In the 2000s, American automakers introduced several performance compacts. The SVT Focus, Cobalt SS, Neon SRT-4, and Caliber SRT-4 all came equipped with some pretty respectable powertrains and decent driving dynamics. Then they were cancelled. Presumably, the Big Three killed their performance compacts because demand was weak and funds were tight. A minor event compared to what happened in the 2010s. But there was a time when every American automaker attempted to compete with the Civic Si and Volkswagen GTI, even if it was relatively short lived.
The Cobalt SS lineup represented Chevy’s effort to woo young performances enthusiasts to their side. And in typical GM fashion, the small SS models arrived undercooked and contained the wrong ingredients. But they really didn’t leave a bad taste in people’s mouths.
One of the most glaring issues with Chevy’s SS Cobalt lineup was its inconsistency. Throughout the model’s run, there were multiple engines boasting significantly different horsepower ratings. And some of those engines shared similar displacements but were fundamentally different. There’s nothing wrong with offering different performance variants of the same car. But lumping all of them underneath one umbrella will inevitably lead to confusion. Chevy didn’t get the memo about that relatively simple concept and introduced distinctly different SS models early into the Cobalt’s tenure. The less expensive (and less powerful) models came equipped with a naturally aspirated 2.4 liter Ecotec four good for 173 horsepower. Power aside, they also offered a sport tuned suspension, SS badging inside and out, and an optional four-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission.
Our featured Cobalt is actually a different SS altogether. This 2007 is an SS Supercharged Coupe. Unlike the naturally aspirated SS models, these only came with two doors and did not offer an optional automatic transmission. Instead, they contained a spicier engine: the supercharged 2.0 liter Ecotec. Even the 173 horsepower SS models were pretty quick for the day, but the supercharged variant was even faster. GM estimated a 0-60 mph time of 6.4 seconds. This model only lasted three model years before being discontinued because it didn’t meet emissions standards and because GM’s contract with supercharger supplier Eaton had expired.
Unsurprisingly, the naturally aspirated SS models are considered inferior to the supercharged model, while that variant isn’t as widely praised as its successor, the SS Turbocharged Coupe. Our featured Cobalt may not have been the best performance compact from Chevy, but it’s still a solid performer. And it seems like it’s held up pretty well. GM’s interiors aren’t known for their quality, but this one seems to have beaten the odds. I don’t see any broken bits or worn buttons. The seats look good too.
The only immediate red flag is the ill-fitting trunk liner. Probably not a big issue, as it seems the owner may have installed a subwoofer at some point, judging by that exposed wire.
Here’s the seller’s blurb:
2007 Chevy Cobalt SS supercharged one owner. Selling for a friend who recently was married and wants a four door car. Currently in a garage in Newburgh with 84,500 miles. Very well maintained. Pretty much every option that was available. Heated leather seats, premium sound system, sun roof, cruise control, and 5 speed manual. Car is totally stock.
With 84,000 miles and a $4400 asking price, this Cobalt seems like a decent deal for anyone looking for a relatively unique performance compact. There are two potential downsides. The first is the probability that a limited run model might leave something to be desired in terms of reliability. Second, the ignition switch recall might have to be performed if it hasn’t already. But if the seller is speaking the truth that this Cobalt has been well maintained, those issues might not be relevant.
Source: Hudson Valley craigslist
Ok its quick to 60 but after that 6.4 seconds can you pull on full lock and turn without lifting off the throttle and actually turn? or is it just straight line fast?
It’s a FWD GM product, you ask a rhetorical question sir. 🙂
A turbocharged Cobalt SS ran an 8:22.85 lap of the Nurburgring, averaging 147 kph (92 mph), and setting a production FWD car lap record that stood for years. It could go around turns just fine.
Sounds awesome Dave, I am going to dig up that video.
How’d the diesel Citroen do? 🙂
I don’t know if Bryce is implying that once a Citroen has accelerated to 60mph, that at that point you can turn the wheel to the left one and a half turns to FULL LOCK while keeping the throttle floored and the car will actually make a U-turn in the next fifteen feet of travel but it sure sounds like it and I have to call BS on that…
What I actually said Jim a long time ago is my diesel Xsara could do a U turn at town traffic speed just by turning the wheel and keeping the toeque going and yes it will do a right angle corner at 100KMH or 60MPH in the ancient measure but it is not pleasant for the driver at all the car is fine with such violent turns the platform its built on gained world aclaim for its handling abilities way back in a dim dark past when it debuted and it 1998 the Xsara on debut in the WRC swept away all the competition in tarmac rallies taking the first five placing on first showing.
