Unless you opt for the sporty SS, all of the models in the 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt lineup are quite forgettable with regard to the driving experience.
A total of four trim levels are offered on the 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt: Base, LS, LT, and SS. The first three feature a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 155 horsepower. Don’t expect the base versions of the 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt to be sporty, but they do make for a good daily commuter. The naturally aspirated 2.2-liter engine is a little short on power, but the handling isn’t too bad until you need to corner in a hurry.
The 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt range features two different engines, both four-cylinder and fuel efficient. Cars.com points out that the base "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 horsepower.
With only 155 horsepower on tap, the LS and LT are understandably on the dull side in terms of performance. Motor Trend describes the driving experience in these low-powered Chevrolet Cobalts as "rental-car boredom at its best," although Kelley Blue Book finds that the Cobalt offers "reasonably spirited performance." Another problem area is refinement. According to Kelley Blue Book, "the exhaust note" gets loud under acceleration and sounds unrefined when compared with rivals.
The 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt SS, on the other hand, feels like a completely different car compared to the rest of the range. Its 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, similar to the one in the now defunct Pontiac Solstice GXP, churns out a healthy 260 horsepower and offers plenty of real-world performance. The SS takes only 5.7 seconds to get to 60 mph from rest and comes standard with Brembo front brakes, stability control, side airbags, and a sports body kit. A limited-slip front differential and sport pedals are optional for the SS—a rarity for this segment.
Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt SS will put a smile on almost anyone’s dial, however, 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."
Customers can pick from two different transmissions for the standard LT and LS models, while the SS gets only a manual option. ConsumerGuide notes 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 Chevrolet Cobalt offers "reasonably spirited performance, even with the automatic transmission." ConsumerGuide says that, "turbo or not, the manual transmission has positive shift and clutch action." MyRide.com is also a fan of the manual, explaining that the "five speed manual [that] offers a no-lift feature and short throws."
Fuel economy is a bright spot, as the 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt gets 25 mpg city, 37 highway. Fuel economy doesn’t suffer much for the turbocharged SS, registering 22 mpg city, 30 highway.
There are few comments when it comes to the 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt’s handling. Car and Driver describes it as "competent" and explains that "the Cobalt doesn't exactly encourage the driver to flog it." 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."