2010 Chevrolet Cobalt Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
January 6, 2010

There's not much to recommend on the 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt, though it does have good fuel economy and a reasonably comfortable interior.

TheCarConnection.com has combed through a range of reputable reviews relevant to the 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt to bring you the most useful information. Then, here in this Bottom Line, the editors of TheCarConnection.com have included their driving impressions and advice in considering the Cobalt versus other compact cars.

Chevrolet's line of compact cars includes a range of sedans and coupe, with offerings ranging from economical base models to sporty SS variants. The SS is the highlight of the lineup, but it's offered only as a coupe. All models now inherit the improvements of the fuel-efficient XFE model that was introduced last year, but their rather conservative styling and drab, basic interior continues unchanged.

Unless opting 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. Once you do, the Cobalt’s electric power steering provides you with muted feedback that makes for a rather detached driving experience, although the ride quality is good with the softer suspension calibration. Fuel economy is a bright spot, as the 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt gets 25 mpg city, 37 highway.

The 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt SS, on the other hand, feels like a completely different car 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.

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Especially when compared to the alternatives, the interior of the 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt looks and feels rather dated. You'll assume a strangely reclined driving position is assumed due to the oddly proportioned seats. The backseat also sports unusual dimensions, but space for backseat passengers is good and the seatbacks can be folded down, increasing trunk space significantly.

The 2010 Cobalt is just adequate with respect to safety, and it lacks some vital features. All Cobalts come with full-length side-curtain airbags as standard, but ABS brakes are optional on all models below the SS and 2LT, and electronic stability control isn't offered, except on the SS. Crash tests by the IIHS and NHTSA yield barely acceptable results for frontal crashes and acceptable for side collisions.

Base models of the 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt don't come with much. Air conditioning is optional, as are cruise control and most power accessories. LT models add much more, including keyless entry, upgraded audio, alloy wheels, and upgraded front seats. For 2010, the Sports Appearance Package, previously known as the Performance Appearance Package, is also available on the LT coupe. The package includes a rear spoiler, 17-inch aluminum wheels, a stainless-steel exhaust with chrome tips, fog lamps, white-face gauges, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob, plus steering wheel controls and Bluetooth connectivity.

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2010 Chevrolet Cobalt

Styling

The 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt looks very dated against the competition, both inside and out.

The 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt remains unchanged from last year, except for a few swaps of standard and optional feature content, which sadly means there are no changes to the car’s styling. Last year an optional Sport Appearance Package was added; however, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that Chevrolet needs to make the base models look more attractive.

ConsumerGuide notes that the 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt "comes as a 2-door coupe or a 4-door sedan in LS, LT, and high-performance SS trims," and the latter is only offered as a coupe for the latest model year.

The Chevrolet Cobalt SS is definitely the most stylish of the bunch, and The Auto Channel says it is "dressed up with unique front and rear fascias, slightly lowered ride height and increased track, special rocker molding, standard rear wing...and some great, vivid colors." The same can’t be said for the LS and LT trims, though, which Car and Driver describes as featuring "generic, character-free...exterior design" that was "already a step behind the competition when the car launched in 2005." Thankfully, buyers can get the better looks of the Chevrolet Cobalt SS on the more mundane models thanks to a Sport Appearance Package added last year. It includes the "fog lights, body cladding, rear spoiler, chrome exhaust tip...[and] polished alloy wheels" from the SS for just $795, according to ConsumerGuide.

For the interior of the 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt, GM’s designers go for a one-size-fits-all look. Once you are behind the steering wheel, the styling story is the same for all Chevrolet Cobalts—and it’s not good. While functional, the interior’s design is certainly not cutting edge. ConsumerGuide reviewers appreciate the "neat, logical dashboard," although some of "the gauges [are] a tad small and recessed too far into the cluster for easy reading." Kelley Blue Book finds that "the interiors, crafted to offer five-passenger seating, are attractive, if rather basic." Car and Driver, on the other hand, deems it "cheap-looking.” Edmunds is a bit more borderline, asserting that the 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt has "a modern feel," but when "compared to the interiors of the Honda Civic or Saturn Astra the Cobalt's design seems rather bland."

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2010 Chevrolet Cobalt

Performance

Standard versions of the 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt are hardly exciting, but the SS model gives a lot of bang for your buck—if you can live with the styling.

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."

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2010 Chevrolet Cobalt

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt has a comfortable ride, but most other aspects about the interior will leave you uninspired.

Especially when compared to the alternatives, the interior of the 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt looks and feels rather dated. You'll assume a strangely reclined driving position due to the oddly proportioned seats. The backseat also bears unusual dimensions, but space for backseat passengers is good and the seatbacks can be folded down, increasing trunk space significantly.

Cars.com notes that "with front bucket seats and a 60/40-split folding rear seat, all Cobalts seat five occupants," and other reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that occupants should have ample room. Kelley Blue Book reviewers claim that "front passengers enjoy good head, leg and elbow room." ConsumerGuide agrees, but notes that not everyone will be comfortable, as "the seat cushions are a bit short for best thigh support," and the "generous rearward travel gives good legroom for tall occupants." MyRide.com also points out that the Chevrolet Cobalt SS features "deeply bolstered sport seats," though some reviewers find them a bit confining.