How about on bumpy two lane blacktop lots of cars handle really well on well surfaced race tracks but badly on real roads.
OK 8.22 sounds pretty quick but when you take into account Sabine Schmitt got under 10 minutes in a stock diesel Transit van it sounds more like extreme speed between corners, Nurburgring has little relevance to real world driving if it had a marked centreline and several heavy trucks circulating in the other direction making drivers stay in their lane at speed it might mean something to us mere mortals who only have one lane to drive in not the entire width of the road.
Those are some impressive mental gymnastics Bryce. Sorry but the Cobalts do handle quite well.
I have never run across one of these other than the NA 2.4 SS body kit models (which truly are a deadly sin IMHO). This one is actually one I would want to drive. I wouldn’t want to own it as once it starts breaking somewhere around 84k miles it would become quite difficult to find parts for I do suspect.
And it looks like the spoiler was sourced from an Impreza which may not be a good thing.
Without consistent oil change receipts, hard pass. The supercharger blocks the oil filter almost completely in these and the related Saturn Ion Redline. They were $85 at the dealers when new to perform an oil change, and required a skilled backyard hand and extra tools to properly do at home. No way would I trust one of these without a long and detailed maintenance record.
I had this car’s Ion Redline twin for 10 years and 40k miles. The oil change is actually not bad if you buy the correct socket for the filter adapter. it was fast in a straight line for sure. I upgraded it with a smaller blower pulley, bigger injectors, header, downpipe and cat back. It put 260 to the front wheels which was pretty fun in a sub 3000 lb car. But the interior quality was terrible and the whole car felt cheap and buzzy. The armrests oozed glue the entire time I owned it. Finally got tired of the cheapness and boy racerness of it and was daily driving my crown Vic anyway so traded it in on a ‘15 Mustang GT.
Thiought that dash looked familiar – same platform as the Astra H.
Astra VXR where you come from I think one whole second faster around 5th gear test track than the diesel version.
I know that beast; a near neighbour has one with a (very) loud pedal.
I read that GM benchmarked the MkIV VW Jetta when designing the Cobalt. The interiors are virtually identical.
To be fair, the original Impala SS of the early sixties could be had with any engine, even a six!
Actually, the original 1961 SS came only with the 348 V8. And with a four speed transmission. And as a four door, if you wanted.
I believe the 305 hp 348 was available with a HD powerglide. Intended for law enforcement
The Cruze should have gotten a true SS variant. Suspension from the Cruze RS with a 2.0 Turbo 6 speed
We got one of these as a trade-in at the small town Ford dealer I worked at a couple years back. There were exactly 3 issues I had/have with that little turd of a car. First, the gearbox was especially sloppy, like stirring a spatula in a bowl of thick mud. Definitely a downgrade from the Cavalier Z24’s Getrag 5-speed. Second, none of the dealership boys or myself could figure out how to get the trunk open for about 20 minutes until someone googled it and realized the boot release button is in the cup holder. Which is almost as stupid of an idea as my 3rd issue with that car, the E-brake being located UNDER the center console. You could either have the brake lever up but your center console was canted backwards, or have your console laying flat but the brake lever was all the way down. An absolute appalling interior in what was legitimately a fun car to drive, minus the transmission.
Ah yes, the trunk release was in the little change tray that folded out of the dash to the left of the steering wheel. I don’t think its any worse than the many 1990s cars with a trunk release in the glovebox. But the tiny icon molded in the cover was almost invisible unless you were in the footwell looking directly at the door. I always did hate the cheap-o armrest in these, though. At least you got one on LT2 and up models. LT1 and LS models had no armrest. The first-gen Focus had a very similar design.
