By on December 5, 2011

 

Avoiding the usual Auto Journo networking opportunities like the plague leaves me with the road test equivalent of everyone’s sloppy seconds.  But there’s a good story behind a nearly dead model, unless we are talkin’ about the Chevy Malibu. Without the charms of a 6th gen Honda Civic or Panther Love (‘natch) this whip’s demise couldn’t come soon enough. A recent sales chart proves the point: a sad commentary for a car that was once hailed as “the car you can’t ignore” by people genuinely interested in making a CamCord fighter…so how exactly has the ‘Bu faired since then?

 

 

The Malibu doesn’t Mali-blew like a Chrysler Sebring.  The Buick Lucerne/VW Phaeton-alike styling from the B-pillar back quite fetching.  It’s an upscale and hunky greenhouse, marred by a fat face influenced by the (GMT-800) Chevy Silverado’s two-tier grille and a posterior hammering circular Impala lighting in a square peg posterior.  Even with punchy 18” hoops, brilliant Diamond White paint and tasty chrome LTZ bits thrown into the mix, the façade’s ham-fisted details kill the mood, but it’s a significant improvement over the 6th gen Malibu. Which begs the question, is the Iraqibu the cleanest, most ideally proportioned Malibu of the past 30 years?

 

 

On to more subjective matters: the ‘Bu was but a single pre-Ch. 11 GM family sedan promising to shed the craptastic interiors of the General’s past 10-20 years, and the PR-tweaked photos certainly proved it. In reality, none of them really delivered. The Malibu LTZ’s interior is “look, but don’t touch quality.”

Sure, that chrome and wood dashboard looks suitably upscale, just don’t touch anything but the laser-perfect, microscopic panel gaps.  If it’s Cocoa or Cashmere in our tester, it’s usually too brittle to be class leading. Class average is more than fair: the chintzy roll-top console storage, depressingly sparse door panels, missing rear armrest (yes, really) and outdated ICE belong in Kirk Van Houten’s “Bachelor Arms” apartment. But the trick dashtop storage door proves this ain’t no Chrysler Sebring…like, awesome.

This is a good time to mention my test drive buddy, my feminine Reality Check of sorts. Why did she come along for the ride?  For a free spa trip on GM’s marketing dollar!  Poking around the top drawer Malibu’s chocolate brown guts left My Reality Check feeling flat, noticing a loose thread in the Malibu’s leather (nearasdammit to rubber) seating, the utterly mangled sunroof-to-headliner molding, and the half-inch of play from said headliner when you press the (seemingly spring loaded) overhead console. I totally missed all of those faults.

Which begs the question, did she find these faults because this was not a press vehicle? On the other hand, pay no attention to those concerns: FREE SPA TRIP!

 

 

The Malibu’s interior warms up after a few miles behind the wheel. The Corvette tiller is fun to grab, albeit with the vague steering expected from a family sedan with no sporting pretensions.  The same holds true for the springy bits, there’s enough body roll to warn drivers of their imminent EPIC FAIL, but understeer is constrained well enough to keep all but the most idiotic test drivers from plowing into the scenery. Put in terms of the (2011) Camry, the Malibu LTZ is halfway between the Toyota’s uber-plush LE tuning and surprisingly wonderful SE spec.  No complaints, this performance is the sweet spot for any bread and butter sedan.

 

 

Our tester came with the base four-cylinder motor, an “Aluminum Duke” with a decent 169-horses pushing 3400lbs of Chevrolet sedan if you will. The powertrain works well, provided you catch the 6-speed autobox at the right moment.  With the close ratios, 33MPG highway rating and a flat, torque steer free power band that’s light on 4-cyl thrash in the upper rev range, the Malibu is just completely adequate for a normal person. With that in mind, a simple request: My Kingdom for highway downshifting with haste!

In the end, the current Chevy Malibu was a wholly decent vehicle with almost nothing noteworthy.  But did it make headway against the CamCord, or is it another “almost there” GM product from the Robert Farago days of TTAC?  I wish there was reason for a test drive, other than to give My Reality Check a free spa trip thanks to the “Chevy Girls” viral marketing initiative.

 

 

Is twitter set afire by Chevy Girls hashtagging their royal treatment at local spas? Maybe not, but they get an “A” for reaching out to the right people with the right bait. By “bait” I mean the spa thing, not the Chevy Malibu. So what’s the last refuge of the damned?

Value pricing. Our $29,755 tester can sell for about 25-large.  Then again, wouldn’t you really rather have a Buick (LaCrosse)? Even with no options and no toe-tag sales in sight, GM’s Tri-shield nets you a better vehicle for not much more money. And if you can’t play in the LaCrosse-Malibu LTZ’s price point, the base ‘Bu is no match for the surprise and delight offered by the Hyundai Sonata. Perhaps GM will give us a family sedan we simply can’t ignore…perhaps next time.

 

 (Mr. Mehta received no compensation for this review, the Spa Gift Certificate was not mailed to his address. You’re welcome.) 

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89 Comments on “Review: 2012 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ...”


  • avatar
    ZCD2.7T

    I recently inherited my late mother’s 2008 Malibu 2LT V-6, a car I suggested that she consider when shopping for another in a long line of Buicks. To my great surprise, she actually BOUGHT the Malibu, making me wonder if I’d made a mistake in suggesting it in the first place. Then again, at the time the reviews about the car were universally good (When car mags AND CR both have positive things to say about a car, it seemed safe to assume that there was some “there” there…)

    Anyway, after her passing, I inherited the car by default, my sister not being interested in addition to being 2000 miles away. I subsequently used the car as my DD to keep the miles down on my ’11 S4.

