Suddenly Cobalt Beats its Competition
By Igor Holas
Among all the excitement over Chevrolet’s new 260 horsepower Cobalt SS, GM made a much quieter, but much more significant change to the Cobalt lineup.
Starting immediately, GM claims the Cobalt with manual transmission to be among the “most fuel-efficient compacts on the market” with 36 miles per gallon highway. This is mostly true, as this new number beats out the Corolla (34mpg for the now current 2009 model) Civic (34 mpg) and Focus (35 mpg) who have been leading until now. However, the Civic with automatic transmission achieves the same highway mileage and better city mileage, and the Civic hybrid (of course) beats out all of them. Nonetheless, the mileage improvement is a meaningful and important improvement to the otherwise well-rounded Cobalt. Using a standard engine that is significantly larger than its competition, the Cobalt has been saddled with a somewhat mediocre 33 mpg until now. Moreover, the new mileage rating was still achieved on the 2.2l EcoTec, which also boasts the best-in-class horsepower (148) and torque (152), leaving the 1.8l and 2.0l engines from the aforementioned competition in the dust. To exemplify the magnitude of GM’s achievement, the very-much acclaimed Mazda3 with a similarly-powerful 2.3l engine achieves miserable 29 miles per gallon on the highway – a full seven mpg difference.
GM did not reveal all the details of the changes, but did mention engine calibration and tires with lower rolling resistance. Our guess is also that the fifth-gear of the transmission was made significantly taller. These changes will probably take away a little bit of the edge of the engine, but should still leave its peppiness intact. This new fuel mileage improvement comes standard on LS and 1LT models, and to celebrate this newly found efficiency, these cars will be tagged with a new XFE badge. “XFE” stands for (E)Xtra Fuel Economy, and will also come standard. Unfortunately, other internal GM documents outline that starting with the 2009 model, the 1LT Sedan model will not be offered with a manual transmission, leaving the coupe as the only option for a well-optioned and efficient Cobalt; which is very unfortunate.
The four-speed automatic transmission will remain in place in the Cobalt delivering unchanged 31 miles per gallon, and while this is nowhere near the top of the class, it is still in the meat of the segment. Despite the excellent mileage delivered by the Civic thanks to its (unique to the segment) 5-speed automatic, most competitors deliver 30-33 miles per gallon on the highway and continue to use the simple four-speed transmissions.
To the media’s delight, General Motors has been focusing lately on showing off its performance vehicles such as the G8, Solstice, and the new HHR and Cobalt SS. But to most consumers, the new Cobalt XFE is a much more significant introduction. I certainly applaud GM for investing energy and money into improving an already solid product, and delivering improvements that do not merely come “close enough” but actually beat out the competition. Hopefully this step is not just an aberration from GM, and we will see continuous gradual improvement from GM on a more regular basis. Ford has recently began delivering annual changes to its models, and it has helped keep many of its products fresh and attractive in the marketplace, GM would do well to follow Ford’s lead in this instance.
In any case, anyone who can take advantage of this better mileage product should do so, especially in the next 5 months before Chevrolet restricts the availability of the manual transmission on the Cobalt.
Below is GM’s message from GM Dealerworld
Subject: 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt Fuel Economy Improvement Announcement Effective March 17, 2008
The Chevrolet Cobalt Marketing Team is excited to announce a significant fuel economy improvement on the 2008 Cobalt. Effective March 17, 2008 , any LS or 1LT Cobalt Coupe or Sedan model ordered with manual transmissions will get 36 miles per gallon on the highway. This three mile per gallon improvement now gives Cobalt the best in class manual transmission highway fuel economy.
To make these Cobalt models stand out a new badge has been added to the right side of the trunk lid labeled “XFE” (Xtra Fuel Economy).
Quick Answers Regarding Cobalt XFE
How do I order a Cobalt that gets 36 miles per gallon on the highway?
-Effective immediately, any LS or 1LT model coupe or sedan ordered with a manual transmission will get 36 miles per gallon highway.
With 36 MPG what competitors does this Cobalt beat in highway fuel economy? Just a few are:
-2008 Honda Civic 34 MPG
-2008 Ford Focus 35 MPG
-2009 Toyota Corolla 35 MPG
-2008 Mini Cooper S 34 MPG
-2008 Mazda3 32 MPG
-2008 Dodge Caliber 29 MPG
-2008 Honda Fit 34 MPG
-2008 Toyota Matrix 33 MPG
-2008 Nissan Sentra 33 MPG
-2008 Nissan Versa 33 MPG
Is there a special badge?
-Yes, there is all new XFE badge located on the right side of the trunk deck lid.
Is the Cobalt window sticker revised to reflect 36 MPG?
-Yes, starting with production on March 17, 2008 and after, LS & 1LT models with manual transmission will have a widow sticker that reads 36 MPG.
What does XFE stand for?
-Xtra Fuel Economy.
How did this improvement in fuel economy happen?
-Engine calibration, improved tires and a few other special items we don’t want the competitors to know about..
Does this improved fuel economy apply to both Coupe & Sedan LS and 1LT manual transmission models?
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