2007 Chevrolet Cobalt LT
2007 Chevrolet Cobalt LT. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Chris Chase

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The coolest cars can call up images of the situations they were designed to be found in. Drive a German sports sedan and you may long for an empty two-lane back road, while driving a roadster makes you glad we get sunny summers here, short as they may be. But even everyday cars can create vivid mental pictures. A Chevrolet Cobalt, for example, pretty much screams “rental agency parking lot!”

My Cobalt LT test car even came wearing Sandstone Metallic (aka metallic beige) paint; all that was missing was the Budget sticker on the back bumper. If it sounds like I’m making fun of the Cobalt, well, I am, but only for the rental-special reputation it inherited from its Cavalier predecessor. Truth is, though, that the driver who rents – or buys, for that matter – a Cobalt today is getting a way better deal than any Cavalier could have offered.

2007 Chevrolet Cobalt LT
2007 Chevrolet Cobalt LT. Click image to enlarge

It all starts with the fit and finish. The Cobalt, and its Pontiac G5 (nee Pursuit) cousin, are screwed together so much better than the old Cavalier and Sunfire, it’s not even funny. The plastics look and feel like decent quality materials, and the seat upholstery seems durable too. The only “oops” I could find in my tester was a bit of leftover flashing inside one of the dash vents. The interior design isn’t as inspired as can be found elsewhere in the class, but it’s far from ugly and all works just fine.

My tester drove smoothly and surprisingly quietly, with only the worst winter potholes and sunken manhole covers upsetting the pleasant ride with some clunking from the suspension. Otherwise, the basic setup – struts up front and a semi-independent twist-beam in the rear – soaks up bunps with little drama, while keeping excess body motions under control.

Hard cornering, of course, brings out some serious body roll, and handling is unexciting, but so it is with most of the cars in this workaday class. That’s what the Cobalt’s SS trim level is there for. It gets firmer springs and damper and better roll control, along with more powerful engine choices – a 173-hp, 2.4-litre in the sedan and the option of a supercharged 2.0-litre making 205 horses in the SS coupe.

2007 Chevrolet Cobalt LT
2007 Chevrolet Cobalt LT. Click image to enlarge

But the basic sedan makes do with a 2.2-litre four-banger that, for 2007, gets three more horsepower, for 148. This motor’s relatively large displacement – you won’t find many small cars with more than 2.0 litres under the hood – means mid-range torque is generous. Fitted with the optional four-speed automatic as my tester was, the Cobalt feels a little flat-footed off the line, but that fat mid-range powerband means there’s at least adequate power for highway passing manoeuvres. This motor’s not as smooth as what you get in a Mazda3 or Honda Civic, but it revs happily enough when called upon. The four-speed auto works smoothly, and it’s happy to bang out crisp and quick upshifts at wider throttle openings. A fifth cog would let the tranny take better advantage of the engine’s power, though. The Cobalt’s 2.2 gets Natural Resources Canada fuel consumption ratings of 9.6 L/100 km in the city and 6.6 L/100 km on the highway; my tester used a little more than 10 L/100 km in mostly city driving.

2007 Chevrolet Cobalt LT
2007 Chevrolet Cobalt LT
2007 Chevrolet Cobalt LT. Click image to enlarge

In LT trim, the Cobalt gets useful stuff like power windows, mirrors and locks with keyless entry included, as well as cruise control and air conditioning for $17,385. Extras on my tester included a four-speed automatic transmission ($1,250); the LT Wheel Package that brings 16-inch wheels (GM says they’re steel, but they do a convincing imitation of aluminum), anti-lock brakes, all-season performance tires and a useful cargo net for the trunk ($1,165); and a body-coloured rear spoiler ($420). Remote start is a rarity in this class; my tester had it at a cost of $255.

Altogether, it added up to $21,670 including freight. A Hyundai Elantra GL “Comfort” I drove a few months back priced out to about $1,100 less; it lacked anti-lock brakes and remote start but was otherwise similarly equipped. Like that Elantra, the Cobalt doesn’t get standard side airbags, while other notable entries in this class, like the Mazda3, Civic and Nissan Sentra, do have them in all trim levels.

2007 Chevrolet Cobalt LT
2007 Chevrolet Cobalt LT
2007 Chevrolet Cobalt LT. Click image to enlarge

But while airbags are something you hope you’ll never have to use, seats are integral to the driving experience, and the Cobalt’s seats are the car’s least pleasant aspect. The front seats are flat, featureless and horribly uncomfortable. This might be okay if they offered good lateral support, but they don’t do that either – and GM calls these “sport” seats. It bears mentioning that a Cobalt SS Supercharged I drove last summer was much more comfortable, with its highly-bolstered and heated leather seats. For the record, the GM Canada website states that the non-supercharged SS gets the same seats as the LT; the one-step-up LTZ, however, shares the SS Supercharged coupe’s seats.

Interior space is pretty good, with lots of leg and headroom up front. Another knock against the front seats, though: the height adjustment only works the bottom cushion, not the whole seat. There’s no telescopic function for the steering column, either. In back, headroom is alright, but legroom is tight, and there’s not a lot of space for toes under the front seats. The narrow door openings make it hard to get in and out, too.

2007 Chevrolet Cobalt LT
2007 Chevrolet Cobalt LT
2007 Chevrolet Cobalt LT
2007 Chevrolet Cobalt LT. Click image to enlarge

Some nice touches, though, include the hydraulic prop rod for the hood and the non-intrusive trunk hinges, two features that can be hard to find in a mid-size sedan, never mind a compact. Check out the rear headrests that are attached to the rear deck instead of the seatback, which eliminates the need to remove them when folding the rear seat down. Only problem is that they can’t be removed at all, so drivers who like a completely unobstructed view out the back are out of luck.

In the past, I suspect that many Cavalier (and Sunfire) buyers were GM loyalists, or drivers who simply bought based on the premise that if so many other people drove them, it can’t be that bad of a car. And then, of course, there were the rental companies who bought up heaps of them.

But with the Cobalt now in its third year of production, it’s nice to see that GM has finally produced a small car that offers enough refinement and basic appeal to allow it to continue to keep up with most of its competition.

Pricing: 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt LT

  • Base price: $17,385
  • Options: $3,090 (Four-speed automatic transmission, $1,250; LT Wheel Package (16-inch wheels, anti-lock brakes, all-season performance tires and cargo net), $1,165; body-coloured rear spoiler, $420; remote start, $255)
  • Freight: $1,095
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Price as tested: $21,670 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives


  • Click here for complete specifications

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