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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
SS versions are nimble, with little cornering lean
The driving experience? Rental-car boredom at its best
the engine is a bit coarse, and its exhaust note is even louder
Kelley Blue Book
Both the LS and LT trims of the 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt are your typical, forgettable compact coupe or sedan, with what reviewers generally agree is lackluster performance. The Chevrolet Cobalt SS is a completely different animal, offering blistering acceleration and much-improved handling.
The 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt family offers a pair of fuel-efficient four-cylinder engines. Cars.com says that the "LS and LT models use a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine with new variable valve timing" that puts out 155 horsepower, while the Chevrolet Cobalt SS "uses a turbocharged and intercooled 2.0-liter four-cylinder" making 260 hp.
When it comes to driving excitement, the LS and LT are thrilling in the sense that they'll get you to your destination quicker than if you walked or ran, but that's about it. Motor Trend describes the driving experience in these low-powered Chevrolet Cobalts as "rental-car boredom at its best," although Kelley Blue Book characterizes the Cobalt as offering "reasonably spirited performance." Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com unanimously approve of the 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt SS, though, and MyRide.com points out that the Cobalt is "capable of hitting 60 mph in 5.7 seconds and using up every bit of its 160-mph speedometer." One noticeable difference between the engine on the Chevrolet Cobalt and that of its competitors is, according to Kelley Blue Book, "the exhaust note," which gets loud under acceleration and sounds unrefined.
The 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt offers two transmissions for the LT and LS and just one for the Chevrolet Cobalt SS. ConsumerGuide reports that "all Cobalts have a standard five-speed manual transmission," while "a four-speed automatic is available on the LS and LT." Reviews of both transmissions tend toward the positive, with Cars.com commenting that the 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt offers "reasonably spirited performance, even with the automatic transmission." Consumer Guide says that, "turbo or not, the manual transmission has positive shift and clutch action." MyRide.com also praises the "five speed manual [that] offers a no-lift feature and short throws."
Fuel economy is a sore point for previous model years of the Chevrolet Cobalt, and many consumers can't understand why a small, light car gets such low mileage ratings from the EPA. For 2009 Chevrolet has addressed the problem by introducing variable valve timing to its 2.2-liter engine, and the results are impressive. The EPA estimates that base Chevrolet Cobalts with the automatic transmission will get 24 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway, while manual transmission versions can expect 25 mpg city, 35 mpg on the highway. Even the high-performance Chevrolet Cobalt SS is no slouch in the fuel economy department, returning 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.
Reviewers have little to say about the Cobalt’s handling. Car and Driver describes it as "competent," because while "the Cobalt doesn't exactly encourage the driver to flog it," at the same time it "has no glaring dynamic flaws." The lack of feedback through the electric power steering system continues to be an issue. The SS is much more capable, and ConsumerGuide calls it "nimble, with little cornering lean and firm steering." ConsumerGuide also reports that braking isn't a concern since the "standard four-wheel disc brakes provide good stopping control."
Base versions of the Cobalt aren’t at all pulse-raising, but the Cobalt SS brings a lot of performance for a low price.