I remember driving a black 2007 SS coupe just like this one, minus the huge wing and with the automatic and 2.4. IIRC, for 2005 and 2006 the only SS was the supercharged coupe. In 2007, they offered the non-supercharged SS in 2 and 4 door with the 2.4 and either auto or manual, and they came with pretty much every option you could get including pleather, heated seats, sunroof and Monsoon sound. That was the first year for a USB port on the corporate head unit. Then, for 2008 and 2009, the 2.4 became the Sport trim, and all the kit became optional (I drove some Sport trim sedans with cloth and no sunroof, but the same good looking 17″ Monoblock-style wheels). At that time, the SS once again became top dog, with the wild 260hp turbo engine. I’m honestly not sure where the sporty/up-option trims went for 2010, as I don’t remember ever driving anything above an LT2 trim from that year. And 2011 was year the Cruze replaced the Cobalt.
The trunk release in the glove box was put there so it could be locked with a key.
Yes, it could have been wired to an accessory or ignition electrical feed, but then parking lot attendants would have had access to what’s in the trunk. What kept them out of the glove box? You would leave them not your regular key but a valet key, which operated only the door locks and ignition, not the glove box and trunk. Many people, the kind who never read instruction manuals, thought they were defective keys and threw them away.
I had the Ion Red line version of this car also. And much like the previous commenter, I also grew tired of the extremely cheap and plastic interior. I think it’s even worse than the cobalt. It basically felt like I was driving a Rubbermaid bin.
I had a Cobalt LTZ (!) as a rental one time. Might have even been a manual. Glass moonroof, steering wheel that was just “so”, nice two-tone leather, upgraded stereo…quiet and rattle free…great package and a blast to drive through the twisty country roads of northwest Alabama where my client was located.
I have never seen another one after I turned it in. Wonder if I dreamed that sometimes.
I have read that the SS models weren’t the worst, and they were certainly fast (I have never driven one in that trim), but I just deeply cringe at the sight of these.
I remember extremely well when they introduced the Cobalt in 2005. A big improvement over the wretched Cavalier, it seemed. Clean, modern, a much better interior and engine. I rented a couple when new in 2009 and 2010, and they seemed cheap but OK for the the ultra-low loss leader prices GM was selling them for near the end of their run.
Then the years wore on. The cars wore out… fast, and often in very visible ways. By the mid-2010s these were already hitting junkyards in mass quantities at less than 10 years old. The interiors, suspension pieces, and body hardware disintegrated like toilet paper. Rattles, creaks, rust, bad paint, clouded, condensed headlights, peeling chrome, missing hubcaps, snapped off exterior door handles, worn front seats, faded dashboards, burnt out dashboard lights, and discolored Chevy bowtie logos were almost a guarantee by year 8 or 9. Chevy Cobalts, in general, are essentially shot by 120k miles. Yes, you can find one on Craigslist for $900 that limped along to almost 200k with a disgusting interior, bare steel wheels, and a wobbling, rattly, nasty ride. I recently rode in a Cobalt being used as an Uber car that fit this description quite well. But they are about the worst modern cars you can buy besides a Dodge Caliber.
The newest examples of these are now 10 years old, and they are mostly gone here in Michigan where they sold in massive quantities. I pretty much never see a nice one. Resale values are sub-Kia level. I wouldn’t touch one even as a beater, SS or not. When a pre-2012 Ford Focus seems like a nice car in comparison, you know something is wrong.
I bought an 07 SS Coupe with the 2.4 automatic brand new in September of 07. At the time my Mother in law had an 07 LT3 sedan with every option on it and my daughter had an 06 LT coupe that was mid level equipped. I found the SS to be quicker, quieter and overall a bit better screwed together than the other two Cobalts in the family. I liked the white faced gauges in the SS, the sound system was nicer too. Mine had the low profile spoiler rather than that park bench boy racer unit most SS models seem to have been built with. Overall I thought it was a nice car for the money. I didn’t own it very long…especially for me as I keep cars forever. 17 months after purchasing it, I traded it in for a 2010 Camaro I placed an order for. I can’t say how that little SS would have done over the long haul, though I am fanatical with maintenance so I’m sure it would have been fine. My daughter’s lived a rough life at college with only occasional maintenance and by year eight she traded it on a Subaru, which incidentally though not having lots of minor problems like her Cobalt, has had a meticulous maintenance , and a number of major problems including transmission replacement…and if you ever visit Tucson, you’ll see that description of aged Cobalts fits any Toyota, Honda or Nissan with a few years and Miles on them. If you get three years out of a Nissan or Honda before the clear coat is peeling off in sheets in Tucson you’re lucky. If the headliner in your Camry isn’t falling down by year five, also lucky. And fogged headlights are a given on anything that spends time outside. it’s all in how they are maintained.
