What to look for when buying a Used Chevrolet Cobalt

Overall rating:3.5 Star Rating
Updated: August 12, 2013
2008 Pontiac G5
Pontiac G5 is a rebadged version of the Cobalt.

Chevrolet Cobalt replaced the Cavalier in the GM lineup for 2005. Lasting only for five years, the Cobalt was discontinued after the 2010 model year, as the more stylish Chevrolet Cruze took over. The Cobalt was designed before auto makers started to pay more attention to small cars. It's most noticeable inside the cabin, as the Cobalt has a lot of hard plastic and the design looks outdated. Fuel economy and reliability are about average for the class too. On the plus side, Chevrolet Cobalt is one of the most affordable small cars on the used car market and the Cobalt coupe is the cheapest small sporty-looking car you can buy. In addition, General Motors addressed some of the potential problems with a few recalls. Chevrolet Cobalt is available as a four-door sedan or two-door coupe. The 2.2L automatic is the most common configuration on the used car market, so we will concentrate this review around this model. Pontiac G5 is a rebadged version of the Cobalt; it was sold in the US as a two-door coupe.

2008 Pontiac G5 interior
2008 Pontiac G5 interior

Powertrain: The 145-hp 2.2-liter DOHC Ecotec 4-cylinder engine was standard; the 171-hp 2.4L Ecotec was added for 2006. The transmission choices include a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic.

Fuel Economy: The EPA rates the 2009 2.2-liter automatic Cobalt at 24/33 mpg city/highway (9.8/7.1 L/100 km), which is about average for the class. Chevrolet Cobalt can drive estimated 316 miles or 508 kilometers on one 13-gallon (50 liter) tank with 45% highway, 55% city driving.

Interior: The cabin is fairly tight, seats are not very comfortable and some of the interior materials feel cheap. On the other hand, the visibility is good and controls are easy to use. Another plus, the list of available features includes an auxiliary audio input, steering wheel audio controls, trip computer with oil life monitor, satellite radio and remote start. The trunk is large but the opening is small; the split rear seats fold down for longer cargo items.

Handling and ride: On the road, the Cobalt handles well. The ride is comfortable. Other than some road noise, the cabin is fairly quiet. The 2.2L engine is powerful enough for a car of this size.

Safety: Antilock brakes (ABS) were available as an option on lower trims; standard on others. In the NHTSA frontal crash tests, the 2005-2010 Chevrolet Cobalt received four stars for the driver and five stars for the front passenger. The side-impact crash test scores varied from two to five stars between different models. For details, check www.safercar.gov.

Pros: Affordable, good engines, available premium features, the coupe is the least expensive sporty-looking small car you can buy, large trunk.

Cons: Interior materials, seats are not very comfortable, small trunk opening, the handbrake handle is obstructed by driver's armrest.

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Overall: The Cobalt is neither the most reliable, nor the most comfortable small car, but a used Chevrolet Cobalt is cheap and if you are ready to accept its shortcomings, it might work as a first car or an inexpensive commuter. Something like Honda Civic, Mazda 3 or Mitsubishi Lancer will be a better choice, but if you look at the prices, these cars are much more expensive. It might be a good idea to stay away from the 2005 and 2006 Cobalts, as they had more problems. On the plus side, the Cobalt's engine and transmission were mostly trouble-free. All four Cobalt engines have a maintenance-free timing chain; there is no timing belt to worry about. Read about common problems and what to look for on the next page.