I really like my 2009 Chevy Cobalt SS, but I often hear from other prospective buyers that they're afraid of the General Motors interior quality from that period. That's fair enough, as GM was known for nailing together some pretty bad stuff during the pre-bailout days. However, I'm here to tell you that it's not all bad.
To prove this to you, I'll talk you through the interior of my very own Cobalt SS. I'll tell you the good, the not so good, and heck, maybe even change your mind about getting one. I've definitely been in cars with worse interiors than my Cobalt, but then again, they were also made by GM. Let's get started and cover the bad news first.
The first bad thing is the overall quality of some of the plastics in here, primarily the silver stuff you see in these photos. It's not that it looks particularly awful—I'll show you where it looks the worst—but it's how it sounds and feels. Pressing on these plastic areas offers feedback similar to bending the leg of an action figure in a direction it doesn't want to bend. Crinkly, hollow, just not good at all.
The fit of these pieces leaves something to be desired in a few places, primarily where the climate panel and passenger airbag detection display meet. Then there are the blank buttons in my ride, where the heated seat controls would be had my car come with them. Sadly, it didn't.
Another area that looks and feels pretty garbage is the handbrake. It legitimately reminds me of something from Fisher-Price along the lines of My First Handbrake! It's hollow, feels extremely light, and the clicks offer no satisfaction. It is, by far, the only controlling device in this car that feels poor.
One side of it was also disconnected when I bought the car; as in the cable to one caliper was just not hooked up to the lever. This was because the cable was bad. I had to replace the cable, which I detailed in a separate post about this car.
Other areas of malcontent include the air vents whose control wheels have grown a bit sticky over the years and cupholders which are just a tad too small for our oversized modern drinks. Beyond that, the other bad spot is the door handles.
GM—like many other manufacturers, to be fair—liked the look of chrome door handles, but not the cost of die casting the parts in actual metal. As a result, it coated plastic handles with a chrome-looking substance that had some sort of metallic flake in it. I'll cut to the chase here; that coating comes off, and when it does, it develops sharp edges. It looks like garbage and it cuts your hands. They're a real treat.
I took the time to replace both of my door handles and it was really easy. Pays to buy an economy car because the door handles were $10 each and took very little time to replace. Now I have shiny new ones that impress approximately zero people who ride along with me.
I know this is going to sound hard to believe, but there is a lot of good stuff in here. Some of it is SS-specific, some of it isn't. Before we get all worked up about saying there are good parts in a GM interior—recalls aside—let me make my case.
I'm starting with the best parts: the seats. The SS-specific seats in this car are really good. They're supportive, the seating surface is made of a light grey faux-suede that has held up surprisingly well, and I just can't say enough good things about them. They're super comfortable and there's a great amount of bolstering, but I just wish they were heated. That would really put them over the top.
The rear seats are also made from the same stuff and they fold down pretty far. That means the Cobalt SS is actually a pretty practical car to own too, especially the sedan.
Another good thing is the technology you get in here, as silly as that likely sounds to somebody who owns a newer car. My old daily driver was built in 2002, so when I'm in that thing I have to deal with a screechy little FM transmitter if I want to listen to my own music. That car is the only reason why I still have any CDs.
That's not the way it is in the Cobalt, though. Not only do you get a USB port that can charge your smartphone—albeit very slowly—you also get an aux input that I was sort of surprised still worked with the USB-C adapter I use for my phone. Combine that with the two 12-volt outlets up front, and you are just swimming in late aughts technology. To be fair, one of these 12-volt outlets doesn't work, but I haven't gotten around to replace the fuse.
Really, there's more good than bad going on here. The SSs (SSes?) all got real factory-installed boost gauges, there's a handy little glovebox to the left of the steering where I keep an emergency can of Rich Energy and some hand sanitizer, and even the cheap-feeling plastic center console is held on with actual metal clips. Other manufacturers—cough BMW cough—could learn about using metal clips on more than just interior bits.
Hell, even the sound system in the Cobalt is far better than you would expect. There are tweeters on the A-pillars and even a big subwoofer in the trunk. Trust me, if it was really terrible I would tell you.
There's plenty of good stuff here, but also a lot of bad. In fact, there are enough not-so-good things for me to be hesitant to buy a regular Cobalt—that is, without all of the great SS-specific parts and features. What I'm saying is, the reason you buy a car like this isn't for the factory-installed aux cable or the USB port, it's for the drivetrain. When it comes to the Cobalt SS, people forget that for whatever reason.
So is the interior bad? As an owner, I'd say no, but others say yes. My priorities are going fast, having fun, and being comfortable while doing so. The Cobalt SS provides that. The clutch feel is excellent, the brakes are great, the steering speaks volumes about what's going on at the front; it's a real driver's car. It has no-lift-shift and launch control, after all.
To see prospective buyers get turned off because of the interior really just feels like a waste to me. People want cheap performance cars and trust me, this is a good one. I'm open about what I paid for this thing—it was absolutely worth it.
But you should make up your own mind. If you can find one that wasn't completely ruined already, just give it a test drive. I promise you'll be surprised at the very least.
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