Yesterday, I had yet another opportunity to spend quality time in the bustling metropolis that is Houston, Texas. Since I was supposed to be there ALL day from 9:00 in the morning until an undetermined time in the afternoon/evening, I decided to rent a car and drive down on Monday night allowing me a chance to spend the night with some very special friends.
Some of you may remember the last opportunity I had to rent a vehicle for business. According to Blogger’s nifty neato new stats option, that post is the most popular post I’ve ever written if you consider page views to be the benchmark for popularity.
By a wide margin.
The Zombie Gun post, which has generated the most comments so far (if that’s your benchmark for popularity), is the next most popular post.
So, in light of the fact that there is clearly demand for more quality car reviews out there in the ether, who am I to ignore the will of the people? Without further adieu, I offer my humble impressions of the 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt.
As with my previous car review, here are the official disclaimers and disclosures.
1) Neither General Motors nor its current owners, The United States Federal Government and the huddled masses yearning to be free from the excesses of exploding government spending and taxation, have paid me even one thin dime for this review. As far as I know, GM has no clue that I even exist. The Selective Service card in my desk drawer and my tax returns would seem to indicate that the government has a clue as to who I am, and there are several taxpayers who know me personally. However, I don’t think that creates a conflict of interest.
2) I (actually my company) paid for the privilege of being able to rent this vehicle from Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Again, no promotional consideration was paid by Enterprise to me for this review. Aside from the guy at the Enterprise rental counter, I don’t think they have a clue who I am either.
3) I have nothing against GM (except for the whole government bailout thing which we probably will talk about several times during the course of this review) or any other car manufacturer. I have looked at GM products on several occasions including every time I’ve considered purchasing a new vehicle. To date, they have never produced a car that I wanted to buy that was in my price range.
4) I am not now, nor will I be in the near future, in market for a new car. In fact, I will probably never buy a brand spanking new car ever again. I’m more than happy to let some other hapless soul take the hickey on depreciation while I merrily pick up gently used cars for more reasonable prices. In fact, The Queen would be ecstatic if I were to pick up a gently used Chevy Corvette or Cadillac XLR. If you know of one for sale in good condition for which the asking price is less than $100, please let me know.
So, what’d I think of the Chevrolet Cobalt? I’m glad you asked.
I arrived Monday evening at the Enterprise rental counsel and was handed the keys to a “Victory Red” four door sedan that had about 29000 miles on it that appeared to have been well maintained but gently abused as most rental cars are want to be. The car came equipped with 16” aluminum wheels, AM/FM stereo with CD player and MP3 jack, cloth seats and cruise control. According to Chevrolet’s website, this car had the 2LT trim package and would sell for $19,710 in my area.
Right off the bat, I have to make a comparison between the Chevrolet Cobalt and the Ford Focus to point out the obvious disparity between what you pay for versus what you get. The Ford is about a $1000 less than the Cobalt and came with heated leather seats, a sunroof, satellite radio and the ultra cool ambient lighting (which Chevy doesn’t even offer as an option that I can tell). The Cobalt didn’t even have the much vaunted Onstar system. I guess no self respecting member of the proletariat would be caught dead with such trappings of the bourgeois capitalist pigs. So, to recap this point, Ford gives you more stuff for less money. When we are talking about an economy car for the budget conscious, paying more for less doesn’t really make for a great selling point. Just a thought.
Let’s talk about the exterior for a moment. While I know we are not talking about the latest and greatest super sexy looking European super car here, the Cobalt has all the aesthetic appeal and styling of a sandblasted brick. To be fair, the Ford Focus was beat with the same ugly stick as the Cobalt. The best looking econobox I’ve ever seen is the Honda Civic, and even that car can be reminiscent of a door stop or a tortoise at times. Aerodynamics…ppffftthh. What’s that? I had to keep a handful of right rudder on the steering wheel for a good portion of the trip south due to some steady wind out of the southeast.
Now, some of you may be wondering how the unionized government employees at GM are at building quality cars these days. Overall, I would have to give them a passing grade on their construction of the Cobalt. Fit and finish did not appear to be any better or worse than the Ford Focus. I did notice that the inner panel of the driver’s door rattled when I closed it and the driver’s seat did not seem to be completely anchored; however, that may have been due to the fact that it was a rental vehicle with 29,000 miles on it based at a rental location in South Dallas. I will give them the benefit of the doubt on this one with the cautionary caveat that build quality on any high volume fleet vehicle can be spotty from time to time.
