He was a nice young man working the Enterprise counter, but I wasn’t buying his upgrade spiel. “Ya know, if you’re going to Joliet, there will be a lot of big trucks on the highway, I can upgrade you to a full size for just $15.” Thanks, but no thanks, I will take my Kia and be on my way. But when I met Anthony at the parking lot I was told; “Mr. Ward, I see we have you for an economy car, but I have none left. How about this Chevy Malibu?”
“Ka-Ching!” I win, looks like I’ll be saving that $3 a day for coffee.
Despite the upgrade, I wasn’t exactly pumped about the Malibu, I was hoping for a Charger or even a 300. I hadn’t tried the Malibu, but the previous generations had left me wanting. There, the gleaming silver bullet, sat with just over 13,000 miles. I was in a much better mood than my trip to Houston last month, and Enterprise had managed to get me in and out in less than 15 minutes, including the bus ride from Midway Airport.
So when I climbed into the stripper ‘Boo, I was prepared to give it a fair shake. The trunk had already swallowed my bag and would have taken two more full size bags and probably three backpacks as well.
With the engine already running, MyLink connected to my phone is less than 5 minutes and I eased onto Chicago’s surface streets headed south to Autobahn Country Club. As you would expect, the Chevy was quite comfortable soaking up the potholes around the airport. Not outstandingly so, but well. I actually liked the steering. It felt weighted with a nice on center feel. Good feedback; not quite to Accord standards, but that may be a matter of preference.
I eased onto the freeway and started to make my way southwest. I made it almost 4 whole miles before I encountered traffic. There I would stay, in one form or another, for the next 2 hours. It gave me a chance to spend a little Q time with this weekend’s ride. As superior as I was feeling when I rejected the upgrade offer, this car would have been worth the extra money. The big seats in the Malibu are more comfortable and offer a greater scope of adjustment than the Altima and certainly more than the econobox I reserved. The stereo was pretty good – lots of cubbyholes for things and even a space behind the stereo screen.
That evening I ended up with three passengers, my 6 ft. frame the shortest of them. Despite some criticism of a lack of rear seat room, the Malibu took all of our gear and us to the hotel that night and track the next day. I was actually surprised at how well the Ecotec handled the additional weight. With only 196 hp, the real advantage is 191 lb-ft of torque through the slick shifting 6-speed auto. You won’t win any stoplight sprints against its competitors (unless it’s a Altima), but that doesn’t matter much when you quadruple the passengers.
With the size upgrade, I only had to return the tank ½ full, so I didn’t observe any real fuel numbers. But, after driving over 150 miles in a mix of freeway and surface, the tank barely broke the halfway mark. So the claimed 25/36 is probably accurate, which was another pleasant surprise.
This was absolutely the stripper base rental car fleet model, but a “build and price” excursion on GM’s website tells me its $22,465 before the $825 destination charge. It showed me 17 in stock units around the Atlanta metro that match the build ranging from $23,300 to $23,600. With $2,400 down and $1,000 cash back, the Malibu can be had for $294 a month at 1.9%. This places it squarely in the price point of a similar Camry or Accord, but slightly above a Chrysler 200 and under a Ford Fusion, which is kind of where it lives.
I expected disenchantment because that is what GM sedans have always delivered. But the Malibu surprised me. It’s not a market-shattering bargain propelling GM to the top of the market, but it is a good, competent vehicle, competitively priced in a very difficult segment. It offers good value by every measure of a car for the investment. The clear choice in this segment really comes to flavor and the aggressiveness of your chosen dealer to put you in their car rather than the competition.
Which means “Ka-Ching” for anyone looking to buy in this segment.
Photography courtesy Nick Boris
General Motors contributed nothing to this review. But Enterprise did rent me the car and offered outstanding customer service in doing so. Speaking of great work, how about these photos? No crappy iPhone pics for the B&B this time. As I promised my buddy Nick Boris gets credit for every shot.
Christian “Mental” Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. He is married to the most patient woman in the world, lives in Atlanta and is racing his silly Nissan truck in the 24 Hours of LeMons this weekend at Carolina Motorsports Park. You can follow that and all his other shenaningans on Instagram, Twitter and Vine at M3ntalward.