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2005 Chevrolet Cobalt LT Sedan Review

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SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Chevrolet

MODEL: Chevrolet Cobalt LT Sedan ENGINE: 2.2-liter DOHC L4 HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 140 hp @ 5,600 rpm/150 lb.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm TRANSMISSION: 4-speed automatic WHEELBASE: 103.3 in. LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 180.5 x 67.9 x 5701 in. TIRES P205/55R16 CARGO: 13.9 cu. ft. ECONOMY: 24 mpg city/32 mpg highway/24.8 mpg test PRICE: $21,325 (includes $565 destination charge)
Designed to replace the Cavalier in Chevrolet's vast lineup, Cobalt is slightly smaller (you won't notice it without comparing specs), and shares the same engines. Cobalt is built on the Saturn Ion platform, so there's more relationship there than with the Cavalier. The 2.2-liter engine is also shared with the Ion.

Speaking of that engine, it's rated at 140 horsepower and drives the front wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission. The engine is somewhat buzzy, as are most four-bangers, but it has plenty of pep. I thought our test economy of 24.8 mpg with the automatic transmission was excellent. We used the Cobalt in a combination of highway and suburban driving. The automatic transmission was standard, with no manual mode. Frankly, I'd like to see manual modes used more in lower-powered cars where you can extract a bit more performance out of the less powerful engines.

Handling is good for a small car. This means it isn't great, but the Cobalt handles corners with ease and zips along Interstates as if it was made for them. Under the hood, the dipsticks and fillers are clearly labeled and easy to find, as re the battery leads. Everything else is hidden. A pleasant surprise was the use of a gas strut to hold the hood in place. Normally, there's a bar that you have to unhook and find the little hole to insert it to hold the hood.

The LT we tested offers a bit more luxury than the standard LS. You can also get a supercharged SS coupe. The automatic is standard with the LT. Inside, the seats offer good side support. Leg and foot room in the rear is tight with the front seats pushed back on the stops. The backs of the rear seats fold 60/40 to improve trunk space from the standard 13.9 cubic feet. For a compact car, 13.9 is a good number. One nice touch was that the rear headrests were attached to the parcel shelf. This eliminates the problem if either removing them or not having the rear seat fold flat with them attached. Also, the releases for the rear seats are located in the trunk, where they'd be needed if you want to improve trunk space. I liked the simple instrument panel. There are a tachometer and speedometer, with a fuel information center placed at the bottom of the tach.

Interior storage included a small cubby by the driver's left knee that is ideal for a cell phone. There's also a pair of cupholders for the front passengers and two more for the rears. The glove box is large. Between the front seats is a fold-down arm rest with additional storage. There are 12-volt power outlets in the center and at the bottom of the center stack.

Our tester was equipped with a sunroof that had simple operation. Many manufacturers think it's cute to make sunroof operation complicated, when all you need is a switch to either open it or close it.

We tested the Cobalt in the spring, so we didn't have to give the HVAC system a tough test. However, it worked well and offered heat when we needed it and cool air when we needed THAT. For entertainment, there's a CD/AM/FM stereo with XM Satellite radio. I'm a fan of satellite radio, so that was basically all we listened to while we were driving. Auxiliary audio controls were located on the steering wheel, as were the cruise control switches.

Cobalt is a bit larger than the Korean-built Chevy Aveo. Still, it's a compact car. It's not made for people who carry more than two passengers frequently, unless those rear seat passengers are children. But it offers more luggage space than many compacts, as well as many features that make it an attractive choice.

Our tester had a bottom line of $21,325, which I felt was high for a compact car. Among the options were a sunroof with map lights ($725), OnStar ($695), side head curtain air bags ($395), XM radio ($325), rear deck-lid spoiler ($275), and the radio itself ($150). Some of these can easily be eliminated, dropping the final price a bit.

2005 The Auto Page Syndicate