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Edmunds: Long-term Cobalt update

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http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/Drive...rticleId=107488

April 2006

It might surprise some readers to learn that an Edmunds.com editor turned down the use of a 2005 Land Rover LR3 and instead opted to take the 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt LT on a family trip to Yosemite National Park.

Yes, the LR3 drives magnificently and has gobs of space into which you can throw everything you could ever want to take along with you. But there is one little problem: It gets only an average of 15 miles per gallon and requires premium gasoline. The Cobalt, on the other hand, averaged 31.4 miles per gallon of regular fuel for the 672-mile trip.

Before we go into greater detail, we should answer a number of questions that are, no doubt, rising to the top of your mind. Questions like: "But wasn't it ridiculously cramped?" Or, "Wasn't it a gutless wonder?" Or even: "What if you wanted to go off-roading?"

True, when Americans go into the wilderness they want to take everything from home along with them. The other vehicles we saw at Yosemite were lugging all manner of conveniences and machinery: bikes, coolers, lawn chairs, tents, sleeping bags, video games, DVD players and on and on. It would have been impossible to take all this in the Cobalt. But Senior Consumer Advice Editor Philip Reed took what he needed for himself, his wife and their 15-year-old son.

Packing the night before, Phil was doubtful he would be able to get the growing number of bags and packs into the compact four-door. He even began to reconsider his decision to turn down the LR3. But the next morning, the trunk swallowed their three suitcases, three backpacks and an assortment of hampers, grocery bags and a cooking stove.

Driving to Yosemite from their home in Long Beach, the Reeds took turns riding in the backseat and found it acceptable. The only annoyance was the wind noise whistling through poorly installed weather stripping around the right rear door. Curious to see what kind of fuel economy could be achieved, the cruise control was set for 70 mph and they grew used to seeing assorted vehicles flying past them.

The valley floor of Yosemite is at 4,000 feet elevation so it was a long climb from Fresno to the park. The Cobalt downshifted frequently on steep grades (albeit reluctantly) but the 2.2-liter, 145-horsepower engine proved more than adequate. On steep descents, when engine braking was necessary, the automatic's gear selector was a bit inconvenient to operate; Phil said that he would have preferred a sport shift feature for quicker changes.

The real advantages of the Cobalt were its size and maneuverability. While the steering feel is a bit numb, once they got acclimated to it the twisting mountain roads became a romp. Very little body roll was detected at moderate speeds and the Cobalt felt confident and composed on a variety of terrain. Once inside the park, the small car proved easy to park and our editor allowed a degree of smugness to filter into his knowing smile as he witnessed larger vehicles contributing to the congestion of the park and increased emissions in the crystal blue skies.

Now comes the best part. Being a real tightwad, Phil created a comparison of the fuel consumption of the two vehicles, the Cobalt and the LR3. The Cobalt used 21.4 gallons of gas, costing only $66.34 at $3.10 per gallon of regular unleaded. The LR3 has been averaging 14.9 mpg and to cover that distance burning premium unleaded would have used 45.1 gallons, which at $3.30 per gallon would have cost $148.83. The Cobalt, also a much cheaper car to buy, saved 23.7 gallons of fossil fuel and $82.49 (which the Reeds happily squandered on knickknacks in the park's gift shops).

Finally, here is a list of things, both good and bad, that Phil noted after spending four days in the Cobalt.

Pros:

* The sunroof made for easy viewing of mountaintops and waterfalls.

* Steering-wheel-mounted controls were easy to use — a luxury feature.

* The sound system provided excellent quality and the CD changer was convenient.

Cons:

* The trunk opening is tight, making loading more difficult.

* Climate control knobs feel cheap and sloppy.

* No grab handles were available anywhere for passengers or driver.

* There is no pull-down handle in the trunk.

In other news, the Cobalt had an oil change and tire rotation performed at Albertson Chevrolet, in Culver City, California. We did have to wonder why it cost so much ($30 for a tire rotation and $45.72 for an oil change) but the service advisor was friendly and the work was performed quickly and efficiently.

Our Cobalt now has over 8,000 miles on it and has performed reliably and economically. In an era of rising gas prices, this vehicle might be an attractive option, even for small families.

Current Odometer: 8,323

Best Fuel Economy: 32.6 mpg

Worst Fuel Economy: 19.9 mpg

Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 25.9 mpg

Body Repair Costs: None

Maintenance Costs: $75.72

Problems: None.

Posted Image

The 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt LT parked in the wilds of Yosemite National Park. The little Chevy made the 700-mile round-trip averaging 31.4 miles per gallon — nearly the 32 mpg estimated by the EPA.

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Plus for chevy!...Now if someone would notice the ion..which is the same!

Not really. It's been MASSIVELY improved over the years, but still feels sloppier built and the interior is cheaper. Has a lot of the newer refinements from the Cobalt, but still quite different overall.

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Not really.  It's been MASSIVELY improved over the years, but still feels sloppier built and the interior is cheaper.  Has a lot of the newer refinements from the Cobalt, but still quite different overall.

don't forget that god aweful center mounted gauge cluster

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Plus for chevy!...Now if someone would notice the ion..which is the same!

