Maker: General Motors
Predecessor: Chevrolet Cavalier
outgoing Chevrolet Cavalier (and its sister car Pontiac Sunfire) got
1 star in AutoZine's rating. Some people would say I were anti-American
cars, but in fact my view is shared with most American car magazines.
car was based on the J-platform which could be dated back to 1982. It
powered by either a push-rod engine or Quad-4, the worst 4-valve engine
in the world. It was cheaply made to serve those only wanted a cheap
How can we put up with it?
significant changes influenced GM's small car program: first, GM took
Daewoo a couple of years ago. This allows it to rebadge the Korean-made
Kalos as Chevrolet Aveo and sell it as the brand’s entry-level model.
a result, the successor of Cavalier can move up half a segment,
on challenging the big players like Toyota Corolla and Honda
decided to combine
its European and American small cars into one platform, Delta, whose
was led by Opel. German engineering and bigger development budget
better products. In this way, the new Chevrolet Cobalt is born from the
same architecture as Opel Astra, sharing the same stiff structure,
suspensions and the Lotus-developed L850 aluminum 16V engines.
then you may
same Delta platform also gave birth to a poor car, Saturn Ion. Yes, the
Saturn version is really poor, blame to its cost-cutting strategy.
Chevrolet Cobalt did not repeat the failure of Saturn, because it is a
real "Lutz's car". That lead us to the third change. Since Chrysler
Bob Lutz joined GM as product director, he has been changing the
of this accountant-driven company, transforming it to a product-driven
company. Lutz told its engineers not to save cost by dumping good
just make the Cobalt as good as possible out of the Delta platform.
worry about cost. Good products can sell for higher price.
this way, the Cobalt received many expensive designs that the Ion
some not even its European cousin did. It gets high quality plastics in
the cabin. It gets hydraulic-mounted bushings for its torsion-beam rear
suspension. Its cabin is insulated from noise by a lot of
foam, while the fire wall is made of sound-absorbing laminated steel
"quiet steel"). The engine cover provides extra noise insulation while
low-noise tensioner is used for cam-drive chain. Drivetrain vibration
reduced by extra strengthening to transmission mounting. These efforts
pay off in driving - the Cobalt feels remarkably quiet, refined and
Not only sets new standard for American small cars but actually matches
the best European and Japanese rivals.
gets more powerful
engines than its Opel cousin. Most cars in the class run engines no
than 2.0 litres, but the Chevrolet's base engine is already a 2.2-litre
16V. That is the familiar Ecotec engine that powers Saturn L-Series and
Ion, Opel Astra, Vectra and Speedster. It has not only a lightweight
construction but also a pair of counter-rotating balancer shafts to
smooth revving. But the 145hp engine provides only average performance,
because the Cobalt weighs a hefty 1460kg. That's the price it paid for
refinement and quality.
No wonder a
engine is also offered. Benefited by the extra cc and a variable valve
timing, the 2.4 version produces 170 horsepower and 170 lbft of torque.
It should power the Cobalt from standstill to 60mph in less than 8
Cobalt is not exactly fun to drive. While it feels secured and stable
drive fast, it lacks the fluidity of Volkswagen Golf V and Ford Focus.
Its torsion-beam axle suspension cannot match the rivals' multi-link
The result is more understeer at the limit and less composure on bumpy
surfaces. Besides, like Astra, the electric power steering delivers a
feel, although it is accurate and nicely weighted.
to rival Toyota Corolla and the like. After countless of attempts, GM
built a small car capable of rivaling the Japanese. And quite
this is not a Saturn but a Chevrolet.
above report was last updated on 21 Jan
2005. All Rights Reserved.
Cobalt Coupe SS
is available in 4-door sedan as well as 2-door coupe form. The top
of the coupe is SS. Apart from a racy look, it is powered by an
2.0-litre Ecotec 16V, charged up by an Eaton root-type supercharger to
deliver 205 horsepower and 200 lbft of torque. Yes, this is the same
as sister car Saturn Ion Red Line.
