Replacing the unloved and often-dissed Cavalier in 2005, Chevy's Cobalt was a GM entry-level model. Definitely an improvement over its predecessor, it too was discontinued, in 2011, and replaced by the Cruze. It came in two body styles: four-door sedan and two-door coupe.
Power for the 2009 edition was provided by the rugged but agricultural Ecotec engine, which displaced 2.2 litres. There was also a turbocharged model, in the form of the SS. This latter engine was slightly smaller but featured significantly higher power output – 155 hp versus 260 hp. By far the most popular engine choice with buyers, the normally aspirated Ecotec powerplant was bigger than many of its rivals, with higher horsepower numbers, but was criticized for having an unrefined feeling. But it did return decent fuel economy.
Two transmissions were available: five-speed manual and four-speed automatic. The manual gearbox suffered from a lack of refinement and poorly designed shift linkage. It did, however, feature an upshift indicator light. This was a small yellow light located within the instrument cluster that flashed at the driver when optimum shifting points were reached. If you followed the upshift indicator religiously, you could garner 8.0 litres/100 km in town and 5.4 litres/100 km on the highway. Easier said than done, however.
In 2009, the Cobalt was one of the lowest-priced sedans sold in Canada. However, air conditioning, ABS and extra airbags were optional and the bare-bones model had precious little in the way of modcons. By way of comparison, Honda's Civic was similarly priced, but featured a higher standard trim level. That said, the Cobalt did feature a slightly larger trunk than the Civic (394 litres versus 340 litres) and offered more interior headroom.
Transport Canada has two safety recalls on file for the '09 Cobalt. One involves a possibly malfunctioning power steering mechanism that could fail and leave the driver with non-power steering. Not a life-threatener, and apparently the vehicle's Driver Information Centre gives plenty of warning. The second has to do with a poorly designed transmission shifter that may read "Park" and allow the driver to remove the ignition key when in fact the vehicle is still in gear. This could lead to the vehicle possibly rolling away. Easily corrected by dealers, however.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also has these two on file, as well as a fuel pump warning for vehicles sold in Nevada, Texas, Arizona, and California. The fuel pump can fail, start leaking, and cause a fire. You never know, some of these cars could have made their way into Canada.
NHTSA has an impressive 59 technical service bulletins out there for the 2009 Cobalt, and they cover just about every aspect of the car. Some examples include "binding" difficulties with the ignition key/switch, issues with the airbag wiring in the front seats, loss of reverse gear with the automatic transmission, problems with the turbocharger unit in the SS models, and a range of electrical gremlins throughout the vehicle. Lots of niggling bits and pieces, in other words.
Consumer Reports gives the 2009 Cobalt an "average" used-car prediction. Problem areas include the electrical system, suspension, body equipment and the ever-present "squeaks and rattles." It fares better than either the 2008 or 2010 model, as far as this organization is concerned. Some comments from owners: "Better than my previous vehicle … a Saturn SL1," "Centre console obstructs parking brake" and "This car is everything I would expect from a small car."
Market research firm J.D. Power is nonplussed with the 2009 Cobalt. While it approves of the powertrain and accessories quality, just about everything else gets a fail. This edition of the Cobalt does not excel in any department, according to J.D. Power, and falls short in important areas such as overall dependability, mechanical accessories quality and overall performance and design. It gets an "about-average" grade for overall quality from this organization.
As far as resale goes, if you bought one new and are trying to unload it now, you may be in for disappointment. From a base price of about $15,500 new for the base LS sedan, the Cobalt has dropped to between $7,000 and $10,000 in value, depending upon equipment level. The turbocharged SS is priced somewhere in the mid-teens and there is no difference between the resale value of the coupe or the sedan.
2009 Chevrolet Cobalt
Original Base Price: $15,326; Black Book: $10,300-$14,150; Red Book: $6,950-$12,900
Engine: 2.2-litre four-cylinder and 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower/Torque: 155 hp/150 lb-ft for 2.2L; 260 hp/260 lb-ft for 2.0L turbo
Transmission: Five-speed manual and four-speed automatic
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 8.0 city/5.4 highway (manual, non-turbo); regular gas.
Alternatives: Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra, Suzuki SX4, Ford Focus, Nissan Versa