No, it's not. The ION is among GM's worst.

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The 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt LT parked in the wilds of Yosemite National Park. The little Chevy made the 700-mile round-trip averaging 31.4 miles per gallon — nearly the 32 mpg estimated by the EPA.

Excellent results for a car with three people riding and a trunk full of luggage. Bravo Chevrolet!

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Excellent results for a car with three people riding and a trunk full of luggage. Bravo Chevrolet!

I dont know......... my 2000 Malibu V6 got 32mpg on a 1000mi trip from AZ to texas with 2 people in the car, 110lbs of subwoofers/amps, and luggage, and i kept it at 80-85mph the whole way.

Though I only got 17 around the city. I swear I dont have a heavy foot :P

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This is testament that GM can build a good car when they decide to. Good, not great. The Cobalt, like almost every GM, still lacks the attention to detail it needs. Those grab handles would be a good standard addition that would cost very little to install. I really like the Cobalt. Wih just a few minor changes (and more inspiring styling) I might even love it. NAV should be an option (full-blown NAV, not just turn-by-turn). The Mazda3 offers it; and look at the recent GM corporate units...they can easily be swapped out. Would many people order it? No, but its availability would be a big positive. GM could even make it a dealer-installed option to keep the complexity down at Lordstown.

Edited by Croc

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This is testament that GM can build a good car when they decide to.  Good, not great.  The Cobalt, like almost every GM, still lacks the attention to detail it needs.  Those grab handles would be a good standard addition that would cost very little to install.  I really like the Cobalt.  Wih just a few minor changes (and more inspiring styling) I might even love it.  NAV should be an option (full-blown NAV, not just turn-by-turn).  The Mazda3 offers it; and look at the recent GM corporate units...they can easily be swapped out.  Would many people order it?  No, but its availability would be a big positive.  GM could even make it a dealer-installed option to keep the complexity down at Lordstown.

This relates to one of my posts where the Caliber should have the NAV as an option, since it's got the same corporate stereo, i'd be easy to add the NAV

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Their bitches seem rather petty. I wonder what the take rate is for nav on 3 and Civic. Probably low, it's a pretty expensive option relative to MSRP on a compact.

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No, it's not.  The ION is among GM's worst.

In what way is it so terrible? I know the early models had some noises that developed, but what complaint do you have about the current one? (aside from the preference items like the center-mount gauges)

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In what way is it so terrible?  I know the early models had some noises that developed, but what complaint do you have about the current one? (aside from the preference items like the center-mount gauges)

Cheap interior materials...they make the Cobat look like a Lexus. Lousy interior design, ugly steering wheel, ugly sedan. Sloppy build quality (worse than the Cobalt's).

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Cheap interior materials...they make the Cobat look like a Lexus. Lousy interior design, ugly steering wheel, ugly sedan. Sloppy build quality (worse than the Cobalt's).

So, a bunch of opinions, and a build quality comment. Sure the build quality isn't a residual opinion of earlier model years? The '06's I've been in seem quite good...

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So, a bunch of opinions, and a build quality comment.  Sure the build quality isn't a residual opinion of earlier model years?  The '06's I've been in seem quite good...

I actually like the quad coupe. But the combalt is still a nicer car IMO

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Great to hear the Cobalt is holding up so well...quality has got to be the chief concerns among conquest buyers...this little review should defintely help.

One thing I've noticed though, is that the build quality of the Cobalt seems to be a nagging problem...I've read reviews that mention improperly installed headliners, poorly installed plastic, and now this poorly installed weatherstripping (that whistling is arguably one of my biggest pet peeves). These build issues are a quick fix problem...get on it UAW & plant managers!

All in all though, it's great to hear good things about a crucial GM product.

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Their bitches seem rather petty.  I wonder what the take rate is for nav on 3 and Civic.  Probably low, it's a pretty expensive option relative to MSRP on a compact.

But at least it's offered. And since GM uses corporate units it would be as simple as letting dealers install it and adding a tick on the option sheet.

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Good to see a great review for a Change, the Cobalt deserves it. :)

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It "might" be a worthy consideration....

What a cop out, but TYPICAL of a BIASED journalist.

You know not everything edmunds writes is import biased. They love the 300, Charger, Magnum. They like the Fusion (except in that comparison test, which pisses me off too). They like the Cobalt, but it's not perfect. Such as the improperly installed weather stripping. They don't love all imports either. They still don't like the Yaris. So yeah. Just making a point.

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You know not everything edmunds writes is import biased. They love the 300, Charger, Magnum. They like the Fusion (except in that comparison test, which pisses me off too). They like the Cobalt, but it's not perfect. Such as the improperly installed weather stripping. They don't love all imports either. They still don't like the Yaris. So yeah. Just making a point.

That's only because they $h!canned the idiot editors of the past, like Christian Wardlow and Liz Kim.

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That's only because they $h!canned the idiot editors of the past, like Christian Wardlow and Liz Kim.

It been quite a while since I have waisted my time on Edmunds but Liz Kim was one serious piece of bovine excrement.

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