Perhaps it's just me, but there seems to have been a mass-prejudice perpetuated by the automotive press as well as import owners over the past 15 years that relentlessly rips on domestic automakers. If we were still living in the mid 1980's, during the age of the Cadillac Cimarron and Ford Tempo, I would agree with the criticism. I owned a couple of horrendously unreliable abominations that GM produced during this period - an '81 Cadillac Seville (beautiful design, but disastrous electrically), and an '83 Olds Cutlass Sierra (bland design and equally disastrous electronics). I swore off domestics after owning these two vehicles for about a decade until I bought an '03 Cavalier. This car, while perhaps a bit crude in design compared with some of its imported counterparts, has been nothing short of reliable and responsive. It has made me reassess domestics in a way that I did not anticipate, and it also made me realize that contrary to what others may preach, Detroit has caught up with imports, surpassing European manufacturers perhaps not in refinement, but certainly in reliability, and approaching the Japanese in terms of efficiency.
I would not simply disregard Detroit anymore if making a vehicle purchase.
I agree with the last comment. American manufacturers can make a good quality car when they want to. I own a 1998 Ford Escort ZX2. This car has been very reliable. It is approaching 132,000 miles without a single mechanical failure. The interior does not show any wear after all those miles, and the exterior still looks perfect minus the little chips and dings that seem to accumulate over time.
The only thing I have changed is the battery, and of course regular maintenance items. Oil, filters, spark plugs and wires, timing belt, etc. Still using the original clutch.
I could just be really lucky, but I take great care of my vehicle, and I believe this is the key to a reliable, long lasting car.
And of course doing your homework before you buy. All manufacturers including the great Toyota do produce certain products with quality issues.
I'm a mechanic and have owned cars from all three US auto makers as well as two Japanese cars and one German car. I can assure you the myth of Japanese quality is just that... a MYTH. The two Japanese cars we owned were both total lemons. The last one lost fully HALF of what I paid for it in the one year I owned it. The German car wasn't much better. Out of over 30 American cars we've owned (we have always been a 3 or 4 car family) NOT ONE has EVER had a mechanical problem. We drove one Ford 325,000 miles, one Dodge 240,000 miles and a slew of others well over 100,000 with nary a problem. I now buy ONLY American made cars because I want to know that my family won't be stranded on the road somewhere.
I'm envious of this reviewer!! I looked at a great 2005 Cavalier RS coupe before buying my Ford, and the Chevrolet dealer just refused to even DISCUSS a discount!! I LOVED the car and would gladly have paid $12,000 for it (it listed for $17,500 also), but NO WAY. As for the Cobalt, they are selling really well here, and I am seeing some good discounts. I like the Cobalt, but preferred the tried and true Cavalier to a brand new model that did not have the initial bugs worked out. The drive train of the 2005 Cavalier is exactly the same as the Cobalt, so there's little if any difference in performance. I drove both a Cobalt and the Cavalier RS and the Cavalier felt faster by just a tad. It may be slightly lighter than the Cobalt.
The urban myth about Japanese cars being superior to American cars has been a real boon to American car buyers. Being able to buy a well-built and reliable American car for virtually HALF of what a poorly made Japanese car sells for is a big bonus as for as I'm concerned. If people want to pay over 20 grand for a Honda Civic let them. I'll stick with a comparable GM or Ford and pocket the extra 10 grand. The Cobalt, Cavalier and Ford Focus are all as good as (probably better than) a Civic or Corolla costing twice as much. I have better things to do with 10 grand than being able to boast about paying full list for a car.
Early on the new Cobalt will have its share of "new model boo-boos", like any new model. In time, though, I am sure it will end up being as good as the Cavalier (which had 22 years to work the bugs out and became a world-class car). At this point if I had a choice between a new Cobalt, a new Cavalier (if any are left on lots somewhere), and a new 20-grand Civic, I 'd take the 2005 Cavalier in a heartbeat.
The new Pontiac G-5 Pursuit (same car as the Cobalt) is a great looking car, especially the coupe in bright red. That will most likely be what I replace my 2001 Grand Am with, as I can't stand the G-6. GM has really got it together with their small cars. I do envy this reviewer getting such an awesome deal on his Cavalier. It was a smart buy on a tried and true car. I actually like the styling of the 2005 Cavalier RS coupe better than the Cobalt/G-5. I tried to buy a remaining Cavalier here last year, but the dealers here wouldn't budge off list.
I completely agree that the car has "a lot of cheap plastic". This car (same with the Sunfire) are rental car grade, but these cars are cheap and come with a new car warranty. If you bought it cheap and drive it to the ground with minimal problems (every car has them, yes even Honda and Toyota, my friends Accord has recently caught on fire due to crappy electrical wiring, and it's stock, 2001), then you made a good choice.
I've personally driven these cars as rental (I prefer the Cavalier), and I can expect cheap plastic, some groaning from the plastic, etc. But the car has great pep, strong cooling and heating, good fuel economy, very simple to operate, simple gauges, and you don't have to worry that somebody will steal it. The only thing I didn't like about the car is the uncomfortable driver's seat. Hurts my back after about 10 minutes of driving, but what can you expect from a cheap car? Hey, it gets you from point A to B with a new car warranty.
No car is perfect: regardless of its country of origin. While it is true that from a statistical point of view Japaneese cars are slightly more reliable, American cars are not the lemons import owners and dealers make them out to be. Some American models were horrible (Ford Pinto, Dodge Neon 1995-1999) for reliability, but Japanese models are FAR from perfect. If you maintain a car well and drive it sensfully, you can rest a sure it will last you a very long time with no problems. We owned a 1989 Plymouth Grand Voyager and never ran into any mechanical problems. And for all of you who preach only by Japanese cars, Transport Canada recalled close to 75 000 2001-2004 Nissan Sentra for a faulty steering column. Just a thought :)