Go Simple: 2009 Cobalt LS XFE Sedan

There’s a lot to be said for not owning a complicated machine. Fewer things can go wrong with it. Take the 2009 Chevy Cobalt LS. The windows roll down by hand. The speedometer and tachometer instrumentation are analogue. But guess what? I got to take it for a good long ride last winter and tested all that simplicity. For so little money, it’s a good buy.

Prettier from Without
If you’re considering this, you’re on a budget – so you won’t mind compromises. Design wise, the Cobalt’s a mixed bag. The utilitarian grey plastic molding and cloth seats were uninspiring, almost Soviet – but on the outside, this sedan takes its design cues from imports twice its price, featuring a rather nice tail and handsome profile.

Drives Well; Passing…it Gets a Pass
A 155hp 4-banger, it’s not a beast to take to the track but the Cobalt is still a good drive. A tight turning circle and premium ride suspension keep things smooth and nimble. It handles well in the city and is responsive on the highway. Just stay out of the passing lane.

On fuel, it Gets an A
Back to simplicity, the grandly named Driver Information Centre gives you what you need to stretch your dollars: fuel range and litres per 100km based on your driving style.

I liked this XFE (extra fuel efficiency) model with its even more grandly named “Getrag” five-speed manual transmission. A shift indicator light prompts you to change gears. Mostly, I kept my eyes on the road and just listened. In the city it dinks a respectable 8 litres per 100km, but on the highway, that plummets to just 5.4. Take those pennies it saves because you’ll definitely want the $1,150 air conditioning upgrade. The Cobalt comes with ultraviolet and infrared reflective glass but that won’t stop it getting very hot.

And, budget aside, do you really want to be rolling down those windows all summer in the city?

Base price: $15,225
As driven: $18,990

This is a test