Next, how comfortable is the Cobalt? I honestly have no real complaints about the interior comfort of the Cobalt. In fact, in some ways, the cloth seats in the Cobalt were more comfortable than the leather seats in the Focus. The trip to Houston usually takes me right at four hours from door to door. Due to traffic, I actually spent a total of 5 hours in the car coming back last night of which I drove the last three hours nonstop without my butt falling asleep. My lower back was killing me due to the lack of lumbar support in the seat…but my legs and butt were awake and alert. The head room and leg room were adequate for my frame (6’4” and 240 pounds); however, had Chevy put a sunroof on this car, the head room would have been a smidge on the tight side.
One plus with the interior is that the window sill is thoughtfully placed at the right height for me to drive with my lazy elbow on the sill. The driver’s door rest was a little low for me, but it was closer than the arm rest in the Focus. The dashboard was well laid out. Unfortunately, that’s not saying much when you only include three instruments: a speedometer, a tachometer and a fuel gauge. Another plus was that the radio controls were within easy reach compared to the Focus. I didn’t have to reach quite as far for the radio tuner knob.
I must note here that I had planned on complaining about how bad the radio reception in the Cobalt was until I noticed, upon returning the vehicle to Enterprise this morning, that the radio antennae was missing completely. So, the fact that the car got any radio reception at all much less reception from about 45 miles away from the towers is pretty good in my opinion.
One final note on the interior before moving on, the passenger side airbag/seat belt sensor is sensitive. No, really…I mean SENSITIVE. I stopped on the way south to grab some dinner to go from Chili’s. I got an order of boneless buffalo wings and a salad, placed them carefully in the passenger seat, turned on the car, and was informed via a glaring red light and annoying little “alarm” tone that something or someone was in the seat. Think about that for a moment…the sensor was triggered by A SALAD. What happens if you put a Chihuahua in the front seat? Does it start cursing at you about the morbidly obese whale sitting next to you?
Oh, and no comments about eating a salad while driving. It can be done if you know how.
Moving on then…it’s time to tell you how well (ahem…cough, cough) the Cobalt performs.
Chevy claims that the Cobalt will get 37 miles per gallon fuel economy on the highway. I personally observed 36.0 mpg over 3 nonstop hours heading north at an average speed of 68 miles per hour. Keep in mind that the trip north from Houston to Dallas is generally “uphill” from Houston’s elevation of approximately sea level to Dallas’ elevation of about 800 feet above sea level. The car did come with a trip computer info option for instantaneous MPG, and I observed mid 20s to mid 40s depending on uphill vs. flat vs. downhill. If I had set the cruise control at 60 MPH instead of 68 or 69 MPH, I’m pretty sure I would have averaged about 40 MPG.
As with the Focus, the Cobalt won’t be winning you any drag races anytime soon; however, it has enough get up and go to get on the highway without being crushed like a beer can. It also had no trouble passing trucks when necessary and maintained a perfectly respectable and legal highway speed.
The one area that I give the Cobalt higher marks than the Focus is the handling. Unlike the Focus, the Cobalt’s steering was tight without being twitchy. It had a tight turning radius just like the Focus and was responsive when necessary. The brake pedal response was a little inconsistent. Sometimes you would step on the brakes lightly and nothing would happen. Other times, you would get what you would expect…a smooth and predictable stop. The Cobalt also did not have the tendency to nose dive and stop on a dime and give 9 cents change like the Focus. Here again, it’s probably a matter of personal preference and something you would become accustomed to over time.
And now, for the moment of truth…is the Chevrolet Cobalt a good car for its intended purpose and would I buy one? In short, yes and no. The Cobalt is not a BAD car for its intended purpose; however, it’s not really a GOOD car either. It performs its function adequately enough to be useful for its purpose. Unfortunately, Chevy and GM have maintained their streak of not making a car that I would WANT to buy. There’s nothing about this car that makes say: “Hey, that’s neat.” Or “This is REALLY nice.” For my money, I would rather pay $1000 less and get more car in the Ford Focus.
Your experience may vary.