- The Washington Times - Friday, September 5, 2008

Chevrolet has the answer to those concerned about fuel economy. Its 2009 Cobalt LS sedan delivers some of the best fuel economy ratings on the market.

Chevrolet says its rivals are the Volkswagen Jetta, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Ford Focus. I consider those cars as top-notch competition but one reason that Chevrolet is able to make this boastful claim is the official EPA fuel rating of 24 miles per gallon city and 33 mpg highway. These figures are based on the model with a four-speed automatic transmission.

Usually my test-drive cars have an automatic transmission, but this week the tester had a manual transmission that shifted through the gears with precise ease. However, the EPA fuel economy ratings are slightly less than that of the automatic. The five-speed manual is rated at 22/30 mpg. GM says there will be no scheduled maintenance for it 2009 manual transmission under normal operating conditions.

This compact car has a sporty look with its low-slung roofline, curvaceous body and 15-inch wheels wrapped with all-season tires. The Cobalt has a strong foundation plus a rigid body structure. Engineers used Quiet Steel laminated sheet metal, a premium material not normally used on compacts. This accounts for why I noticed that the interior noise level was very low. Cobalt has a MacPherson strut front suspension and a semi-independent, torsion beam rear suspension. Front and rear stabilizer bars are standard. Suspension tuning gives the Cobalt distinctive driving and handling characteristics.

Although I drove the LS model with a base price of $15,010, the Cobalt also is available in an LT and SS coupe or sedan. There is also Cobalt with a 260-horsepower turbo- charged engine in the lineup designed for producing dynamite performance. But back to the LS model.

A 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine with 155 horsepower and 150 lb.-ft of torque powers the 2009 Cobalt. This compact vehicle has an attractive interior. The test car did not have power seats and windows, but it did have many features to provide comfort, such as air conditioning. It also had a pleasant AM/FM stereo radio and CD player with MP3 playback and auxiliary input jack. But the best sound came from the XM Satellite radio, which is standard on all models.

There are a few features that made this five-passenger sedan inviting, such as a height-adjustable three-spoke steering wheel and adjustable front head restraints. There is adequate seating for five occupants and reasonable storage space as the 60/40-split rear seat enabled me to slide longer objects through the trunk.

Finally, there is one area that gives the Cobalt a leg-up over its competition: OnStar. This system is available only on General Motors products, which other automakers don’t have. If you have a question about anything, just press a button and a person will respond to answer. Should you be in an accident and don’t respond to OnStar’s inquiry, emergency assistance will be dispatched on your behalf.

The Cobalt comes with a 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety “Best Pick” for safety.

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