    For me, the car turned out to be an exercise in frustration. It was pretty dam* fast with that big V-6, but HATED going fast more than any car in recent memory. The controls were all totally numb, masking the fact that it could hustle around corners with much more speed than seemed likely. Fuel mileage was better than one might expect, returning a bit over 24 mpg in my commuting.

    The interior looked downright cheap, being slathered in about 5 shades of gray, rather than the chocolate brown or a darker color that plays better on the two-tone theme. Want to make an interior look worse than it is? Color it gray. The leather/faux suede seating surfaces weren’t bad, though, and the seat heaters rocked.

    Interior room was decent, but the low roofline made ingress/egress tricky, and the overall visibility was pretty bad.

    In the end analysis, my family hated the Malibu, and even I could only stand it for about 8 months, so I recently traded it (almost even-up) for a 2012 Kia Soul Exclaim. Everyone loves the Soul just as much as they hated the Malibu, which is several kinds of ironic.

    Despite being introduced before GM went BK, the current Malibu was the one of the first indications that at least SOME people at GM had the right ideas, and were working on fleshing out those ideas. I hope the next Malibu ends up being as much improved over this generation as the last one was.

    • 0 avatar

      Perhaps the smartest thing Chrysler has done in recent years is eliminate light gray from its interior color palette. Materials have to be mighty fine to look good and gray, and even then don’t look as good as they would in another color.

      I’m more of a fan of the Malibu’s exterior than Sajeev. It works for me. The interior…not quite. And the steering is quite numb. They were going for insulated and quiet, and got that.

      What would have really helped sales is a reliability rep like that of the Ford Fusion. But, based on responses to TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey, the Malibu has been consistently about average:

      http://www.truedelta.com/car-reliability.php?stage=pt&bd=Chevrolet&mc=54

      I’ll be driving the 2013 next week. It is wider than the current car, correcting it’s most obvious shortcoming. I don’t find its exterior as attractive, though.

    • 0 avatar
      potatobreath

      Grey really brings down the interior. The Hyundai Santa Fe’s cup holders and centre console look incredibly hard and cheap in grey too. Both vehicles look better in black or cocoa inside.

      The cocoa interior is very warm and inviting. It looks even better in person. I know if I got a Malibu, it would be brown outside, cocoa inside.

      I got a good one-wheel peel while rolling the other day with the Ecotec mill and transmission combo. Enough torque for me. It’s my four cylinder Impala.

      • 0 avatar
        ott

        I actually just bought the exact carbon copy of the car in the pics, (color, interior and all) albeit with the 3.6L V6 for a winter driver. I love the interior, and the exterior is also pleasing to my eyes. Though I would’ve preferred diamond white exterior, but, when a deal comes along, you have to strike when the iron’s hot. Overall not a bad ride, very smooth compared to my previous winter car, an 06 Fusion SEL V6, which wasn’t bad in it’s own right, either.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      Sir I must say I do not see how the newer Malibu and the Kia Soul are even comparable. Despite the flaws you may find in the Malibu (and GM is know for flaws) I’m just shaking my head at how a group of people could hate the first impressive car to come from Chevrolet in at least fifteen years but just love a throwaway toy such as Kia. I suppose to each his own.

      • 0 avatar
        ZCD2.7T

        I guess you missed the part where I said that this generation of Malibu was a harbinger of better things to come at GM??

        I guess we’ll have to wait to see whether the Kia turns out to be a “throwaway” car or not.

        IMHO, that type of attitude would probably have been accurate if expressed about the Kia of 5 years ago. Regardless, things change fast in the car business these days, with Hyundai and Kia being exhibits 1 and 2 of that fact.

      • 0 avatar
        newcarscostalot

        You beat me to it but I’ll throw my opinion in there too. KIA (and Hyundai) have come along way in the last 10 years. Now, off for a drink.

      • 0 avatar
        damikco

        Or just biased against GM

    • 0 avatar
      JT-

      You should really check out the safety scores of your kia, frankly your family is at extreme peril in that vehicle.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    I checked one of these over the summer. I sat in it, shut the door, and seeing how uncomfortably narrow the interior was (my shoulder was touching the B pillar)I got out and looked elsewhere.

    • 0 avatar
      Guzzi

      Yes. My beef exactly. For a mid/full this was too narrow, esp for the broad shouldered like myself. Exacerbated by the available legroom. Three in the back (1 adult 2 kids) was doable but the center was no fun. I don’t remember the Saturn version being really narrow, for some reason. Never tried the Buick.

      I want to like the Bu, even the Buick, but I hope the next one is wider on the interior.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    My friend bought one of these, in this trim. The Malibu is a very nice-looking car, but I couldn’t believe how tight the interior was.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I take it you didn’t like the Malibu. Oh well, I do.

    I have checked them out, have ridden in them. Would I buy one? I honestly can’t say, as I’m not (yet) in the market, but I am keeping my eyes open for my next ride. It will not be a Sonata, however, as I have driven one and I did not like it one bit.