Edmunds considers the interior to be the worst aspect of the 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt, explaining that “from the cramped rear seats to the liberal use of cheap and ill-fitting plastics, the look and feel of the Cobalt's cabin pales in comparison to the many choices in this segment. In general, you'll never escape the feeling that you're driving a cheap car.”

At least there’s plenty of space in the trunk, as most reviews read by TheCarConnection.com point out. ConsumerGuide states that "the trunk has good room that's expandable via folding rear seatbacks." Cars.com adds that "the trunk can be accessed from inside the car." Interior storage is nothing to sneeze at either, according to Kelley Blue Book, which finds that "in many recent vehicles, a large glovebox door opens onto a constricted storage space, but the Cobalt's glovebox is ample in size."

In terms of ride quality, the 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt, especially in its base trims, does well. Cars.com says that "the ride is surprisingly good, with only larger bumps and holes causing trouble," and Kelley Blue Book declares it "a surprisingly good ride." ConsumerGuide agrees, reporting that the "Cobalt's stout body structure allows even base models to have a comfortably controlled ride, even on patchy pavement," and they claim that "the SS is fairly stiff, yet it's not bone-jarring as might be expected from a factory-tuned performance car."

Ambient noise isn't a major problem in most driving situations for the 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt. ConsumerGuide reports that "wind rush and most road noise is relatively low for the class," but many reviewers point out that under hard acceleration, the harsh engine noise intrudes into the cabin, especially with the 2.2-liter powerplants.

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2010 Chevrolet Cobalt

Safety

The 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt is unremarkable for safety—and perhaps a model to be avoided by those who want all the protection they can afford.

The 2010 Cobalt is just adequate with respect to safety, and it lacks some vital features. All Cobalts come with full-length side-curtain airbags as standard, but ABS brakes are optional on all the models below the SS and 2LT, and electronic stability control isn't offered, except on the SS. Crash tests by the IIHS and NHTSA yield barely acceptable results for frontal crashes and acceptable for side collisions.

Both the Chevrolet Cobalt coupe and sedan earn four stars for front impact driver protection and five for front impact passenger protection, but when it comes to front side impacts, the coupe earns four stars, while the sedan gets only three. However, in the rear side impact test, the 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt sedan outscores the coupe five stars to four. In IIHS testing, both body styles earn the highest possible rating, "good," for frontal offset impacts and "acceptable" for side impact protection.

With the relative lack of features in this area, at least the 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt gathers some compliments for outward visibility. Kelley Blue Book says that the Cobalt features a "high seating position for a more commanding view of the road, and all-around visibility is impressive." However, the view from the Chevrolet Cobalt SS models isn't as impressive, and ConsumerGuide claims that "the tall spoiler on the SS coupe really restricts the view out back."

Edmunds points out that base models, while fuel-efficient, “suffer in terms of braking.” It reports from its own tests that “stopping from 60 mph required a very long 146 feet." Edmunds finds much better results in the Cobalt SS, with stickier tires and ABS producing exceptional braking figures, needing just 115 feet to stop.

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2010 Chevrolet Cobalt

Features

The 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt isn't particularly well-equipped, though LT and SS models get most popular features.  

The 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt remains unchanged from last year, except for a few swaps of standard and optional feature content.

Base models of the 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt don't come with much. Air conditioning is optional, as are cruise control and most power accessories. LT models add much more, including keyless entry, upgraded audio, alloy wheels, and upgraded front seats.

Standard features on the 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt can vary significantly across the trim levels, but ConsumerGuide says that buyers can expect to find one year of OnStar service, "air conditioning...AM/FM/CD/MP3 player, digital-media player connection, [and] satellite radio" on every Cobalt. A new USB port for iPod connectivity added last year is a welcome feature for music lovers. According to Edmunds, the base XFE (extra fuel economy) model includes 15-inch steel wheels, OnStar, a tilt steering wheel, a 60/40-split rear seat with a trunk pass-through, a trip computer, a four-speaker stereo with CD/MP3 player, satellite radio, and an auxiliary audio jack. Edmunds also points out that the XFE trim is available on most LS and LT models, but these need to be specified with the 15-inch wheels and manual transmission.

Upgrade to the LT trim level and you get a "keyless entry system, cruise control and power windows and mirrors," reports Kelley Blue Book. ConsumerGuide, meanwhile, reports that the top-of-the-line Chevrolet Cobalt SS gets a "leather-wrapped steering wheel w/radio controls, cruise control, Pioneer sound system, [and] wireless cell phone link."

Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show there isn't much to report about stand-alone features for the Chevrolet Cobalt. But for 2010, the Sports Appearance Package, previously known as the Performance Appearance Package, is also available on the LT coupe. The package includes a rear spoiler, 17-inch aluminum wheels, steering wheel controls, Bluetooth connectivity, and a stainless-steel exhaust with chrome tips, fog lamps, white-face gauges, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob.

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Styling 6
Performance 7
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