- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 10, 2005

Chevrolet just introduced the Cobalt, a new sport compact car that’s destined to shine — in its price class. It’s loaded with magnetic qualities to make it glitter.

I learned from Chevrolet’s PR people that Chevrolet engineers were directed to develop the best compact in its class. They came up with 150 components, systems and other items to produce performance, refinement, driving satisfaction and quality. The result: four Cobalts offered as either a sedan or coupe. There is the base model, the LS and LT models, plus the SS Supercharged model.

I drove the LT model, a sharp-looking sedan with a rear-deck spoiler to give it great eye-appeal. Immediately, I got the feeling this car would be fast on the road. I wasn’t mistaken.

But I was surprised at how much power and speed the Cobalt could produce with an engine lacking the usual credentials for high performance.

Under the hood is a 2.2-liter, four-cylinder engine that produces a modest 145 horsepower and a mere 150 foot-pounds of torque. Yet the Cobalt reacts like a powerful car. Better yet, it gets good mileage: 24 miles per gallon city and 32 mpg highway. The engine on the test car was linked to an automatic transmission. The LT test car also had traction control. That’s a good buy for $18,195.

Actually, the price starts at $14,190 for the base model. The test car, however, had a number of worthwhile options, bringing the total to $21,325.

The options included a sunroof, OnStar, XM Satellite radio, and the rear-deck spoiler.

One reason the Cobalt has such good acceleration is that it’s comparatively light in weight. Yet it doesn’t bounce all over the road, its stability a credit to the engineers who utilized a stiff body structure and didn’t compromise on the suspension.

The result is a car that holds the road in a manner similar to a much heavier vehicle. It even offers the ride comfort of a heavier vehicle.

That’s just one area that impressed me.

The exterior design also gets more that a casual glance. The door handles, wheels and roof molding have a quality, finished look and even the taillamps are attractive.

Again, a lot of engineering and design thought went into the makeup of the Cobalt.

I particularly appreciated the view from the driver’s seat. I had an excellent view of the road. Another pleasure: On cold days, both front seats could be heated and the heater worked quickly.

Best of all, the Cobalt is a small car and very easy to handle, especially when it comes to parking. One reason is that the Cobalt has Electric Power Steering, resulting in exceptionally precise steering.

This car has vented disc brakes and comes with 15-inch wheels, but 16- and 18-inch wheels are available.

Surprisingly, considering that it is a small, lightweight car, the interior is quiet. I’m told the engineers used “quiet steel,” composed of two layers of steel with a thin layer of plastic between them. This creates an ideal environment for listening to the XM Satellite radio.

Also, OnStar provides reassurance with emergency, direction and roadside assistance.

As with most cars of current vintage, safety features are found throughout. The Cobalt contains such things as dual-stage air bags, front safety belt pretensioners, impact protection in the door pillars and roof, and the rear is designed to protect the fuel tank from a 50-mph impact. It’s obvious that the engineers had a field day in designing this gem.

I’m sure everyone will soon be seeing a lot of shiny Cobalts in his or her travels.

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