2009 Chevrolet Cobalt SS Turbo SedanPosted on January 12th, 2009
New sedan adds versatility to Chevrolet’s high-performance subcompact.
By Nina Russin
The Cobalt is Chevrolet’s subcompact offering, competing against the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Jetta, Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. This year,
product planners expanded the high-performance SS grade by adding a four-door sedan.
Though it lacks the coupe’s sporty profile, the sedan is a more practical package for buyers with families. Adults will be quite comfortable in the second-row seats. A pass-through extends the cargo floor, so the Cobalt can carry skis, snowboards, and other large items.
Turbocharging doubles engine power and reduces emissions
While the LS and LT grades are average performers, the Cobalt SS has a surprising amount of power, thanks to its turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Exhaust-driven turbines give the SS 260-horsepower versus 155 for the base model. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is under six seconds.
Since turbos make the engine work more efficiently, the SS maintains pretty good gas mileage: about thirty miles per gallon on the highway. A standard five-speed manual transmission allows the driver to use a large overdrive gear to maximize highway fuel economy.
The four-cylinder block uses direct injection as compared to port injection on the base model. In other words, gasoline goes directly into the engine cylinders rather than passing through intake valves.
Not only does direct injection improve throttle response, it also reduces the amount of unspent fuel that comes out the exhaust. The Cobalt SS meets federal super-low emissions vehicle standards.
The SS grade adds some important safety features to the standard package as well. Four-wheel vented disc brakes replace rear drums on the base model, with four channel antilock braking. Brembo calipers give the front-wheel drive chassis better stopping power on the forward axle.
Electronic stability control prevents excessive yaw, which could cause the driver to lose directional control. Larger stabilizer bars and a sport-tuned suspension minimize torque steer when the driver drops the hammer.
Eighteen-inch wheels are standard on the SS, compared to sixteen-inch rims on the base grade. The car comes with summer performance tires, so buyers in four-season climates will need to invest in all-season radials or winter tires.
While I’m not a big fan of the Cobalt’s exterior styling, the interior is surprisingly nice for a car in this price range. Alcantara seat inserts on the standard cloth upholstery hold passengers in place and give the interior an upscale look.
Product planners added some important standard content to the 2009 models: Bluetooth compatibility, standard OnStar emergency alert system, and a USB port, so drivers can interface their iPods with the audio system.
A leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel has redundant audio controls to minimize driver distraction. The analogue gauges are attractive and easy to read. Performance buffs will appreciate the turbo boost gauge located in the driver’s side A pillar.
There are four cupholders to service first and second-row passengers. A twelve-volt powerpoint at the base of the center stack allows passengers to recharge portable electronic devices.
A large center console bin and glovebox provide ample storage outside of the trunk. Doors have map pockets but not bottle holders.
Viable daily commuter
Having the chance to live in the Cobalt SS for a week, I was able to see how well the manual transmission functioned in stop-and-go traffic. Engineers kept the clutch pedal reasonably light, to prevent the driver’s legs from getting tired.
The gears have enough range for maneuvering through slow traffic without constant shifting. Steering has a precise feel with excellent on-center response at speed. Yet there’s plenty of assist at low speeds, for pulling in and out of tight parking spots.
Since Phoenix roads are essentially devoid of potholes, it’s hard to assess how the suspension would work on the rough city streets of Chicago and Detroit. Stabilizer bars keep the chassis flat in the corners and on cloverleaf ramps.
Four-wheel disc brakes add significant value to the SS as compared to other Cobalt models. They stop the car faster and straighter, especially on wet or snow-covered roads, and brake pads are much easier to replace than shoes.
The SS grade comes with performance tires, so buyers in four-season climates should plan on buying snow tires for winter. Standard aluminum wheels are a nice upgrade from hubcaps on the base grade that can pop off on a bumpy road.
Despite its low-profile tires, the SS doesn’t suffer from excessive road noise. The exhaust emits a pleasant rumble, without being overwhelming.
Visibility around the sides and back is good, with no obvious blind spots on the driver’s side.
Although it’s too shallow to hold a bicycle, the trunk is quite deep, with plenty of room for a week’s worth of groceries or the family’s luggage. The standard pass-through gives the Cobalt enough versatility for some types of active lifestyles.
Standard safety features on the Cobalt SS include front and side curtain airbags, four-channel antilock brakes, traction and stability control, daytime running lamps, and a one-year subcription to Onstar.
Pricing starts at $22,775, not including a $660 destination charge. Chevrolet builds the Cobalt at its assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio.
Likes: A fuel-efficient, subcompact sedan with excellent power and a well-equipped interior.
Dislikes: Bland exterior styling. The Cobalt comes with a tire inflator kit: a spare tire and wheel is a $75 option.
Model: Cobalt SS
Base price: $22,775
As tested: $24,400
Horsepower: 260 Hp @ 5300 rpm
Torque: 260 lbs.-ft. @ 2000 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 5.7 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 22/30 mpg city/highway
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