First of all, when launched in late 2004, the 2005 Cobalt SS came with only ONE power train: a 205 hp supercharged 2.0 liter with a 5-speed.
There was a G60 option for about $1500 which had a Quaife limited slip and Recaro seats. Of course, those were the tested versions
Consumer Reports tested one and praised it, while lamenting that lesser Cobalts did Not drive as well.
More importantly, Car and Driver did their first “Lightning Lap” at Virginia International Raceway. It included sporty cars. The much loved VW GTi Turbo was 5-6 seconds behind the Cobalt SS.
But the really impressive feat was that the Cobalt SS was faster around the track than a Mustang 5.0. By less than a second, but the Mustang had almost 100 hp more. Subjectively, C/D praised the Cobalts overall balance. Pretty heady stuff for the son of Cavalier.
In 2006 or 2007, GM cheapened the SS moniker by slapping it on a 2.4 liter, and making the real article an “SS Supercharged”
In 2007, to save a few bucks, GM dropped the superb Recaro seats as an option.
In 2008, GM replaced the supercharged motor with a 260 hp turbo engine. It was noticeably quicker than its supercharged predecessor. GM kept the lesser SS models, vs SS Turbo.
So, the real SS was a top notch car that on the road could out-GTI at GTI. In real life, the nice steering, slick shifter with great ratios, tons of torque on the supercharged engine (it felt like a V8) while getting 28 mpg, 32-34 on the road, superb Recaro seats, and fantastic exhaust note made it a great car.
Definitely a curbside classic!!!
Like others noted, the Cobalt SS was a halo car for the small car line back in the 00’s. Unfortunately, during that time, the SS name didn’t always guarantee a top of the line performance car, something that they’ve rectified since. If you got one of the either supercharged or turbocharged versions, they were rather competent cars. As time went on, it seems they tried to capitalize on the SS name, with the 2.4 motored cars. They were pretty decent performers, but didn’t have the absolute performance the super- or turbocharged cars had.
Later in the run, they de-contented the cars somewhat and finally re-named the non boosted versions as “Sport”, rather than SS. I think there was finally some clarity in Chevrolet marketing, realizing they were diluting their trademark. As much as I love the Malibu Maxx SS, I think the name was a misnomer. Same with the naturally aspirated Cobalt 2.4 liter cars. The lesser powered cars were just cars, but the top of the line SS turbo or supercharged cars were legitimate performers.
As I’ve dipped my feet into the world of cheap fwd circle track racing, across a lot of the US the naturally aspirated Cobalt SS with the 2.4l Ecotecs (and even the regular 2.2L) are a very popular and successful platform, picking up where the Cavaliers left off (that’s not to say there aren’t still a bunch of Cavaliers racing). Apparently their longer wheelbase pays dividends on the longer 1/3 and 1/2 mile tracks, that and the sturdy and powerful engines. They’re not particularly light cars though, nor are their Cavalier predecessors. An obvious factor too is their low price and availability of sub $500 cars to build and pull parts from.
Edward’s write-up does the car a disservice, and is not up to CC’s typical standards. If this was a COAL and he was recounting his personal experience with a Cobalt SS 2.4, then it might have some validity to it.
His assertion “the small SS models arrived undercooked and contained the wrong ingredients” is totally incorrect.
He obviously had no idea what the auto press was writing in 2005, or chose to ignore it.
The car arrived fine.
Like many (most?) I was a GM skeptic. But I read the Car & Driver Lightning Loop. Then I drove one at a dealer. It was as good ad Consumer Report and CD said.
After the car was launched, GM chose to offer an “SS Lite” if you will, which was not the real thing. It’s not the first time an automaker has watered down a brand.
The Cobalt SS was pricey–for a Cobalt. It was handicapped by it’s “son of Cavalier” lineage. But as a VW GTI or Subaru WRX alternative, it was not a bad deal.
Even a base new Cobalt in 2005 was a credible car. The the “real deal” SS was excellent. And I didn’t even know about the Nurbrging lap.
