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For those of you who have been waiting for the new Chevrolet small car after a decade of the less-than-wonderful Cavalier, meet the Cobalt, a small car better in every way than its predecessor. This is Chevrolet’s attempt to offer the kind of equipment, power, value and price that competes directly against the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Ford Focus.
Chevrolet says the Cobalt is the quietest, stiffest, strongest, most refined small car it has ever built, and after a test drive, we give them high marks on almost all counts. If you’re looking for inexpensive, high-value transportation with a new-car warranty, Cobalt is worth a long look.
The all-new 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt is designed to be a premium compact car, complementing the entry-level Chevrolet Aveo, which was introduced as an all-new model for 2005. Cobalt features an expressive design and a dynamic driving experience. Premium features are available like heated leather seats, XM Satellite Radio, MP3, and OnStar.
Base models come with small but smooth- and quiet-riding 15-inch wheels and Continental tires. The base car comes with disc/drum brakes.
Safety features include dual-stage front air bags, front seatbelt pre-tensioners, rear center shoulder belts, and the LATCH child seat retention system. All but base models come with ABS.
Cobalt is built on the GM Delta platform that it shares with the Saturn Ion and the upcoming Chevrolet HHR retro truck in the U.S. and the Opel Astra in Europe. But with its single-bar grille and bowtie emblem, it looks like a proper Chevrolet small car right down to its shoes and socks.
There are huge plastic bumper fascias on both ends of the car and the body panel fits are extremely tight. So tight, in fact, that there are no rubber trim gaskets around the compound complex headlamps.
The coupe bears a stronger resemblance in its shape to the Cavalier than the sedan, which has a new and more modern roofline sweep.
Cobalt is heavier, longer, wider and lower than most of its direct competitors, its engine is the most powerful base engine in the class, and its interior dimensions and trunk capacity are close to the competition in every respect. After 10 years and 6 million Cavaliers, Chevrolet has learned a few lessons, and that’s apparent in the size, shape and equipment of the Cobalt.
Inside the Cobalt, the design theme is simple and straightforward, but far from the el cheapo appointments of the old Cavalier. Materials are better, there are far fewer individual pieces, and the fit and finish on our very early production LT sedan were very, very good, but not perfect, like a typical Honda or Toyota. There’s just enough chrome trim here and there on knobs and instruments to brighten things up without a lot of glare from the shiny parts. Instruments are large, well placed, and easy to read, with nice graphic treatment throughout.
Cobalt is unique in the subcompact class in that three completely different seats are offered in base, LS and LT, and SS versions, each with detail changes in foam, padding and trim. There was plenty of fore/aft and rake adjustment for a 6-foot, 4-inch driver, plus seat height adjustment with a ratcheting handle. The LT seats were very comfortable and grabbed us in the fast corners exactly where we needed to be grabbed and held.
Unlike the Saturn Ion, the Cobalt does not use space-eating gooseneck hinges on its decklid, opting instead for simple outside corner hinges and not one, but two hydraulic assist struts. (The hood also has a large single strut, so you don’t have to hold up the hood while you find and engage the prop rod. It raises and stays in position by itself.) The trunk is wide and deep with a low liftover height, and almost 14 cubic feet of capacity, more than competitive in the class. In addition, there’s a 60/40-split, fold-down rear seat with a trunk pass-through feature.