For 2009, General Motors is offering an even more fuel-efficient version of their no frills, Chevrolet Cobalt XFE, this car is a step in the right direction for the American automaker, the 9% improvement in fuel economy is also an answer to the upcoming CAFE regulation put in place by the U.S. Senate. Although it is the base model Cobalt, and we do mean base, lacking power assisted creature comforts like windows and door locks, there isn’t even an automatic transmission option.
However, the checkbook friendly Cobalt does come with a air conditioning, an AM/FM/MP3 stereo and a sporty wing on the trunk. The 2.2 Liter ECOTEC four cylinder is up 7 HP from last year’s model, for a maximum output of 155 HP. The added power is necessary in order to turn the more economical 3.74:1 final drive, the extra gearing means that the XFE can run at a lower RPM, and burn less gas, when cruising on the highway in 5th gear. This is only one of the fuel saving features that make the Chevrolet Cobalt XFE a segment best in the fuel mileage category; better than the Ford Focus, Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic. The $16,000 entry level Chevrolet model gets an EPA estimated 36 MPG on the highway.
The Chevrolet Cobalt XFE is what you get when you ask the salesman for a base Cobalt. Despite the low price, the XFE is still the same good looking compact from Chevrolet. The steel wheels are a dead giveaway to the budget minded nature of the XFE, wrapped in low rolling resistance rubber means that although they are unattractive, the rolling adds to the vehicle’s efficiency. Chevrolet’s cost cutting department didn’t take everything away; the XFE has a sporty rear wing that would look good with a set of aftermarket rims. The only other feature that could distinguish this plain Jane Cobalt apart from the rest of the crowd are the XFE specific badges.
The interior of the Chevrolet Cobalt XFE can be described by a few different adjectives; some would call it clean, others would call it bare. The door panels feature window cranks as opposed to switches and locking each individual lock on the four-door could be a pain, but on the coupe it wasn’t such a big deal. The seats are only offered in cloth, but they are covered with an eye pleasing two-tone color scheme. The speedometer and tachometer are easy to read, but the gauges are another area where you can see the cost cutting nature of the XFE, you won’t find a coolant temperature gauge or fancy things like a tire pressure monitoring system; the only extra is the gas gauge. Whereas the majority of the interior is what you can call stripped, the Chevrolet design team didn’t skimp on the radio. The unit receives AM/FM/XM signals and even has MP3 capabilities. Who needs a CD player when you have an iPod?
Why to buy?
The Chevrolet Cobalt XFE would make a great first car, a vehicle that any parent should feel comfortable giving their road going teen. The low price and efficient nature of the XFE makes it an economical solution to personal transportation. If you are shopping Corolla, Civic or Focus you might like to know that the XFE gets better gas mileage than all them. According to Chevrolet’s General Manager Ed Pepper, the “Cobalt has always been an efficient performer, but the changes with the new XFE elevate it to a leadership position that will appeal to customers who put fuel economy at the top of their new-car priority list, … better still, the efficiency enhancements don’t come at the price of the safety and convenience features that serve as the foundation of Cobalt’s value story."
As I watched the field of the Koni Challenge racing series lap Laguna Seca, I saw something that changed my mind about this low budget Cobalt. With a little over an hour and a half left in the race, the number 138 Chevrolet Cobalt overshot The Corkscrew and plummeted into the gravel covered hillside ripping off the front splitter, and giving the driver an apparent jolt. As the black Cobalt drove into the pits seemingly unscathed, I thought to myself, that’s a pretty strong racecar. So for tuners and racecar builders, the already stripped XFE would be a better starting point for their high performance application, the low purchase price also leaves more money for the final product.
Why not to buy?
The Cobalt XFE is anything but a luxury ride. The car’s compact economical nature doesn’t lend itself to being an automobile filled with creature comforts, instead it is a purpose built low budget gas sipper. If you are looking for a vehicle filled with factory options keep shopping, maybe you should check out an Escalade instead.
Top Speed Final Verdict
We found the Chevrolet Cobalt XFE to be an enjoyable ride, sure we can’t boast about the heated and cooled seats or the television screens in the headrests, but that’s o.k. The Cobalt XFE reminds us about everyday people looking for a car that fits their budget, something that has never been more important than in today’s fledgling economy. It was the Chevy Manager who said it best, “Any way you look at it, the Cobalt XFE is a smart choice for those looking to maximize their car-buying dollar, … It’s well equipped, efficient and plenty of fun to drive." The Cobalt XFE is a well-styled vehicle that offered a fun to drive 5-speed in a lightweight package. The XFE is the best affordable automobile that we have tested at Top Speed, but the best part of all is that when you decide to drive the Chevrolet, is that you are buying American.