    I am anxious to see the next-gen Malibu.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      I, too, liked the Malibu at least for the most part. In comparison to recent GM’s past, i considered it well done. Compared to other cars in it’s intro year, I considered it competitive. Too bad GM chose to decontent the crap out of it. A lot of the cool features that came with the original launch were bean counted out. Seems that GM just doesn’t get it. I wonder if you added up all the perceived “savings” the cheap $hit accountants pulled out of GM products and compared them to lost future sales, you could probably fund a few decent sized counties…

      Message to GM: Pull out all the stops on the next Malibu. Price it as a bit of an underdog to its competition. Use some of those Silverado profits to cover any short term loss. Make sure even the base model has quality materials and switchgear. Give it time. Basically pull out Huyndai’s playbook. And fork over a six year 60,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty. If you build it well enough that warranty will cost very little. Four years from now you will have set the foundation for the future. Forget the “Never Again”, “Bailout”. anti UAW crowd. They are gone for good. Go for the folks who never sat in a Citation, or a Lumina for that matter. You can do it. Make the commitment and yes it will cost you, but in the long term you will survive for it.

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack

        I’m not sure what you feel they’ve de-contended out of the Malibu. I’ve been working in rental cars since before the last boxy Malibu began selling as the Classic, and the current ’12 is identical to the original ’08. They’ve changed some of the interior and exterior coloring choices, “redesigned” the 2.4L four several times (although it’s still the soulless, unwilling-to-move lump of torque-free fluff it’s always been), and redesigned the seatbelts (!) and power mirror controls. Aside from that, nothing. And, trust me, I’ve been in a million. They launched that thing into fleets the instant it hit the road. It was classic GM: say it’s better, swear it’s better, show how well it’s selling, and do so by dumping 50+% into fleets (see also: Lambda SUVs, Cobalt, Saturn Aura, Pontiac G6, Equinox, etc.). Is it better than the old one? Sure, it’s got tons of stuff the automotive press said they wanted, and non-ugly styling, so at least more people will consider it in the open market. But there was something endearingly dorky about the old one, at least. The current one is purely a numbers car. GM checked all the boxes their focus clinic Camry owners wrote down, but there’s no cohesive whole there.

        Much as I hate the socialist-esque involvement of government in the car business, the bankruptcy does seem to have been a turning point for GM. I’m unimpressed with the Cruze (another by-numbers car, although closer to greatness than the Malibu), while the new Sonic has absolutely astounded me with sheer competitiveness.

        /rant

        Here’s hoping the new one is like the Sonic: absurdly similar on the outside to the crappy predecessor, while a massive improvement in every other way. Quiet, substantial improvements have been the drivers of true sales and brand loyalty. Trumpeting the next great thing with ad campaigns and styling overhauls and then underdelivering repeatedly drove GM to 2008.

      • 0 avatar

        Much as I hate the socialist-esque involvement of government in the car business, the bankruptcy does seem to have been a turning point for GM. I’m unimpressed with the Cruze (another by-numbers car, although closer to greatness than the Malibu), while the new Sonic has absolutely astounded me with sheer competitiveness.

        The bankruptcies and bailouts were in late ’08 and early ’09. It takes three years to bring a car to market. Almost all of the products coming to market at GM now were in the pipeline before the bankruptcy.

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack

        Correct. The Sonic would presumably be the first GM launched wherein the major design decisions could have been affected post-bankruptcy.

        Although I realize that it was largely designed in Korea, which I would presume would have been the least-affected part of GM from standpoint of the US bankruptcy, as GM-DAT was not yet GM Korea and was in the early stages of full integration.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        @KalapanaBlack:

        In ’09 GM removed the Malibu’s power adjustable pedals and the fender mounted turn signals.

        In ’10 GM got rid of the trunk cargo net and the LTZ’s unique gauges.

        In ’11 paddle shifters were replaced with a thumb rocker, door pull back-lighting was deleted off the LS and 1LT, auto-dimming outside mirrors were taken off the LTZ, and the universal home remote was deleted.

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack

        10-4… I had forgotten about the turn signals and paddle shifters… I didn’t realize the LTZ had different gauges at any point. I also have never seen a current-gen Malibu with the power pedals, but they may be a random option that the rental vehicles (even LTZ trim) were simply never ordered with. I had seen them on the previous car, and on some G6s before ’08-ish.

        Never really thought about the other stuff. I guess it was just the context. I don’t drive the cars at night much (auto-dimming mirrors), and most of the trunk nets are stolen, anyway. The other stuff simply escaped my notice.

    • 0 avatar
      Secret Hi5

      Well, Mehta did describe his Malibu as “Class average,” so it’s better than some competitors, and worse than others.

  • avatar
    carbiz

    [shrugs] As with all vehicles in this segment, it all depends on one’s point of view. If you are a rice humper, then you will get behind the wheel with all sorts of preconceptions and be LOOKING for every single microscopic flaw and pounce on it with every ounce of GOTCHA! you can muster.
    If, on the other hand, you are a Detroit apologist, you will get behind the wheel, and unless the windshield fell in your lap, or the gear shifter in your hand, the car will pass inspection with flying colors.
    Having driven the ’03 Malibu (yes, the last of the ‘first’ Malibus) for many miles, and many of the ’05s and ’08s, I can say that none of them were ‘world class’ and, frankly, I don’t give a sh*t.
    If 3 GM techies and 3 Toyota techies spent an entire day pouring over this car, all they’d end up doing is having a brawl worthy of any Vegas wrestling match.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @carbiz: +1.

