GM has been promising us for years an answer to the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, the two cars that dominate the compact car market. Its latest contestant has been the Korean-designed Chevrolet Cobalt. Does the Cobalt have what it takes to go up against these perennial champions? Let’s find out..
HOW DOES IT LOOK? At a first glance, the Cobalt looks like what it actually is, an appliance. At a second glance, it still looks like an appliance. We understand that it’s in the nature of cars in this segment to look generic so that they may appeal to a very wide demographic, but the Civic — with its spaceship look — does so in a appealing manner. Even the undeniably boring-looking Corolla looks more inspiring than the Cobalt. This is a shame because styling is an important factor when buyers shop for cars. And for this reason, the Cobalt gets a STRIKE ONE.
HOW IS IT INSIDE? Step inside the Cobalt and things don’t get any better. That is, it looks cold, plain and uninspired. The monotone grayish/black color scheme doesn’t help the cause, nor does the plain, flat look of the dashboard. Hard plastic adorns the whole interior. The few soft plastics acutally manage to look cheaper than the hard plastics found in the some the competition. The only redeeming feature is the simple layout of the controls, but that’s not enough to ward-off a STRIKE TWO.
HOW DOES IT DRIVE? The 2.2 Liter engine in the Cobalt LS I drove was fairly smooth. Gear changes were virtually unnoticeable. Although the ride itself was smooth, it was fairly noisy, especially at high speeds. Every bump was heard and often felt. The plain-Jane Toyota Corolla, by comparison, had a more isolated interior. The Honda Civic offers more steering feedback.
GM did try to give the Cobalt more space at a lower price than the Corolla or a Civic, but the price difference isn’t really that much. Plus, the cheaper Hyundai Accent is about as roomy. The Cobalt is a competent small car, but in the end, it poses little threat to the Civic and Corolla, which feel more expensive and better built. Luckily GM’s latest “experiment” is on its way out. Let’s hope that its successor, the Chevy Cruze, gives the two Japaneses and Korean competition a better run for their money.