Combine the now-signature Chevrolet horizontally split grille with "fierce eye" headlamps and a rakish, coupe-like four-door roofline, and you've got the replacement for the Cobalt, coming in two years. Last week, Rick Wagoner dropped all kinds of hints about the car at General Motors' annual meeting, including the likelihood that it won't be called "Cobalt," making that car a one-generation model nameplate.
When Chevy replaced the very old, straight-to-rental Cavalier with the Cobalt for 2005, it was touted as a Honda Civic-killer. It barely matched the retrograde 2001-2005 Civic, and was on the trailer a year later when the class-leading '06 Civic made its debut. With the '11 Chevy compact, GM may finally be learning that you have to figure out where Honda will be with its next-generation Civic and not just benchmark the current model. The Chevy compact (heck, why not call it "Chevy II?") will have more equipment, benchmark safety and quality, GM Chairman Wagoner promised at the corporation's shareholders' meeting earlier this week (see the Motor City Blogman post, "Wagoner to Hummer: Go Away"), and most important, "nine miles per gallon more than Chevy's entry in this segment today." (Note again, no mention of "Cobalt.") Add 9 mpg to the current 2.2L five-speed manual Cobalt, and you get 33 mpg city and/or 42 mpg highway (Wagoner didn't specify which, or if both). Who needs a Chevy Volt at twice the price? If GM can make this a big-volume car with that engine, it will go a long way to helping the company meet proposed 2011-15, and even 2020, Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards.
You're likely to see some design sharing between the Volt and the Cobalt replacement, including the grille, although the Volt probably will retain enough design uniqueness to make it stand out like a Toyota Prius. The Volt and post-Cobalt will ride on the new global Delta platform, shared with the next Opel/Vauxhall/Saturn Astra and Opel/Vauxhall Zafira MPV.
The new Chevy compact's 1.4L turbo will come from Flint, Michigan, which is scheduled to produce 1.0L to 1.4L fours for all those truck and SUV owners desperate to trade into smaller cars. A new 1.0L is likely slated for the 2011 Chevrolet Aveo replacement (also sold in Canada as the Pontiac Wave).
The Aveo switches to the new global Gamma platform converging GM's small Daewoo architecture with the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa. It also serves as the underpinnings for the next-generation Opel Meriva MPV, a potential candidate for import as an entry-level Saturn. This all sizes up as a big autumn of 2010 for Chevrolet, with the 2011 Volt, Cobalt replacement and Aveo replacement coming. It's a short time away, but can dealers, and consumers paying $4/gallon, wait even that long?