Driving the soon-to-be-released Chevy Malibu around the Anaheim Convention Center wasn't earth-shattering. Then again, I don't think that earth-shattering is what GM has in mind with this mild hybrid. For one thing, this car won't be all that widely available when it goes on sale for around $22,000 in mid-January. For another, aside from some green badging and an "eco" light on the dashboard, there's not much that will tell you this Malibu is any greener than any other on the road today. If you're looking to an energy info screen a la the Prius or the new plug-in Ford Escape hybrid (which is sweet), you're out of luck.

What the Malibu hybrid does offer is a reasonable green alternative. It's a full-size sedan and the "eco" light (according to the GM representative who I rode along with on the test drive - sorry I forgot her name) does affect how people drive; they try to drive so the light goes on. This isn't all that hard when you're slowing down. The belt-alternator-starter mild hybrid system and nickel metal hydride battery add around $1,800 to the price of the car while offering a slight increase in MPG. As we've said before, the standard version gets 22/30 city/highway mpg while the hybrid does a bit better at 24/32. Is it worth it? If you were inclined to purchase a Malibu in the first place, my vote is "yes," but this isn't a must have by any means.


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