Remember the Saturn Ion? GM hopes you don't, because it's widely regarded as the General's nastiest product since the Aztek. The Delta platform introduced with the Ion received a deep therapeutic massage in anticipation of its use under Chevrolet's new Cobalt. Upgrades include a steel-sandwich firewall, a molded cover to quiet engine ruckus, a cast-aluminum oil pan to stiffen the engine-to-transmission interface, improved door seals, and higher-grade tires. Except for being two inches taller, the Cobalt is slightly smaller than the Cavalier it replaces. It weighs 200 pounds more, confirming attention to structural integrity and crashworthiness since the Cavalier was engineered more than twenty years ago. There are coupe and sedan body styles and a new SS Supercharged coupe. Notable in the powertrain lineup is the addition of a supercharged and intercooled 2.0-liter four-cylinder identical to the Ion Redline's engine. Internal components originally engineered for the Saab 9-3 whip out 205 hp and a husky 200 lb-ft of torque. In 2006, a normally aspirated, 2.4-liter Ecotec rated at 170 hp also will be offered in the SS. GM is praying the Cobalt's fresh face finally will help Chevy make headway in the highly competitive compact segment.
ON SALE: Fall 2004
Price: $15,000-$20,000 (est.)
ENGINES: 140-hp, 2.2-liter I-4; 170-hp, 2.4-liter I-4; 205-hp, supercharged 2.0-liter I-4
BOTTOM LINE: Chevy's latest warrior, armed to battle Civics and Corollas.