To be fair, the car proved to be pretty good for 1997, but the art of the small car has advanced at a pace that, quite frankly, the old Cav just couldn't keep up with. The updates it got in its later years were really nothing more than putting coat after coat of lipstick on a pig, so Chevy took a genuine clean-sheet approach with Cobalt. This starts with a much, much stiffer structure, which translates into interior quietness and less road vibration that can shake things loose over time. Better aerodynamics help maximize fuel economy and reduce wind noise, while the incorporation of a gallons of insulating foam and other sound deadening materials make Cobalt one of the quietest cars-if not the quietest-cars in its segment.

2005 Chevrolet Cobalt Road Test

The tight new structure is also designed to minimize intrusion from severe impacts, whether from the front, side or rear. Dual front airbags-including a passenger-side weight-sensing air bag-are supplemented by available side-impact airbags on the front seats, which also come with curtain airbags providing head protection and management of flying glass for both rows of occupants. Also on the safety front, ABS is standard on all but the lowest trim levels of Cobalt coupes and sedans, while three-point safety belts with pretensioners are installed in all five seating positions.

But pray that you never have to find out how any of that works first hand. We'd prefer that the Cobalt's attractive sheet metal stay in tact, thank you. Truly, the Cobalt is a handsome car, no matter which of its arrays you choose. Cobalt sedans are inoffensively styled, come in base, LS and LT and SS arrays, each getting successively dressier with wheels ranging from 15 inches to big, five-spoke 17s on LT and SS models. Cobalt coupes come in base, LS, SS and SS Supercharged model. Coupe models have round, afterburner-style taillights in a blatant attempt to connect it with its big brother, the Corvette. Like the sedan, the coupes come with wheels ranging from 15 to 17 inches, while the SS Supercharged coupe is the only Cobalt model wearing big 18 inchers as standard.

2005 Chevrolet Cobalt Wheels

Of note is that, due to late engine availability, SS models are available in mid-'05 as '06 models. A new 170-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine will power them. If it is even half as good as the less powerful, but extraordinarily smooth and quick 2.2-liter Ecotec four in the base, LS and LT models, the SS should be an absolute treat. As for the 2.2, this is certainly one of the best motors available in any car in this price range…I'd even venture to say that it's one of the best motors in any GM product. The SS Supercharged engine is just 2.0 liters large, but produces a whopping 205 hp and 200 instantly available lb-ft of torque. Combined with its big wheels, lowered suspension and five-speed manual transmission (the only transmission available), the SS is a rocket, both in a straight line and in the twisties. Fuel economy ranges from 23/29 city/hwy for the SS Supercharged to an impressive 25/34 for the base 2.2-liter with a manual transmission (the auto earns 24/34).

As you might imagine, the move upmarket bestows Cobalt coupes and sedans alike with a much more spacious and better-equipped interior than what was found in the old Cavalier. Indeed, in its class, only the prissier Corolla can touch the Cobalt's interior in terms of execution and material quality. Rear seat passengers in particular will be impressed with the amount of elbow and knee room that surrounds them. Front seat passengers face a new dashboard that is specific to each model, each with soft touch materials and tight gap panel fits. The ones we like the most, naturally, were found on the top-line LT sedan-with its wood grain trim, two-tone color scheme and plenty of chrome detailing-and the SS Supercharged, which has lots of matte metal trim and sporty gauges. The SS Supercharged even has a cool boost gauge mounted on the A-pillar in a nod to the aftermarket tuner crowd, as well as a package that includes firmly bolstered leather-covered Recaro sport seats.

Like the outgoing Cavalier, the Cobalt offers a ton of standard features. Particularly noteworthy are the height-adjustable front seats, split folding rear seats with trunk access, a CD player, intermittent wipers and automatic headlights, all available on the sub-$14K base model. The LS gets you even more goodies, including power everything and cruise control. LT sedans come with leather seats, steering wheel radio controls and an automatic transmission. Options for the Cobalt include XM radio, OnStar, Pioneer speakers and a moonroof.

With such a compelling combination of features, value, performance and yes, quality, we can firmly assert that this is one of the best small cars the world has ever seen. The fact that it comes from GM sparks optimism in all of us who hope that the grand dame of automakers has still got it goin' on.

For More Information Click: Chevrolet Cobalt
For the Chevrolet 2005 Model Guide : Click Here