    • 0 avatar
      dvp cars

      …crbiz……I think you’ve summed up the eternal “rice humper/Detroit apologist” characteristics very succinctly……but how would you sum up European aficionados, and …..do you fall into any of the 3 categories?

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      In 2009 I chose a Camry rental over a Malibu rental because I preferred the Camry interior. Neither was great, but at least the Camry was roomy and the seats were comfortable. The Malibu wasn’t horrible, but the driver’s part of the interior felt like it came from a smaller, cheaper car.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I’ve had several as rentals through the years. In late 2008 got a LTZ with the 4-banger and two-tone interior like your review car. I liked it, felt it was a quantum leap ahead of the previous ‘bu and when put against the poorly put together plasticy interior of the previous gen Camry (then new in 2008) it stood up – but LTZ which was top of the line XLE for Camry.

    I had another ‘bu as a rental this summer for two weeks. An LT1 trimmed model with some extras. Yeck. Walked away from the experiencing feeling the ‘bu had aged terribly and incredibly fast in the segment. The 2013 update cannot come fast enough.

    I think the ‘bu was a worthy competitor when it was first released, and did a lot to move away from the stain of the ‘bu it replaced. However I don’t think it aged well, and I think the whole segment moved very fast (like the C segment) and has become vastly better, while the ‘bu sits soundly in the rear now, waiting for an update that can’t come fast enough.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    RENTAL RENTAL RENTAL!

    Being a loyal National Car customer, I get to AVOID choosing the Malibu, but finally drove one last week after a long hiatus. The rental had a strange combination of features–Leather trim & nice wheels, but with a horrible base radio. It was an OK rental, but I was surprised at the capable acceleration AND decent fuel economy driving around in Pittsburgh. Mehta is absolutely correct about the interior looking decent, but feeling very cheap to touch.

  • avatar
    DeadFlorist

    Which raises the question: if there are two misuses of “begs the question” in the same article, can a commenter point it out without being reminded that this isn’t Autoblog?

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a phrase that’s more frequently misused than used correctly. I’m never really sure how to use it so I tend to avoid it myself.

      • 0 avatar
        mjal

        See this site on using “Begs the question” properly:

        http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/begs-the-question.aspx

      • 0 avatar

        Yes, but the problem is that most people think it means what it doesn’t so if you use it correctly, they won’t know what you’re talking about. Better to say “that’s an unsupported premise” or “that’s circular reasoning”. I generally a fan of using old words and phrases but in this case I think it obscures rather than clarifies. YMMV.

    • 0 avatar
      sillyp

      Any phrase that is used incorrectly a majority of the time, but yet is so difficult to explain (I’m sorry, I still don’t understand it – and I’m somewhat intelligent), should just evolve into its mistaken usage.

      But yes, I avoid using it at all costs.

    • 0 avatar
      dvp cars

      …..deadflorist…..your inquiry as to the risk of censure for grammar correction seems to remain unanswered, but since it requires a simple yes or no, I’ll be brave and hazard a guess……no, you may not, this is almost surely not “Autoblog”…….which begs another question, what is this “Autoblog” thing anyway? Just kidding, your input is appreciated. But it’s an expression I, for one, have apparently misused repeatedly, and probably will in the future, despite now knowing better….it sounds nice.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    As a very frequent renter, I prefer the Malibu to the Camry. But I prefer walking to Camrys too. I concur that they were relatively MUCH better when first introduced than they are now. The decontenting is very obvious, and the competition has moved on.

    I sure hope no one is ever suckered into paying anywhere near retail for one of these things! $30K for THAT??? Then again, out of morbid curiousity I looked up my usual Rentaltima on Nissan’s web site and was horridied to find that they are actually ~$24K – I always figured they were ~$18K or so.

  • avatar
    Dan

    I was not at all impressed by the Malibus I have rented, all with the I4.

    Car seems significantly narrower than the rest of the segment. On the brochure it’s only about an inch different so I’m not sure how they pulled that off. But the shoulder room sucks and the tall narrow proportions suggest a cheap compact.

    The 6 speed transmission programming sucks like most recent GM cars. Continually caught one gear too high. Unless you floor it in which case it thinks about it for two seconds and then gives you one gear too low. I don’t remember the 4 speed as being nearly that bad but that was several years ago.

    The 16 gallon tank is 2.5-4 gallons shy of the competition. If I’m going to drive a gutless car with a bad transmission I’d at least like to be rewarded by not gassing much.

    2012s are selling at 4-5K under invoice for a reason.

  • avatar
    bemybear

    I bought a new 2010 Malibu 2LT (2.4 L, 6A). This is my first ‘American’ car (my previous Saturn Astra hardly counted, no?) and to date it has been a good vehicle. I appreciate different things about the Malibu than most reviewers. On the disappointment list I mostly agree with the crowd…

    Things I like:
    Great electronics. Audio system is reliable, charges devices, has shortcuts to make wading through enormous lists of songs and artists easier, fades away when a call comes in on Bluetooth etc. Stereo (premium but non Bose audio on mine) is almost too powerful and bass heavy but can be tamed mostly with equalizer adjustments. I love being able to see individual tire pressures and the trip computer is simple to manipulate and read.

    Quiet ride. Not limo quiet but noticeably less road noise than some vehicles. Ecotec engine is smooth and subdued sounding even at high RPM.

