Car Review: Chevy Malibu Hybrid


The Big Three carmakers must take advantage of government support and release exciting, innovative vehicles. But what's out there, given the new reality that consumers are buying gas-misers?

General Motors' Chevrolet Malibu (Stock Quote: GM) has had a dicey history. (Remember the whatever-the-hell-is-it Malibu Maxx?) But what we have now is quite different.

The all-new Malibu Hybrid has bold lines and creases, which make the car stand out from the pack. Instead of being overly styled or bland, as usual, it looks like it's wearing a tailored suit. The latest version prowls the road with confidence and commands a presence unlike its predecessors.

Easily the most attractive part of the car, the side profile is subdued. Further inspection reveals a roofline strikingly similar to the Volkswagen Phaeton. Note the strong, thick A-pillar and C-pillar. Execution of the fender flares should have Mercedes-Benz's S-class jealous -- they work, and do not look out of place and silly like the German's.

Concerned about space? Fear not, as roominess is not a concern in this sedan. The dash is carved with the passenger's interest in mind, so there is freedom in the cockpit. Due to the Malibu's length of 191.8 inches, the rear seats are accommodating. With rear-seat legroom of 37.6 inches, there is plenty of space to make even a tall man comfortable.

Sliding into the driver's seat, you are confronted with a tasteful interior design. However, the two-tone look is not easy on the eyes. The test car was equipped with a brown-and-tan concoction; pick any color but this. On top of this, materials are less-than-desirable for a vehicle in the $25,000 price range.

Buttons and dash pieces seem flimsy and utilize cheap materials, which sound, look and feel of bargain-basement quality.

It is not all bad news, though. Fit and finish is significantly better than that of past models. The doors close with a solid "thunk." Seams match, and panel gaps are not larger than normal.

Most importantly, when you drive the Malibu Hybrid, these issues do not matter. That is how good the new Malibu Hybrid drives.

Considering the engine packs a limited punch of 164 horsepower and 159 foot-pounds of torque, the car pulls much quicker than one would expect. Weighing in at just over 3,500 pounds, the vehicle is not lightweight.

The Malibu is classified as a "mild" hybrid, which allows for an electric motor to add power to the primary gasoline engine. Because of this, the Malibu Hybrid feels as though it has more than 200 horses.

Speaking of the electric motor, it comes to life when completing a full stop, such as waiting at an intersection, and when cruising with low revs. A sizable issue with this on-and-off setup is you do not know exactly when the electric motor will work its magic.

The only communication to the driver is a symbol on the gauge cluster, which lights up when the electric motor is on. If possible, it would be much more helpful for Chevrolet to include a gauge as seen on the new 2010 Lexus RX.

The Malibu Hybrid's suspension provides a compromise between firm and soft. When cruising at speed on the highway, it is stiff enough to keep the car planted and floating to a minimum, while in town it is soft enough to battle broken pavement without jolting passengers. Over rough surfaces, the Malibu Hybrid reminded me of an SUV because it held its composure so well.

Hybrid vehicles are usually noted for their lack of fun, but the Malibu does a satisfactory job of providing spice for the pilot. With steering that puts the driver where he points it and body roll that is only felt in turns meant for a Porsche, the Malibu Hybrid is an entertaining sedan, considering its hybrid status.

Does it handle on rails? Not quite, but it is an impressive showing for what it is.

Chevrolet's Malibu Hybrid has injected life into the brand. With a solid drivetrain and quality craftsmanship, the vehicle may have rung in a new era for GM. The car gets a respectable 26 miles per gallon and is a cheaper alternative to the Camry and Altima hybrids.

GM has pulled through by building an impressive car. But it may be a little too late. Why did you wait 20 years, General Motors?



For the best rates on CDs, mortgages, savings, credit cards and more, enter your ZIP code at


Show Comments

Back to Top