strong bottom and mid-range torque in the tradition of supercharged
60mph can be reached in about 6.5 seconds. It is therefore faster than
most similarly-priced rivals, but slower than Dodge Neon SRT-4 (which
more powerful) and Ion Red Line (which is lighter).
it generates some torque steer to the front-drive chassis, but this can
be eliminated by choosing the optional Quaife limited slip
To keen drivers, the LSD and the supportive Recaro bucket seats are
paying for. As such equipped, the Cobalt SS has fool-proof handling.
is put down to the road effectively via the grippy Pirelli P-Zero tires
(215/45ZR18 in size). The rigid chassis and firmer suspensions (now
aluminum control arm at the front) enable stable and
cornering. It can carry fairly high speed into corners without risk of
losing control. It has enough low-end grunt to storm out of corners. In
other words, it is a better "Street, Road and Track" car than
Such a good
handling is the
result of extensive testing on test tracks in the US as well as at
in Germany. But the testing did not solve the fundamental problems of
Delta platform, i.e., too much understeer and too little steering feel.
They might not affect the absolute performance of the car, but they did
make the driving experience less involving and less inspiring than
Celica GTS and Honda Integra Type R.
above report was last updated on 21 Jan
2005. All Rights Reserved.
Cobalt Coupe SS turbo
|New turbocharged SS raises the
performance bar of the class...
introduced a very sophisticated turbocharged Ecotec 2-liter engine in
Pontiac Solstice GXP and Saturn Sky Red Line last year. It has direct
gasoline injection, twin variable cam phasing and an efficient
twin-scroll turbocharger to enable some 260 horsepower. So good that GM
could let the old supercharged Ecotec engine retired. As a result,
starting from this year the performance Chevrolet Cobalt SS adopts the
new Ecotec turbo engine. The firebreathing horsepower and abundance of
torque (260 lb-ft from 2000 rpm) allows Chevrolet to claim 0-60 mph in
5.7 seconds for this car. Moreover, an unrestricted top speed at 160
mph allows it to edge out many German performance cars. At the same
time, the efficient direct injection engine returns better fuel
consumption than the old engine.
You might say, “well, American cars are always fast in straight line.
Let’s see how it handles in corners !”
Surprisingly, the revised Cobalt SS is equally impressive in the
twisty. This must thanks to the tuning works done at Nurburgring by the
engineers of OPC – you’re right, that’s Opel Performance Center. Opel
is familiar with Nurburging testing as well as this chassis (as it was
derived from Opel Astra). The Cobalt Coupe SS got revised front
suspension geometry, new lower control arms, stiffer springs, retuned
dampers, thicker rear anti-roll bar and a 10-percent quicker steering
rack. The front brakes are upgraded to 4-pot Brembo calipers and 315 mm
ventilated discs. 18-inch forged aluminum wheels and aggressive 225/40
tires are employed. Thanks to these mods and the extra power, it lapped
Nurburgring in 8 minutes and 23 seconds, some 13 seconds faster than
Opel Astra OPC. This is also a new class record !
|Chassis dynamics is equally
impressive, thanks to OPC and Nurburgring testing
speed, the Cobalt SS handles and rides like good European hot hatches.
Its ride is firm but stable and well damped. Excellent body control and
grip give you confidence to attack corners. The steering is the best
ever for GM’s front-drive cars, being well weighted and precise.
Understeer and torque steer are well tamed. The improvement to its
chassis dynamics is much more than its looks suggested. On the down
side, you may criticize for the lack of steering feel from the electric
power steering and the gearshift of the Saab-sourced 5-speed manual
gearbox too rubbery. However, those flaws are no surprise to Opel.
The biggest problem of the car is actually its low rent cabin and
outdated appearance. I know GM needs to control its cost, but a decent
revamp would have been a good match with its good dynamics and created
one of the most desirable “rocket pockets” on the market. What a pity.
above report was last updated on 1 Apr 2008. All