    Quality aspects… The things you actually touch (seats, floor mats, steering wheel and gear shifter) all feel good. The ultra suede doesn’t scream ultra fake, seat heaters are VERY strong and fast, gear shift is nicely finished and slides smoothly and precisely between positions, etc. The trunk lid is extremely sturdy, has gas struts and can be closed from either edge without flexing or bouncing ever. Doors close easily but feel substantial. I appreciate the ambient lighting on the center console and that everything dims nicely and to a very low level with no bright LCD screens or other distracting night time lighting.

    Mixed or disappointed in:
    Driving….A mixed bag. I actually think the 2.4L engine is more than adequately powerful (and sounds refined) when it kicks into high RPM variable valve timing type RPM ranges but the transmission is so reluctant to go there that it feels slower than it should. Also, the transmission sometimes stumbles at sudden changes in speed such as coasting slowly up to a red light which then turns green. Steering seems accurate but lacks in feedback. Brakes are quiet and easy to control. I appreciate the gas pedal calibration, easy to launch smoothly. The suspension is surprisingly taut and good at gliding at highway speeds but harsh at city speeds. Suspension noise is more noticeable than on my previous Jetta or my Astra.

    Packaging: The trunk is enormous but is hampered by an oddly shaped (and ugly to my eyes) trunk lid. The rear seats fold down…sort of. The resulting space is far from flat or easy to utilize.

    MPG: In 20K+ miles of driving in various conditions I have never had a full tank average more than about 29 MPG and that was a few times on non ethanol fuel. 26 or 27 is typical for me even on open road modest (<65 mph) speed travels.

    Overall I think the Malibu succeeds at looking and feeling a notch above its actual cost. There is almost no aspect of the climate control/dash/stereo/bluetooth/OnStar systems that I would change save for adding an in cabin air filter. Additional efforts on the drab interior door panel styling and the ugly exterior rear end along with a more useful fold down rear seat would be great. The driving experience is adequate but not engaging, probably par for the segment. The headrests are aggressive and the seat belt anchors could have a higher range of motion.

    To date I have had zero brake or suspension wear items, no driving related issues and the only unscheduled service visit was an airbag harness recall though it seems like that took two visits to get fixed properly. All told, not a bad start for my ownership experience.

    • 0 avatar
      NN

      Another retail owner here…I’ve got a ’10 LTZ 4-cyl/6A. Styling as we all know is subjective, however, to my eyes the LTZ was the best looking midsize sedan available at the time. Nowadays I’d say the higher-trim Optima’s are the sharpest, but I still think the Malibu looks great, and better than what the ’13 model looks like.

      The car is my wife’s daily driver and she just wants a sharp looking, safe, reliable appliance. In LTZ trim the car is much nicer than rental-spec. She much prefers OnStar to a nav system, so that is one of her favorite features. Ours has an all-black interior which also looks sharp…the two-tone schemes of many LTZ’s is pretty gaudy.

      I agree that some parts of the interior are cheap, however the competition didn’t seem a whole lot better in that regard. We’ve got nearly 30k on ours. Maintenance on this car is very low…nothing so far but oil changes and tire rotations. We’ve never seen the 33 they advertise on the highway…constant suburban/exurban driving nets us around 25-26. The transmission is my biggest complaint. We’ve noticed some harsh downshifts when coming to a stop and occasional weird shifts under acceleration, so I’m actually getting that checked out as we speak at the dealer (there is a 100k powertrain warranty). Other than that, we took it in once for the service airbag light for the connector under the driver’s seat which was fixed quickly.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        When I first got my G6 (with the Ecotec and 6T60 six speed trans), there were a few occasions where I got some odd shifts. With time, it has smoothed out, and we don’t seem to get odd/clunky shifts anymore. I know these cars (all new ones) “learn” how you drive, maybe our car has finally learned what to expect from us.

        I don’t get the 33 MPG either, but I have gotten close to it, 32 on some long trips in the autumn/spring, when we’re not using the AC. Most often we get about 29-30 on long trips, but half the time I’m 10+ the speed limit (70 in Michigan). If I slowed down, I’m sure I’d get better mileage. But it is a little disappointing when my Malibu Maxx with the 3.5 V6 and four speed autobox DID hit 33+ MPG…

      • 0 avatar
        Loser

        I’m supprised by the transmission complaints. Auto trans shift quality seemed to be one thing GM was pretty decent about in the past. The MPG you guys are getting doesn’t seem much better than the V6, also a suprise to me.
        Good to hear from actual owners, thanks for posting.

      • 0 avatar
        yaymx5

        “In LTZ trim the car is much nicer than rental-spec”
        3 out of the 4 current-gen Malibus that I’ve rented have been LTZ models. 2 out of these 4 had the V6 too. I usually scope out the lot before picking up my reservation though. :)

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @Loser: FWIW, at least with the mileage issue, the car IS consistent, and I would probably do myself a huge favor by slowing down. I think what we’re seeing is the fact that the V6 versions have a lot of torque and coupled with the old 4 speed autobox, could crank out pretty decent mileage.

      Additionally, the particular combination of aerodynamics and weight these cars have there’s only going to be so much mileage you can eke out of them.

  • avatar
    damikco

    The Malibu won car of the year in its introduction year. The slamming of GM continues on this site. Without question the Malibu was very competitive in it’s segment, had one of the best interiors from GM in years, and had some of the best body fits and gaps. The exterior had much more excitement than anything from Toyota or Honda no matter how much this article tries to bash it. Keep up the good work GM!

