- Nice, absorbent ride
- Impressive fuel economy on base models
- Spacious trunk for a small car
- Vague, overboosted steering
- Engine noise
- Drab interior
- Uncomfortable, oddly proportioned seats
- Thorax-protecting side airbags aren't even offered
The Cobalt is cheap and comfortable, and it performs reasonably well, but it's past its prime.
A new high-performance 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt SS model is the big news for the Cobalt, Chevrolet's family of front-wheel-drive compact sedans and coupes. Other Cobalt models return for 2008 with only minimal changes. Three trim levels are offered on the 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt: LS, LT, and Sport. The first two feature a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine, which produces 148 horsepower. A 171-horsepower, 2.4-liter four is offered on Cobalt Sport models.
The standard Cobalt coupe and sedan have unimpressive fuel economy, but late in the model year, GM is introducing eco-minded changes to the basic 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt LS and 1LT models--bringing fuel economy up to 25 mpg city, 36 mpg highway.
The 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt SS Coupe has abundant power on tap from a 260-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that shares much of its fundamentals with the engine in the Pontiac Solstice GXP. With a new five-speed manual transmission, it can scoot to 60 mph in about 5.7 seconds. Brembo front brakes, stability control, and side airbags, along with a new body kit, are standard on the SS.
With either engine or transmission, the 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt delivers perky performance, although the engine is neither as smooth nor as quiet as most other cars in its class. The Cobalt has a comfortable ride, but its vague handling--possibly due to the electric power-steering system--doesn't make it especially fun to drive. The driving position is low, and the front seats are oddly proportioned, while the backseat is also low and cramped; it's split and folds forward to expand the already generous trunk space. The interior is quite drab and plasticky, but the instrument panel area itself is very clean and well designed.
Last year's Sport package becomes the Performance Appearance Package and is available on 2LT models; it includes a rear spoiler, 16-inch aluminum wheels, stainless-steel exhaust with chrome tips, fog lamps, white-face gauges, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob. XM is installed free of charge across the 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt line.
Electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes are standard on the 2LT, Sport, and SS, but ABS is optional on the rest of the line, and stability control isn't otherwise available. The 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt has unimpressive crash-test results, though. Even with standard side-curtain airbags for 2008 (side-thorax bags aren't available), the Cobalt got only three stars out of five--the lowest score typically awarded--from the federal government in side-impact protection for front occupants. The Cobalt got four and five stars in the other categories. In insurance-industry tests, the Cobalt scored "acceptable" in side impact and "good" in the other categories.
The Cobalt's five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty is attractive, but the Cobalt has one of the lowest rates of satisfaction of any small car, according to Consumer Reports, which is another reason to be wary.