The pedestrian versions of the 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt offer exactly that: pedestrian performance. The SS model, though, has scorching straight-line acceleration and much-improved handling.
All 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt models are powered by four-cylinder engines, observes ConsumerGuide. Of those, Car and Driver reports base models "are powered by a 2.2-liter four-cylinder with 148 horsepower. Moving upward yields a 2.4-liter version of the same engine with 171 horsepower." Car and Driver adds that the 2.0-liter Chevy Cobalt base engine is "responsive and predictable, but lack[ing] pizzazz." Kelley Blue Book agrees with other assessments of the Chevrolet 2008 Cobalt handling, calling it "well-assisted" and "confident." Though they also feel the Chevrolet Cobalt "engines lack refinement and quiet operation" as commonly available from the competition, the 2008 Chevy does at least offer "good acceleration and passing power." ConsumerGuide chides Chevrolet for an engine that can "moan unpleasantly when accelerating," though they note it can "cruise calmly enough."
At Chevrolet, 2008 sees the introduction of the most powerful Cobalt ever, the new SS. Edmunds reports that the mini hot rod Chevrolet, 2008 version, with its 260-hp turbocharged engine, "boasts some of the best performance available in this segment." Edmunds reviewers were impressed with the power in the SS 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt trim, describing it as providing "respectable acceleration, smooth ride [and] excellent performance." With a five-speed manual transmission, it can scoot to 60 mph in about 5.7 seconds. ConsumerGuide reports that it makes the SS "much easier to drive than the old SS Supercharged.”
ConsumerGuide reports that a five-speed manual transmission is standard on all 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt models, and a four-speed automatic is optional on all but the SS. They also comment, "With the automatic transmission, acceleration is adequate but not as lively as 171 hp might suggest." Car and Driver calls the five-speed manual "easy to shift." When test driven by reviewers for Cars.com, the 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt proved itself with a "reasonably spirited performance, even with an automatic transmission."
Edmunds states that the "2.2-liter and 2.4-liter engines get virtually the same fuel economy, with 2008 EPA estimates of 22-24 mpg city and 31-33 mpg highway," and adds that manual-transmission models yield higher numbers; a new version offers as much as 25/36 mpg.
As for ride and handling, "the ride is surprisingly good, with only larger bumps and holes causing trouble," writes Cars.com, a sentiment found to be unanimous by TheCarConnection.com. ConsumerGuide reports, "Cobalts absorb most bumps quite well and feel stable over swells and dips." However, Edmunds describes the handling as "dull." Motor Trend criticizes the 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt’s "electric power steering" as being "linear but lack[ing] tactility," but The Detroit News compliments its "comfortable, compliant ride" and "excellent chassis dynamics.”
ConsumerGuide states, "Stopping control is good, but models equipped with rear drum brakes have spongy brake-pedal feel."
The handling of the SS is widely praised, with ConsumerGuide describing it as "nimble, with little [body] lean and firm steering."