    • 0 avatar
      GarbageMotorsCo.

      It also won the fleet Car of the Year award 2 years in a row (2009, 2010) so somebody likes it!

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      “The Malibu won car of the year in its introduction year.” So did the Caprice taxicab.

      “Without question the Malibu was very competitive in it’s segment” — i.e., briefly above average until they gutted it like a Thanksgiving turkey. The year it came out, it finished 3rd or 4th in a 6-car C/D comparison test, and Bedard ran a column chastising his peers for being too effusive just because it was a GM that wasn’t execrable.

      “had one of the best interiors FROM GM in years” — you’re the one who’s grading on the curve here. The interior of either the previous Accord or the current Sonata/Optima all kick its ass.

      “and had some of the best body fits and gaps.” Yes, some of them.

      “The exterior had much more excitement than anything from Toyota or Honda no matter how much this article tries to bash it.” Nobody said this wasn’t a good-looking exterior. That’s always been the defining virtue of the car. Unfortunately, the driver has to sit inside it.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    TTAC regulars might have seen me write this before, but in this context makes sense to repeat…

    Back in ’08 I traded in my ’07 Accord Coupe for an ’08 Malis*it LT1; worst decision i’ve ever made.

    Put on a few thousand miles as an OWNER and then get back to me as your out of pocket repair costs since GM’s warranty, well, isn’t.

    I owe another 1 1/2 years on mine, it is currently parked in favor of a ’97 Accord I inherited from my brother as KBB value (PRIVATE PARTY!) on the Malis*it is a couple thousand less than I owe. When it is paid off, the Japanese, Germans or Koreans (and NOT GM-Daewoo!) will get that antiquated Camcord ‘fighter’ and my business from then on.

    DO NOT BUY ONE OF THESE! As a former ‘Chevy-or-nothing’ guy, I will NEVER own one again after this pile.

    • 0 avatar

      I presume your “Chevy-or-nothing” period predated your ownership of the ’07 Accord Coupe.

      • 0 avatar
        acuraandy

        Indeed it was. I had an ’03 Monte Carlo SS before the Accord, and before that an ’87 Camaro (save the trailer park jokes please lol) and both were built like an M1 Abrams compared to the Malibu. I ended up getting the ’07 Accord at a substantial discount as I work for Honda at the end of the model run (late ’07).

        I got rid of it due to another child coming, and it was enough of a pain in the ass to get ONE kid in and out of the back of the sleek Accord coupe.

        I retrospect, I would’ve bought a sedan in the first place. And i’d still have it.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        So did you still work for Honda when you bought the Malibu? Bold choice if you did.

  • avatar
    drylbrg

    I will never understand why Dodge and Chevy grafted their truck grills on to their cars. “Branding” can only be carried so far before it’s just stupid.

  • avatar
    hifi

    As a rental, I prefer getting either a Malibu, a LaCrosse, an Edge or any Mercedes. I avoid the Camry at all costs because its a $hitty car to drive and and to look at. Period. The Sonata is decent looking, but I always seem to get one that has a problem…twice with brakes that shuddered violently and once with alignment. I know that’s not necessarily the cars fault, but still.

    I don’t know if I’d buy the Malibu with my own shekels. But I do think I’d recommend it to a non-enthusiast who wants a solid midsize sedan. If they’d offer a decent nav system (which I believe they will be) and add about $100 worth of interior upgrades, I believe that the perceived value would be much greater. Getting rid of the fake woodgrain and using real chrome instead of chrome tape would be a good first step. Small improvements would make people fall in love with this car. I believe that many of these things are being addressed in the upcoming malibu.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Phew! I’m glad to see reading several comments (not just yours) that rental grade Camry’s are as bad as you can get. ANYTHING but a Camry if I’m renting in that segment. ANYTHING. Rental grade Camry’s are horrid, and Toyota continues the legacy with the special rental grade “L” model for 2012. Yikes!

      • 0 avatar
        acuraandy

        I’d pay twice as much in payment for a Camry ‘L’ over the Epsilon. ANY DAY.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Rented a 2011 Camry 4 cylinder/ 6 speed automatic from Enterprise. It was the best rental car I’ve ever had, going back over 25 years. 15 years ago, I rented a Corolla for a week and left it sitting in front of my house because I couldn’t be bothered driving it. Recent Camrys are pretty incredible, and certainly a luxury over mainstream passenger cars from any other place or time.

      • 0 avatar
        potatobreath

        It depends on the rental company and maybe the region. The rental 2011 Camries I drove were LE trim. They were very comfortable, albeit extremely boring to look at on the inside. Felt like Buicks.

  • avatar
    zerocred

    “and a posterior hammering circular Impala lighting in a square peg posterior.”

    And you received no compensation for this review? Shocking!

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I’ve driven a Malibu LTZ (one from the year it got the 3.6VVT upgrade from the boat anchor 3.5V6) and I had my femine reality check along for the ride. A few weeks before that we had the keys to an Impala. Her verdict? In sedan world, she’d rather have the Impala (that’s coming from a 28 year old BTW.)

