- Smooth ride
- Road noise is quite absent
- Impressive fuel economy
- Engine noise
- Steering feels vague
- Drab interior
The price is right for the 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt, yet most of its competitors offer a better overall value.
The Cobalt is Chevrolet’s family of compact coupes and sedans, and it returns for 2009 with only minimal changes. Last year, the big news was the expansion of the high-performance SS to the sedan body style, rather than just the coupe, and mid-year, new more fuel-efficient XFE models joined the lineup.
Three trim levels are offered on the 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt: LS, LT, and SS. The first two feature a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 155 horsepower, which is up by 7 horsepower compared to 2008. Chevrolet Cobalt SS models are powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine.
Chevrolet has applied the efficiency gains of the XFE model to the entire non-SS Cobalt lineup, which means that all models will get a significant fuel economy boost compared to last year's model. Thanks to a taller drive ratio and variable valve timing, the EPA estimates that the 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt will get 37 mpg on the highway and a respectable 25 mpg in the city.
The 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt SS has a different personality altogether, with 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. Brembo front brakes, stability control, and side airbags, along with a new body kit, are standard on the SS. With a new five-speed manual transmission, it can scoot to 60 mph in about 5.7 seconds.
Performance from the base versions of the 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt is quite perky—provided you’re traveling on a relatively straight road. But the Cobalt’s normally aspirated four-cylinder engines are neither as smooth nor as quiet as most other engines in its class. Get to curves and the Cobalt’s electric power steering maintains a light, detached feeling that’s not at all confidence-inspiring. A soft suspension calibration for the base models doesn’t help either, though ride quality is good.
The interior packaging of the Cobalt is a bit odd compared to rivals and, dare we say, a bit retro. The seats are mounted low and oddly proportioned in front, inviting a driving position that’s more reclined than most drivers want, while the backseat is also low and cramped; it's split, and it folds forward to expand the already generous trunk space. The interior overall is quite drab and plasticky, but the instrument panel area itself is very clean, straightforward, 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 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt line.
Electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes are standard on the 2LT and SS, but ABS is optional on the rest of the line, and stability control isn't otherwise available. Safety ratings for the 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt aren’t stellar either. In NHTSA tests the sedan scores just three stars in the side driver category; in other categories the Cobalt gets four and five stars. The IIHS awards the highest rating of "good" for frontal offset impacts and "acceptable" in side impact tests.
The Cobalt has unimpressive resale value and, according to Consumer Reports, one of the lowest rates of satisfaction of any small car, which is another reason to be wary, but the Cobalt's five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty—backed by Chevrolet dealerships everywhere—is enviable.