Chevrolet Cobalt LT Sedan
With its all-new 2005 Cobalt LT, Chevrolet attempts to crack the import-dominated compact-sedan segment by making a car that people will want to buy, as opposed to a car they can merely afford. While it won't be mistaken for a real luxury car, it is a great improvement upon its predecessor, the Cavalier, with better build quality and a good amount of interior space for its exterior size. Both sedan and coupe body styles are offered. Although both share front sheet metal that bears an obvious family resemblance to Chevy's larger Malibu sedan, distinction between the coupes and sedans is greater than usual.
At the top of the sedan line is our test car, the 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt LT, which is oriented toward comfort and convenience, with standard leather seating and automatic transmission, as well as OnStar and XM satellite radio available. Like almost all the other Cobalt models, it uses the 2.2-liter Ecotec four-cylinder engine, which is one of the most powerful in the compact class, with 145 horsepower and 155 pound-feet of torque. At the top of the coupe line is the SS, which seriously emphasizes performance with a 200-horsepower, supercharged 2.0-liter version of the Ecotec and a sports-tuned suspension. But that's another car for another review. The base price of the Cobalt LT is $18,760 including destination charge. Our test car had $1,850 worth of options, and more are available.
In its construction, the 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt LT shows attention to detail, as well as fit and finish not heretofore seen in GM's low-priced offerings, although Chevrolet has a way to go before reaching perfection. The Cobalt is an all-new car built on GM's worldwide Delta front-wheel-drive, small-car platform and features much greater structural rigidity and tighter external and internal panel gaps. One-piece side stampings and flush-fit, exposed-edge glass for the windshield and backlight are used, construction techniques more associated with luxury cars than compacts. Also noteworthy are the soundproofing materials, including a steel-plastic-steel laminate in the instrument-panel mounting area. The result is a car that is quieter and smoother than the average for the small-car segment. Fit and finish are at a level never before seen in a small GM product, with the exception, in our test car, of unfinished trim at the rear of the headliner. All models have standard air conditioning, with power windows on all but the base level.
XM satellite radio is a $325 option with the Chevrolet Cobalt LT.
In styling and appointment, the 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt LT's interior is a cut above the compact-sedan average. Its clean, European-inspired design features a muted two-tone color scheme and plastic wood-grain trim. The seats are among the most comfortable and supportive in the compact class. Both leather-surfaced front seats are manually adjustable and have two-level heating elements. Cruise and auxiliary audio controls are found on the leather-wrapped, manually tilt-adjustable steering wheel. Chrome-bezeled instruments further the LT's upscale interior look. Two 12-volt power points, one beneath the center stack and the other on the console behind the shift lever, add convenience for cell phone and laptop users.
Where the 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt LT distinguishes itself is in its level of standard and factory-optional electronic equipment. A useful information display set into the tachometer is standard, as is a good-quality, seven-speaker Pioneer audio system. For $150, the audio system can be upgraded to one with automatic tone and volume control, RDS capability, and the ability to play MP3 CDs. An additional $325 gets XM digital satellite radio, and the OnStar system is offered. Upgraders take note: The Cobalt LT's center console is double-DIN, allowing for serious upgrades. Combined with the car's generally good construction, it would serve well as a platform for home-brewed gadgets or just a kickin' stereo.
The Ecotec engine in the 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt LT is a contemporary lightweight, compact, low-maintenance aluminum-alloy engine with twin counterrotating balance shafts for reducing vibration and electronic throttle control. Hydraulic engine and transmission mounts help reduce noise and vibration. Its design and its 2.2-liter displacement make it one of the most powerful engines in the Cobalt's class, with 145 horsepower at 5,400rpm and 155 pound-feet of torque at 4,000rpm sent to the front wheels through the Hydra-Matic 4T45E four-speed automatic transmission. The transmission is filled with Dexron III fluid and should require no scheduled maintenance during its lifetime. Open the hood, and there is a sound-absorbing plastic cover over the engine and a hydraulic strut to hold the hood open, details not normally found in low-priced compacts.
A plastic cover over the engine is designed to muffle noise in the cabin.
Power and throttle response are good, with plenty of torque to drive the automatic. But the relatively high power and displacement result in fuel economy that, while not bad, is far from class leading, and the engine is noisy under full-throttle acceleration. EPA estimates are 24mpg in the city and 32mpg on the highway; according to the car's computer, we averaged 27mpg in mixed driving.
The 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt LT's chassis specification is standard for the compact class, with independent front suspension by MacPherson struts and a semi-independent torsion-beam rear axle. The LT, like all models but the SS and befitting its comfortable nature, has a soft suspension tuning that places ride comfort above handling. Shock damping is good, with the usual highway bumps well controlled, although small, sharp bumps produce some harshness. The variable-ratio electric power steering is, as in most small front-drive cars, light, with little road feel. Overall, the Cobalt LT is slightly above average in its category for ride and average in handling.
The 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt LT is built with front and rear crumple zones and a rear structure designed to protect the fuel tank in a 50mph impact. Dual-stage front air bags may be supplemented with side head-curtain bags, a $395 option. Traction control is standard, and OnStar is a $695 option. Brakes are standard for the class, with the disc in the front and the drums at the rear. Antilock is standard in all models except the base. There is a three-year/36,000-mile general warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile power train warranty.