A new nameplate for 2005, the Chevrolet Cobalt replaces the Cavalier coupe and sedan, and dishes up a supercharged version that the old model line never had.

The Cobalt is based on GM’s global Delta platform, already in use by the Saturn Ion and overseas Opel models, as well as a sister Pontiac Pursuit built strictly for the Canadian market. The Delta architecture gives the Cobalt a stiffer, quieter chassis and a suspension that’s tuned to each trim level. Although it’s slightly smaller than the outgoing Cavalier, the Cobalt feels just as big from behind the wheel. The Cavalier’s looser, seat-of-the-pants driving experience is updated to a more mature but still fun-to-drive package.

All but the supercharged SS version share a 2.2-litre engine that provides five more horsepower than the Cavalier. Coupe and sedan share base and LS trim; there’s also an LT sedan, while the supercharged SS is strictly a two-door.

The base model includes a five-speed manual, manual remote mirrors, 15-inch steel wheels, intermittent wipers, rear defogger, full instrumentation, tilt wheel, 60/40 folding rear seat, and four-speaker CD system.

The LS adds air conditioning, ABS, power locks with keyless entry, power mirrors and windows, 15-inch aluminum wheels, cruise control, and upgraded stereo.

The LT sedan comes only with a four-speed automatic transmission, and adds fog lights, 16-inch aluminum wheels, a chrome appearance package, heated leather seats, leather-wrapped wheel and seven-speaker package with 10-inch subwoofer.

For the SS, Chevrolet means business: the 205 hp engine can only be mated to a short-throw five-speed manual. Other exclusives are four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, chrome-tipped exhaust, performance suspension, fascia extensions and ground effects, rear spoiler, 18-inch aluminum wheels, a boost gauge mounted on the A-pillar and MP3 capability on the stereo.

The Cobalt sedan is less expensive than its Pontiac sibling, which is only available with four doors. Its MSRP is also below that of the 2005 Chevrolet Cavalier, although dealers will be cutting prices to move the last of the discontinued models out the door. Unless budget is of prime consideration, the Cobalt’s superior handling and performance should be worth the extra bucks.

The Cobalt is built in Lordstown, Ohio.

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