2009 Malibu New Car Test Drive
The Chevrolet Malibu is a superb midsize sedan. Fitting in the lineup just below the larger Impala, the Malibu competes with the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, and Ford Fusion.
The Malibu benefits from a completely re-engineered platform introduced for 2008 that resulted in smooth ride, quiet cabin, responsive handling, and effective crash performance.
All Malibu models are four-door sedans with front-wheel drive.
It's an attractive car with attractive pricing and good fuel economy: EPA ratings of 22/33 mpg for the four-cylinder with six-speed automatic, 17/26 mpg for the V6 engine and six-speed automatic, and 26/34 mpg for the Hybrid.
For 2009, the Malibu Hybrid improved by two miles per gallon, thanks to better control of the battery charging/discharging system and new low rolling-resistance tires.
We found the Malibu to be a smooth, comfortable sedan with plenty of power when equipped with the V6. It strikes a nice balance between well-controlled handling and a smooth ride. Overall, the new Malibu feels smooth and is pleasant to drive.
The cabin is nicely designed, attractive, and everything is easy to operate, though there are some hard plastics that detract from an otherwise first-rate interior. The seats are comfortable, with plenty of front seat room and a generous rear seat.
In short, we think the Chevy Malibu stands up well when held against the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord gold standards. Choosing among them largely comes down to nitpicking, splitting hairs and personal preference. Camry and Accord may have an edge on resale value, but they're also likely to come with higher price tags. In any case, we don't see the gap between this Chevrolet and the imports that we used to see.
The 2009 Malibu gets some new equipment. A six-speed automatic transmission is now offered for the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. The four-cylinder engine comes standard on the 2009 Malibu LTZ. StabiliTrak electronic stability control is standard on all 2009 models. The base model comes standard with 17-inch wheels instead of 16s, and a Bluetooth hands-free cell phone link is offered.
The 2009 Chevrolet Malibu range includes the LS ($21,605), 1LT ($22,505) 2LT ($24,705), and LTZ ($26,880), plus the Hybrid ($25,555).
The Malibu LS comes with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and four-speed automatic transmission. The base model also comes with electric power steering, to save drag on the engine, while the V6-powered models come with hydraulic power steering. Standard features in the LS include air conditioning, cloth upholstery, power height-adjustable driver's seat with lumbar adjustment, cruise control, 60/40 split-folding rear seat, power windows, power mirrors, power locks, remote keyless entry, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, AM/FM/CD stereo with XM satellite radio and auxiliary input jack, outside temperature display, automatic headlights, one year of OnStar assistance with Turn-by-Turn navigation, and P215/55R17 tires on steel wheels with hub caps.
The 1LT model adds steering wheel audio controls and floor mats, while the 2LT gets the new six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, faux suede upholstery, heated front seats, six-way power adjustable driver's seat, universal garage door opener, auto-dimming rearview mirror, compass, Bluetooth connectivity and alloy wheels.
The LTZ adds automatic climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather upholstery, eight-way power driver's seat, six-way power passenger seat, heated power mirrors, auto-dimming driver's side exterior mirror, iPod adapter, eight-speaker 210-watt stereo system, remote engine starting, fog lights, clear-lens LED taillamps and P225/50R18 tires on alloy wheels.
The Hybrid comes in an 1LT-level of trim with special 16-inch low-rolling-resistance tires, plus automatic climate control and alloy wheels.
Options over and above the LTZ equipment include a power sunroof ($800), a dual-screen DVD rear entertainment system ($1740), a power rear sunshade with manual side sunshades ($250), and a 110-volt power outlet ($150).
The safety package is comprehensive, with front, side and curtain side airbags, tire-pressure monitoring, ABS with brake assist, traction control, and StabiliTrak electronic stability control.