    Me? Well if you could actually get into the Malibu’s trunk, I would have liked it. I couldn’t tell any difference between the Impala and the Malibu in rear seat leg room. (I did my standard test, I’m 5’11″ with a 33in inseam. I set the driver’s seat up perfectly for myself, then I got in the back seat to see if I would fit behind myself. Both cars passed and the seating was about the same. But the Malibu’s tiny trunk opening is a giant fail.)

    • 0 avatar
      Zarba

      I’m with Dan on his standard test. I also set the driver’s seat for me, and then get in back and see if it really fits.

      I’m 6’1″, so if I can fit in front and back, it’s acceptable. I’m often surprised by how little actual room there is in cars that advertise seating for 5 (I’m looking at YOU,3-Series).

      I was excited about the ‘Bu when it first came out,then I sat in one at the ATL auto show. Everything seemed designed to last until the warranty ran out, no longer.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    This generation Malibu makes one hopeful.
    The previous generation Malibu didn’t do that.
    So, all in all, I’d say the car is an improvement.

    The car looks good.
    The interior looks good.
    It is more of an older Sonata than a newer Sonata, but when the Malibu was first out, it met and in some ways, exceeded, the old Sonata.

    I am hopeful the next generation finds favor in the market.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      I’ll agree with this, to a point. That point is from the Malibu’s launch until March 2008, which is when the early 2009 Sonata launched with the vastly improved interior. The quality was leagues better than the ’06-vintage Sonata and the ’08 Malibu. The Sonata still had the oh-so-soft suspension tuning (familiar to Camry buyers, too). I prefer the Malibu’s ride to all of the NF Sonatas, but that’s very subjective. Many people may prefer the Malibu’s exterior style, as well (IMO they are both off-white-boring sedans, so either way), but the car was really only competitive for a short while. Then, of course, the ’11 Sonata launched in early ’10. What did GM do? As stated above, they cheapened the Malibu even further. All bets were off at that point.

      I also much prefer Hyundai’s 4-cylinder engines to the Ecotec, even the older generation. The GM V6 of that time was neck-and-neck with the Sonata’s, but sounded a little more sophisticated at startup. The Hyundai V6 and automatic seem to last far better than the fragile “High Feature” GM 3.6 and the Hydramatic 6 speed, which seems to owe more of its design to the absurdly fragile Northstar family.

  • avatar
    JSF22

    I think this shows how fast the industry continues moving, and how much expectations can influence our evaluations. When Chevy introduced the current Malibu, it was handsome for the class, a huge improvement in every way over its predecessor, and among the better cars GM then was building. I probably would not buy a Malibu for anyone but my mother, but I usually still choose them over most other cars in National Car Rental’s inaptly named “executive selection,” and it seems like a perfectly good choice for most buyers. If the new generation is a similar leap I think they have a good chance, especially compared to the horrible new Camry.

  • avatar
    alexndr333

    Next review by Mr. Mehta: A 2012 Lucerne to tell us how floaty and out of touch are Buicks.

  • avatar
    seanx37

    Why review this car? The “new” 2013 Malibu is only weeks away. Why not wait til then to review that car?

  • avatar
    whynotaztec

    Not so sure about GM’s progress with panel gaps and such, at least based on the 10 2012 models I looked over in my local dealer lot. That stylistic mess where the fender, hood, and bumper come together ALL had issues on the left side. If this thing came back from a front end repair looking like that, no way the customer accepts it.

  • avatar
    Freddie

    If GM were to tune the Malibu’s steering and suspension for better road feel and handling, would that much change the manufacturing cost?
    Maybe it’s just an enthusiast’s wishful thinking, but wouldn’t a better driving experience on the test drive impress and help sway even the average buyer? Or are we just stuck with results of focus groups who say they want finger-tip parallel parking?

  • avatar
    car follower

    I think GM has a winner with this Malibu and it will get better when they put that new 2.5L engine in it.Hopefully the power will be the same with less rpm and also it should have better mid range torque.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    @28-cars-later – I did work for Honda at the time (and still do), specifically Acura. Got some crap from my coworkers but not much as 2/3 of my coworkers drove GM at the time (simply due to cost). Let’s just say with my experience they drive a LOT more Honda/Acuras. And not with dealer plates if you know what I mean…

    I am more disappointed than anything with the Epsilon Malibu. I expected more reliability for my dollar, even with the value (I saved about $4k even with breaking even on trade with the ’07 Accord).

  • avatar
    damikco

    Through out all the biased the Malibu is a good car and im sure the next model will only be an improvement.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Only an improvement, except that the top-spec model loses about 60 horsepower.

      Damikco, as for your assertion above that it’s “the most laughable statement yet” that “The interior of either the previous Accord or the current Sonata/Optima all kick its ass,” those models beat the Malibu in all these areas:
      •Available nav screen
      •Rear center armrest
      •Soft-touch door panels

      It’s the start of the game and you’re already behind, 3-zip. Your serve.

      • 0 avatar
        damikco

        I know that center armrest rest is a break through in auto technology. Don’t need a distracting nav screen when on star has voice guided directions. These GM bashers a pathetic try agian

  • avatar
    windnsea00

    Has anyone noticed in the 4 cylinder/6A models a light wobble feel in the drivetrain when taking off from a stop, specifically under heavier throttle? If you were familiar with the Suzuki Forenza/Reno, they did the same thing, albeit far worse.

    My buddy had a new `12 Malibu a few weeks ago and actually brought it up to me, something I had noticed before but figured it was just me being overly anal.

