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2006 Chevrolet Cobalt SS

Bad Badging

    The Sunburst Orange Chevy Cobalt in our fleet was wearing the two most revered letters in GM performance history, but we weren’t fooled. You see, Chevrolet actually offers two Cobalt SSs and one of them is worthy of the legendary designation and the other is little more than an appearance package. The subject of this review is the poseur. It may have SS badges glued to an attractive coupe body, but this was no Super Sport.
     We reviewed the SS Supercharged Cobalt last year and had plenty of good things to say about it. It offered racy but clean exterior enhancements and a supercharged Ecotec that gave the little coupe enough scoot to feel, well, super sporty. This go around, the SS coupe came sans the supercharger and, effectively, sans the excitement. Fortunately, its good looks, fine fuel efficiency (32mpg highway) and well-equipped cabin are enough to make this a contender in its class.
     The SS comes with the 2.4-liter VVT I4 that does duty throughout GM’s small car offerings. For some reason, it was far smoother in this application than in the Sky we drove a few weeks before. We would have preferred to stick with the standard 5-speed manual but, to its credit, the optional 4-speed automatic did a fine job. The combination is good for 171 hp and 163 lb-ft of torque. Not exactly the stuff of SS lore. Factor in the slushbox and maybe GM should consider a new designator: USS (Un-Super Sport). Ok, we’re getting sarcastic, but corporate misuse of such hallowed enthusiast heritage deserves a scolding.
     Outside the design is heavily influenced by the Supercharged Cobalt with similar front and rear fascias and attractive 17” wheels with performance tires. We like the design of the wheels but the wide spokes are susceptible to curb damage as nasty scrapes on the right front wheel of our tester indicated someone had already discovered. We are glad to report the wing on this model is substantially less over-the-top than the one that blocked all trailing traffic in the forced-induction SS. We continue to like the coupe’s clean flanks and four round taillights but a slightly lower ride height would further improve the sporty look.
     Swing open the long, heavy driver’s door and you’ll find a well-equipped cabin and straightforward ergonomics. We like the attractive chrome-ringed gauges and the silver-painted plastic trim breaks up the black interior well enough. A three-spoke steering wheel borrowed from the Pontiac Solstice would lend a sportier look to the cabin. We’d also recommend an upgrade to the new corporate bow-tie radio with its superior preset capabilities. A few more dollars on the interior would go a long way toward moving this cabin to the front of the pack. The cutout on the door that serves as an armrest could use some more padding. The pull-down drawer to the left of the steering wheel is remarkably cheap feeling while the leather our seats were finished in feels downright vinyl-like and as such, isn’t particularly attractive or supportive in the corners.
     Not that you’ll be hitting the hairpins like a Miata but the car’s electrically-boosted steering does have a little heft despite being numb. The SS has a front strut suspension and the control arms up there are made of aluminum versus heavier steel on lesser models. Antiroll bars are fitted to the front and rear but the rear torsion beam suspension tends to crash over the same sharp road irregularities that are easily soaked up by the front. Some refinement in this area is needed. We appreciate GM making the SS Supercharged’s larger four-wheel disc brakes standard on the regular SS.
     Although the coupe body may cut down on interior storage space, a large 13.9 cubic foot trunk (compromised slightly by the upgraded Pioneer stereo’s subwoofer) stands ready to accept luggage through the somewhat narrow opening.
     Our tester had a lot of options but SS models come well-equipped regardless. Our tester rang up at $21,645 but there’s a problem; a Civic Si can be had for almost exactly the same price. You can guess which one gets our endorsement. We suspect incentives will make transaction prices lower than the sticker price but it better be substantially lower or people will have no reason to pass on the far superior Civic Si.

The Good:
Looks good, sips fuel, strong brakes.
The Bad:
Some cheap interior bits, last-gen radio, 171 hp in an SS?!
The Verdict:
Not an SS by any stretch of the imagination, but a capable commuter with style.


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