Test drove Cobalt SS and Civic Si today, my review:
I had some time this morning to burn so I decided to head out and take a spin in a couple of cars that a lot of people compare to the SRT4, just to get an idea about the cars and see how I feel about the, driving all three during the same couple of hours to compare everything.
The first place I went was to Beardmore Chevrolet of Bellevue. They had two Cobalt SS on the lot. The salesman was a young guy,
maybe 22 at the most. He got the keys to a sunburst orange metallica SS, price $23,390. The leather seats were nice, the car had a little
more leg room than my srt4. The first thing I noticed as I went to start the car was the clutch was really rigid, and upon letting out the clutch,
there is no free range at all, no easy engaging, it just grabs, it took some getting used to. There just really isn't any pedal to work with, you
are BOOM in gear, and I lurched the car forward a bit and damn near killed it. The short throw shifter was nice, sat up a little higher than I
am used to so it took a bit of getting used to. The steering wheel had several buttons on it, very convenient, and I also noticed the car had
cruise control, something I really miss on long trips with my car. I liked the location of the boost gauge but in retrospect I wish I would have
paid a little more attention under boost, I think the most I saw it pushing was 7 psi but I didn't look at it much, trying to get a feel for the car
as I was going down the road under throttle. This particular car had a power sunroof, and the 'smoker's package' (wouldn't mention that
but for some reason the salesguy felt the need to mention it). Also came equipped with side curtain airbags.
As I took off down the road, I noticed immediately that it seemed to have instant power on the go, smooth delivery all along the rpm curve,
going into second gear without losing a beat, again, power is smooth pushing on up the rpms. But as second gear peaked, it felt as though
something was missing. No biggy, shifted into third and then I really got on it to see what the SS could do. It was third gear that was really
lacking. The acceleration was there, it was smooth, I was pulling faster, but I don't know, the best description I can come up with is
"gasping for breath" because it was really missing that "punch" that I'm used to in third gear. Pushing it hard beyond third would have
meant going a good chunk beyond the speed limit so it's hard to gauge acceleration beyond that. The car handled extremely well except the
steering had a very distant feel to it, there as a lack of 'hands on' response. I was also very surprised at how jarring the ride was, this car rides
harder than my srt does. It was tight thru a number of curves I took it thru though, hugged the road nicely. Upon downshifting coming up to
stops, the car was really quiet, almost too quiet compared to what I'm used to, it was hard to hear where the engine was at rpm wise, I guess
I get used to knowing without having to look with the srt4. As I pulled back into the lot, I noticed a 4 door sedan SS, and I was rather
shocked to find out that Chevy is selling out the SS nameplate on a non supercharged coupe and sedan version of the Cobalt. That's a shame.
Not that Dodge has any room to talk with the SRT design pieces of shit out there.
I hopped into my car then and drove up the street just a little bit to Honda Cars of Bellevue and asked them about a test drive in a Honda Civic Si.
The salesman had a Fiji Blue Pearl 2 door Si with about 5500 miles on it sitting out front, $22,250 or so, right about what I paid for my srt4
commemorative. The car was absolutely immaculate, the previous owner had added 30% tint to the car, which looked good, except the bonehead
also put that tint on the top 1/4th or so of the windshield. That looked really trashy, but other than that, the car was just like brand new. As I got inside,
the seat really pulled me in, I noticed immediately that the car had a plastic left foot rest, reminded me a lot of my late 80's and early 90's turbo Dodges,
Something that I realized I kind of miss, because I catch myself towing the end of the clutch pedal a lot in my srt4, which does not have the foot rest.
The RPM indicator in the Si is front and center, with the MPH in a digital readout in the center of the upper dash, with water temperature on a
cascading gauge on the left side, and fuel on the right side. It was very simplistic but would take some getting used to. I'm a little biased though as I
really prefer the old style MPH gauge with needle. This car had an excellent clutch, plenty of peddle and smoothly engages, no jumpy-ness like the SS
has, it was actually very similiar in feel to the srt4. The short throw shifter was also higher in this car than I was used to, and for some reason I had a
little trouble with third gear, it was just closer than I'm used to, I even ground the gear hard on one shift (YIKES), thankfully the salesman waved his
hand and just laughed.
The Si had smooth acceleration as I went up thru the gears. I almost forgot about it being a 6 speed until I was doing about 60 mph and I realized I was
winding the rpm's up, and then shifted into 6th. It seemed like there was a lot of power lacking in the car but my perception could be affected by the
fact that this car revs higher than really any car I've driven before and I wasn't getting into it very hard. I'm guessing if you are pushing the car really hard into the 7000 to 8000 rpm range you get a full feel of just what the Si can do, but if you aren't used to really revving a car up like that it's tough to get used to. I'm just not used to having to push a car so hard to get the power out of it. As I upshifted I noticed something a little odd, it seemed to me that the rpms stayed constant at a little over 4K when I pushed the clutch in rather than dropping like I expected, does anyone know if the computer does this to prepare for the next shift? I didn't notice it while downshifting into a stop, which felt good and you could hear the car nicely, although it's just a lot of shifting, 6 5 4 3 2 1. I know it's only one more gear but I'm used to doing reps of 5 haha, more exercise than I usually get. Like I said though, more throaty downshift than the SS, by far, not nearly as growly as the srt4 though. The array of buttons on the steering wheel was excellent, don't know if you'd have to really reach for anything except the shirter and maybe a soda while going down the road. The steering seemed quite responsive and the ride was really amazing, comfortable and crisp without that jarring feel. However, going into corners, the Si really doesn't seem to handle astoundingly better than my srt4, as I expected it might, although it doesn't feel so 'heavy' in the tail end, which I expect has to do with how high the srt4 sits by comparison.
That being said though, I think the Cobalt SS has an edge over both cars in the corners, but you sacrifice some comfort for the rigidity of the SS.
Honda has a 4 door version of the Si and they did a really nice job with it, it doesn't look like a stretched version or ungainly, everything looks good
The Good: Immediate smooth power, excellent handling, smooth short throw shifter
Work On: very jarring ride, needs a little more 'oomph' in third gear and beyond, steering too distant
The Good: Smooth clutch engaging, smooth and comfortable ride, controls placed well ergonomically
Work On: Work your ass off to shift all the time, short throw is too tight, more punch at lower rpms.
What I wish I had on my SRT4 from these two cars? Cruise control, left foot rest, all of the Si controls from the steering wheel.
On one final note, I know that some of what I put to 'Work On' can be stuff that I would need to work on, like with the Si getting used to the shifter and
shifting so much, or the steering on the Cobalt, so don't flame me on that, it was just my perception