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Demo Drive: 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt LS

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--Being in the used car end of the 'biz' gives me the opportunity to road test a variety of late-model cars for longer periods of time than a normal test drive would typically allow. Though these reviews may lack the excitement of being a first impression of the latest 'car de jour,' it provides a unique opportunity to see how a car performs with a little bit of wear and a little bit of age on it. This allows you to see just how well these cars hold up over the years and miles and also represents what the other half of America - i.e., the used car shopper - has to select from. Consider this a long-term test of a car whose previous drivers may or may not have given a damn.

I've driven well over 100 different vehicles over the past year for various lengths of time and distances, sometimes shortened prematurely by the vehicle itself. There are some memorable stories to tell, too - the 2005 Grand Am that liked to shut off mysteriously on highways and inclines, the 110k-mile 2001 Prius that died every 30 minutes, the 2003 Civic Hybrid that got 23MPG, and the '94 Sedan DeVille whose horn honked when you flashed the high-beams. So don't let those - hopefully - exceptions to the norm cast a spector over the entire line of cars, but let these reviews instead represent instead a general idea of what to expect and give you an idea of what an automobile is like after the new car smell is replaced by the sweet odor of used.--

Demo Drive

2006 Chevrolet Cobalt LS



It screams "Rental Car" because this one actually was a rental car.

The Basics...seriously basic

Introduced for 2005, the Cobalt is Chevrolet's Delta-based compact car. And despite the decieving nomenclature on this Cobalt LS, my car is a basey, basey, base, base model. Its options include an automatic transmission. That's it. That means this car has manual windows, locks, mirrors, no antilock brakes, no fancy alloys, no side airbags, and no cruise control. Considering my daily commute is a round trip of 70 miles, the lack of cruise is the most lamented option followed by, well, everything else. I do applaud Chevy for making lemonade out of lemons by making what you have to do manually easier with a control stick for the passenger-side mirror and window crank handles that are easy to rotate.

A second round of applause is deserved for the surprising amount of unexpected equipment standard. Automatic headlamps, a digital driver info center, 4-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, an an A/C filtration system are all standard. For those used to GM's usual plethora of conveniences, things like the auto lamps and DIC make you feel at home despite the downgrade in size and price. A power trunk release is concealed below and to the left of the steering wheel column within a small storage cubby; brilliant, especially when the competition seems to love those doofy floor levers that clutter the floorboard and eventually snap off. The DIC reads out ambient temperature, oil life, two tripometer readouts, engine temp, and - most importantly - fuel economy. One wonders why so few economy cars in this range feature such a display since high MPG is usually the imputus behind the purchase of such a car.

..........More to come!

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