    Also, what is up with the new GM belt buckles, they are old school huge!

    • 0 avatar
      potatobreath

      Torque steer or one wheel losing grip maybe? The 6-speed auto trans can be quite aggressive with the gears if you’re heavy on the throttle. I rarely get to drive the V6 VVT in the Malibu, but I would guess it’s the transmission keeping a very low gear to give you the launch you appear to want out of the four cylinder. But it can be enough to break traction at one of the front tires! See if the traction and stability control light comes on when that happens.

      Be gentle with the throttle. Or don’t. ;)

      • 0 avatar
        windnsea00

        Torque steer is when the car pulls to one side but this is more like a mechanical wobble/shimmy in the drivetrain taking off from a stop. I have noticed it on some cheap FWD cars in the past.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      PT Cruisers did this heavily, as has every Epsilon platform vehicle I’ve driven with the Ecotec 4cyl, in both 2.2 and 2.4 sizes.

  • avatar
    alluster

    The current Malibu when introduced in 08, while not class leading was an important first step for GM. It has made significant inroads into the retail market share. It was a well made car with lots of attention to detail. The average transaction price rose dramatically ($4k to $5K on average) to levels higher than the Camry and Accord. Even now the Malibu transacts above the Camry and Accord. These are the ATP stats from autoobserver for July. Note that the Camry and Accord prices were higher due to inventory shortages

    Model – July Average Transaction Price – Price change since quake
    Malibu – $24,106 – +73$
    Accord – $24,413 – +1,094$
    Camry – $23,500 – +171$
    Sonata – $23.183 – +478$
    http://www.autoobserver.com/assets/072111%20ATP%20by%20Model%20-%20AO.jpg

    GM has had similar success with redesigns in the last few years where the new models sold for significantly higher prices than their predecessors. The new Equinox $5000 more than the old one, the Terrain 7000$ more than the Torrent, The Cruze $4000 more than Cobalt, the Lacrosse 7,000$ more than the previous one, all while enjoying higher sales, especially retail. The new Malibu will continue to change perceptions and make slow but steady gains. Baby Steps yes, but in the right direction. You only have to look at success of the Cruze to see what great product can do. Also, once the next gen Impala goes premium and rises in price, it will stop cannibalizing Malibu sales.

    In 2007, the Camry outsold the Malibu by 340,000 Units. In 2010 the Camry outsold the Malibu by only 130,000 Units. In 2011 for the first 11 months, the Camry outsold the ‘Bu by 83,000 Units. Notice the shortening gap given that GM’s midsize fleet sales have gone down, while Toyota’s up.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    This platform is oid! It was designed for the defunct Saturn and Pontia. The later which served as coupe and converible. Camry doesn’t do coupes and convertibles and the Accord has never been a convertible.

    Do you guys always review out going modelks in their last year as the 2013 Malibu is Episilon ll model is all new unlike the gussied up 2013 Camry? Honestly don’t think Hyundai will hurt Fusion/Malibu sales like it will Camcord sales. Camcord is taking it on the chin as everyone is fastforwarding to the top of the sales race.

  • avatar

    Lets be honest the new Chrysler 200 with its class leading V6 is better than any Malibu. It is simply a better car. The 200 may have the best domestic interior in its class.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    The slamming of GM continues on this site.

    Not really. Just posting opinions. At the end of its 5 year cycle, that the Malibu is not all that competitive only shows how far and fast the genre has come. It’s a great looking car IMO, but the 2 rentals I’ve driven (’09, ’11) didn’t impress me.

  • avatar

    I drove my sister and her infant son up to Lake George NY in this car this past summer. For some reason every time I accelerated my sister’s son would put his hands over his hears and cry. There is a strange vibrating sound that comes from the Malibu’s chassis. Maybe the kid is picking up these frequencies better than the adults, but I have noticed this in both the 2005 and 2009 Malibu. The chassis is rather strange in this car. On the trip home my sister insisted on taking my mother’s Infiniti instead. I heard her son did not cry once in that car.

    BTW, Lake George is a beautiful place.

  • avatar
    yaymx5

    My favorite thing about the chevy malibu? Depreciation. Can get a current generation ‘Bu for not much money.

    This is good news for enthusiasts: if you can spend less money on the plush-but-boring car for when the inlaws visit, you’ll have more money to spend on a Toyota 86 (or whatever you enjoy hooning in).

  • avatar
    HawkeyeMN

    Apparently I having purchased this car recently must be a moron. Here’s how it broke down for me:
    1) 2008 VW Passat totaled. Wonderful and reliable (really) car.
    2) I would never buy a used VW.
    3) I would also never buy a new VW in the first model year of a new design. (Or second, for that matter)
    4) I would especially never buy a new VW in the first model year in first year at a new mfg. facility.
    5) 2.5. Yikes.
    6) Camcord – to me added nothing to the Malibu other than being a sheep. The interior of the Camry was by no means superior, and the Accord had buckets of road noise and an extremely uncomfortable seatback.
    7) IMO, the Fusion interior is below that of the Malibu,and the 4 cyl produces a sonic boom under heavy throttle.
    8) I am not personally able to spend time or risk repair in a car purchased without warranty
    9) I use a car for work that has a ‘conservative’ customer base.
    Is the Malibu perfect? Certainly not – but even as a car enthusiast, purchases sometimes are about compromise. It’s not great, but it doesn’t suck.


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