My parents bought me the car to replace my much loved beater (due to it having a bad wheel bearing, of all things... cost $45 to fix.), a 1991 Honda Accord with over 255,000 miles, so it had big shoes to fill (In my mind, anyway.).
My first impression centers around the interior. The plastic is definitely akin to Fisher-Price, but this is hardly a unique characteristic in 2010 model year vehicles. The 2010 Kia Forte I looked at was nicer, but cost a bit more.
The seat was terribly uncomfortable at first, but once broken in isn't bad.
Manual everything is what you make of it.
The interior is light gray and terribly difficult to keep clean (I deliver pizza, which doesn't help.); a good upholstery cleaner will take care of the cloth, but the roughly grained plastic is very difficult to get clean. At least the carpet is black, and the dealership threw in a nice set of floormats free. The bottom door sill is impossible to get shoe scuffs out of.
By contrast, the trip computer is a nice gadget, the air conditioning is more than adequate (I live in the deep south, and it handled the very hot summer of this last year.), and the stereo is impressive, especially for a base model.
This car is the coupe, and while space is adequate, it isn't especially roomy, and the sloped roof makes the back feel smaller than it is (in addition to making for a terrible rear view). The sedan feels much bigger from a passenger's perspective.
The car does drive and ride well. The ride is nice, like a much larger car, while the handling is still good, if a bit soft at high speeds. Initially, coming from a car without power steering (The Accord was missing the power steering pump; I didn't care, and actually liked it that way.), I hated the electric power steering, but one does eventually become accustomed to it. While lacking in road feel, it is at least quick and precise, good for snappy maneuvering.
The engine is powerful for its class, but doesn't necessarily feel that way, especially at low revs or with the A/C on, due to the tall gears from the XFE package (which is standard). From mid-range and above the engine pulls hard, though. With some shorter gears, the car could be quite quick. The shifter is quite nice, though the clutch (with a plastic pedal arm, I might add) is a bit vague, somewhat easy to stall out, or feeling like I'm giving it too much clutch. It is very easy to drive smoothly, though. The brakes could be better, and ABS would be nice, but they're adequate. I assume that they would perform better with better tires.
Speaking of tires, the low-resistance Goodyear Integrity tires that come with the car are awful, with mediocre dry grip, prone to squealing at the slightest provocation, and terrifying lack of grip in the rain (especially in braking and acceleration). Additionally, the fronts are wearing quite rapidly. I plan on replacing them soon.
In summary, on its own merits, the 2010 Cobalt is a good car. For the price, it's a great deal. I hope that, reliability wise, it emulates the path of my mother's '04 Chevy Trailblazer, which was dead reliable, aside from fan clutches failing like clockwork every 36K miles. My grandfather being a GM retiree, our family has driven many GM vehicles over the years, many good, dependable cars and a few that weren't. Hopefully, this will be one of the good ones.
Personally though, part of me wishes I had my old car back. Despite the fact that, aside from interior comfort, space, and visibility, the old Honda was inferior in every measurable way, subjectively, I liked that car better. In addition to its relative expendability as a beater (Who cares if you scratch the bumper when that would be one of a million?), and low operating costs (it was paid for, dirt cheap to insure, and though occasionally troublesome, never broke anything too expensive.), I felt pride at driving a car kept running by my own two hands and set of tools. It feels awkward to me to be driving a new car, when I'm used to having one of the more beat up cars in a given parking lot. Of course, my friend, and most people, I assume, would think that I'm crazy to feel this way. For what it's worth, that same friend has a 2009 Accord, and, though it's nicer (it does cost twice as much or more), I'd take the '91 over it as well.