Well, just goes to show, now one is perfect, not even CC.
I’ve read a lot of Cruze reviews where the Cobalt and Cavalier are mentioned in the same breath as previous GM small car efforts that were uniformly bad. I strongly disagree, I think the Cobalt was a definite stepping stone from the reasonably durable/reliable but crude Cavalier to the fully competitive (and in terms of refinement, superior) Cruze that came out in 2011. Cobalt lands somewhere in between those two. In 2005 in particular it was a pretty strong offering. Bigger/more powerful than what most compacts were offering. I came fairly close to buying a 2010 XFE sedan with a stick shift in 2012. Granted, compared to 2012 competition (Chevy’s own cruze in particular, but even Corollas and the 2012 Civic), the Cruze felt pretty cheaply put together and kind of crude/agricultural in terms of the engine/transmission. The shifter/clutch in particular was miles away from the 2012 Civic’s that I ended up buying. But it was kind of endearing in a way: 2.2 Ecotec was notably gruffer and stronger down low than the Civic’s laser smooth 1.8L, paired with that kind of balky shifter and stiff clutch, it felt like a “real man’s car” to drive. Biggest complaint about the Cruze was the seat. Very stiff and narrow at the lower back, this put the kibosh on it for me in the end.
Without a doubt, the Cobalt was a significant step up from the Cavalier. (And the Cruze was a step up from the Cobalt).
I had to get a car on short notice in 2006, so I looked for a Cobalt sedan with a manual trans. I test drove a lightly used one on a Friday. Not an exceptional car, but I pleasant enough. Monday I called to express my serious interest–it was sold. THAT got my attention, so I looked some more. Manual base Cobalts were hard to find.
After that, I test drove an SS Supercharged 2005 leftover (it was the only manual trans available at this dealer), and I really liked it. I also drove the “base SS”, and found it not bad, but nothing to write home about. Having decided to splurge on an SS Supercharged, I found a 2006 with the Recaros and got it.
Best driving car I have ever owned. Not practical if you need to use the back seat (ingress/egress is awkward), but a blast to drive, and
In 2010 I had too many cars and not enough income, so it had to go. It was easy to sell–the first person to look at it bought it.
3 years and 40k miles is not a lot, and should be trouble-free. Mine was-except once every few weeks, when launching from a stop, the engine would hesitate. It looked like I was a new driver. Two dealers could not duplicate it. I could not duplicate it. The car was awful in the snow–new car, 30 days old, I slid into a curb at barely 5mph. The wheel was scraped, but still round and true. The control arm and hub were not. $2k later, I got snow tires.
In 2011, I started looking for a used Cobalt, base or SS. What surprised, and disappointed me, was how chintzy the 5-yr old base Cobalts felt. Where they just not robust, or were their prior owners abusive, or both?
The used SS Supercharged Cobalts felt pretty good, but they were not in as good condition as the one I had sold a year before. Two were modified already (I don’t like mods), one had 90k miles, one was filthy and had been in a minor accident. There was a like new used 1-owner Turbo SS, like new. If it had the Recaro seats, I might have gotten it, but it was too much, and those seats were part of the SS SUpercharged appeal.
So I gave up on replacing my SS SUpercharged. The Cruze had just come out, but too much money to buy or lease new, so I leased a Malibu. Yes, I prefer domestic in general, and GM, despite their shortcomings.
I’m sure a used Civic sedan 5-speed would have worked great for me–and probably held up better.
Now Cobalts in general are hard to find used. Maybe the key fiasco.
“The car was awful in the snow”
I’m willing to bet this came down to having summer tires on that SS, ones that got really hard in the cold. All that supercharger torque probably didn’t help!
Relatively wide, low profile summer tires and snow/ice don’t mix, and throw in a relatively high power to weight ratio, and even front wheel drive can’t save the day.
After I hit the curb, I got winter tires and steel wheels. They made a huge difference.
I replaced the factory OEM Pirelli (P-Zero?) Rosso (Nero?) summer tires with Hankook Ventus EV12 tires They cost less than I expected for name brand 45-series (40 series?) tires, less than $600 all-in.
At about 26k, the original tires were worn. I’m not a pro driver, but the Hankook summner tires felt essentially the same to me–car still stuck like glue, and rode well, maybe a tad quieter.