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2010 Chevrolet Cobalt ReviewThe Good
The 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt offers quality for the class at a great price and with competitive fuel economy.The Bad
The 2010 Cobalt’s 2.2-liter engine struggles in all but cruising situations, and comfort doesn’t seem to be an option buyers can choose.
The CarGurus View
The 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt is what it is, and that’s a good value for a compact car. The styling won’t change the industry, and the performance isn’t blistering, but for relatively little money, you can walk away with a solid performer with impressive fuel economy. With the SS going away, it’d be nice to see the option for four-wheel antilock disc brakes and traction control, but perhaps buyers will have to wait a while for that.
At a Glance
The Chevy Cobalt loses its high-performance SS trim in 2010, but otherwise this four-door, front-wheel-drive compact remains unchanged. Its three trims are all powered by a 2.2-liter, 155-hp inline four-cylinder (I4) engine, with buyer’s choice of a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Manual-equipped Cobalts have the option of an Xtra Fuel Economy package (XFE) that adds low-rolling-resistance tires and drivetrain adjustments for an additional 2 mpg on the highway.
The 2010 Cobalt's 2.2-liter engine provides adequate power, but certainly won’t impress. Under load and with increased rpm, the engine produces a strained whine that is less than pleasing, especially considering the amount of downshifting necessary for highway maneuvering. However, when cruising and idling, the 2.2 is a mild-mannered affair.
The five-speed manual transmission is precise and smooth, adding a lot of fun to the driving experience. The four-speed is capable if a bit reluctant to downshift, although it comes with an expected mileage penalty, 24/33 mpg versus 25/35 for the five-speed and 25/37 for those with the XFE package. Regular-grade fuel is enough to satisfy the Cobalt.
Ride & Handling
The Cobalt’s Delta II platform, the same used for the Chevy Volt and Saturn Astra, provides a solid structure for a smooth ride with a distinct increase in composure on uneven surfaces over the previous chassis. While the suspension won’t give sports-car performance, it’s capable and controls lean and roll in turns to an adequate measure. There’s a pronounced decline here when equipped with the XFE package, as the low-rolling-resistance tires are far less capable in turns, however squeal is induced long before traction would let go, an alarming yet not dangerous situation.
Cabin & Comfort
A compact in every sense, taller drivers would be best served by staying away. While the front seats have enough travel to accommodate those approaching 6 feet, the short cushion will leave legs hanging off the end, support ending at mid-thigh. Headroom is similar, and on par with the rest of the class.
The rear seats are seemingly for show only, inadequate for all but child seats and pets. Cushions front and back are too hard, and some testers found that the seatbelts in the front don’t provide enough room for even moderately tall drivers.
The cockpit has a simple layout, with the major complaints being that some find gauges too small to read easily and others find certain controls - namely climate - a bit too far to reach while driving. While hard plastics are the dominant material, they are textured properly to fit the class without feeling cheap. Cargo space is unsurprisingly limited, in both the trunk and the interior.
The NHTSA has awarded the Cobalt four stars in all tests barring front impacts involving the passenger, which earned five stars. Safety features are rather sparse, with dual front and curtain-side airbags, automatic headlights with daytime running lights, and a tire pressure monitor being the sole features.
What Owners Think
Owners are pleased by the value they've gotten with the Cobalt, despite its sparse features. Many are surprised at the quality that you can get from a $13,000 car, especially with the fuel-economy it also brings. Refinement is a bit of an issue, with the 2.2-liter always feeling taxed, and space is in short supply.
A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.
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