The Truth About Cars » Malibu http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 11 Sep 2014 23:24:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Malibu http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Reuters: GM Ignition Woes Came As Early As 1997 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/reuters-gm-ignition-woes-came-as-early-as-1997/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/reuters-gm-ignition-woes-came-as-early-as-1997/#comments Fri, 04 Jul 2014 12:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=858601 It may have taken nearly 14 years for one ignition switch issue to finally find attention, but General Motors’ ignition woes go as far back as 1997, when Chevrolet Malibu owners had their own switch problems. Reuters reports one of the earliest complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was in April of […]

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GM RenCen Downtown Detroit

It may have taken nearly 14 years for one ignition switch issue to finally find attention, but General Motors’ ignition woes go as far back as 1997, when Chevrolet Malibu owners had their own switch problems.

Reuters reports one of the earliest complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was in April of that year, when a New Jersey woman said she had been stuck on the road seven times with her new Malibu due to the switch’s inability to turn and the key stuck in place. The defective part was replaced twice, but to no avail. Other complaints include the key being easily removable while the power was still on, and power suddenly cutting out.

By 2001, when the 2000 Chevrolet Impala experienced its own ignition issues similar to those in the Malibu and, further on, the Cobalt and Saturn Ion, GM sent a pair of service bulletins to its dealership network, offering potential solutions to remedy the problems in both vehicles. However, no recall would be issued until Monday’s order of 8.4 million vehicles.

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GM Divides Engineering Division, Faces More Recall Woes http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/gm-divides-engineering-division-faces-more-recall-woes/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/gm-divides-engineering-division-faces-more-recall-woes/#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=808602 Automotive News reports General Motors has split its engineering division in two, with executives Ken Kezler and Kenneth Morris becoming vice presidents of global vehicle components and subsystems and global product integrity, respectively. The split also means vice president of (what was) global vehicle engineering, John Calabrese will retire, though the retirement is alleged to […]

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Automotive News reports General Motors has split its engineering division in two, with executives Ken Kezler and Kenneth Morris becoming vice presidents of global vehicle components and subsystems and global product integrity, respectively. The split also means vice president of (what was) global vehicle engineering, John Calabrese will retire, though the retirement is alleged to not be linked with the ongoing recall crisis. The immediate changes are the result of the ongoing review of the ignition switch issue affecting the company since early this year, with the aim of flagging potential safety problems within a product sooner than when the division was united. GM product chief Mark Reuss proclaimed the new divisions “would have expedited a whole bunch of things” had they been in place earlier.

The new divisions may have been established too late, however, as Bloomberg reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is readying a new investigation into the automaker, this time involving the brake systems in the 2014 Chevrolet Impala. The probe comes from a report by an owner who experienced several incidences linked to the car’s driver-assist technologies, including one where the collision-avoidance system brought the car to a halt despite no traffic ahead of the vehicle, leading to a rear-end collision instead. The investigation is expected to affect around 60,580 Impalas, and GM is cooperating with the agency in the probe.

In addition, both GM and the NHTSA may find themselves under the gun once more. According to CNN Money, the recall issued in late March affecting 1.3 million Saturn Ions between 2004 and 2007 regarding power-steering issues is the second recall to have taken over a decade to resolve. The agency first received word of the Ion’s problems in 2004, with an investigation opened in 2011 after 4,800 complaints and 30,000 warranty claims were filed, while the automaker didn’t include the Ions in a 2010 power-steering recall despite the Saturn sharing the same part as those affected.

Reuters reports Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is interested in bringing in former GM CEOs before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee over the main recall, especially Dan Akerson, who passed the torch to current CEO Mary Barra in late December of 2013, approximately a month before the recall began. Whether this happens will be up to Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who is in charge of scheduling hearings and selecting who will testify before the committee.

Finally, GM itself filed a motion before the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York earlier this week, asking the court to reinforce the liability protections established when the automaker left bankruptcy, forcing those whose lawsuits came prior to July 2009 to take their fight to “Old GM.” On the other side, the plaintiffs seeking to collect damages from “New GM” over “Old GM’s” negligence filed a proposed class action lawsuit that would prevent GM from using the protections. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Gerber issued an order for a procedural conference May 2 to determine course of action moving forward, proclaiming “no substantive matters will be decided” during the conference.

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Piston Slap: Mali-blewin’ over Tight Panther Legroom? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/piston-slap-mali-blewin-over-tight-panther-legroom/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/piston-slap-mali-blewin-over-tight-panther-legroom/#comments Tue, 13 Aug 2013 11:47:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=499064 Joshua writes: I am coming out of the throes of a mid-life crisis that caused me to replace a workable Mazda 5 several years ago with a sleek-looking Honda Civic coupe. Now that my boys are getting older, rear space room in the Honda is starting to become an issue, so I am looking to […]

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Joshua writes:

I am coming out of the throes of a mid-life crisis that caused me to replace a workable Mazda 5 several years ago with a sleek-looking Honda Civic coupe. Now that my boys are getting older, rear space room in the Honda is starting to become an issue, so I am looking to trade off the Honda for something with lots of rear seat space for hauling around the family, friends and clients.

After doing research, the two most viable candidates seem to be a 2012 Chevy Malibu LTZ with a V6 or a 2011 Crown Vic. Both would be about the same cost — $14 to 15k — and both would have about the same mileage — 35k. The last gen Malibu seems to be the only mid-sized sedan in my price range that actually has rear seat leg room sufficient for a 6 foot tall adult. It has more room than the last gen Impala, which I had originally looked at, but ruled out once I sat in the back of one with my knees jammed into seat back.

I have always wanted a Crown Vic or Mercury Grand Marquis, however, and now my living situation has changed such that I have a garage big enough to fit one. I also realize this will be my last chance to buy a low mileage Panther. So I am unsure of which car is the right fit.

Besides the looks, one of the reasons I bought the Honda was for the gas mileage. I commute 50 miles roundtrip to work each day in Southern California, so the 30 mpg it gets during that commute has been helpful. I am also used to the size of the Honda when maneuvering into parking spots and changing lanes on the freeway.

Given this, I have a feeling that the smaller Malibu might be less of shock to get used to when driving. I presume that mileage would be a non-issue, i.e., both the Crown Vic and Malibu will obviously get worse mileage than the Honda, but the difference between the Crown Vic and the Malibu with the V6 will be negligible, maybe a couple miles per gallon difference, and not enough to factor into the decision.

So, any thoughts that might help me out on my decision? Differences in reliability, etc.? Will I think I’m driving a big lumbering truck if i choose the Crown Vic? I haven’t driven one in 15 years, and that was my grandmother’s I would run errands in, so I don’t have a solid recollection of what it would be like as a daily driver. Thanks for your help on this one.

Sajeev answers:

Before we bore all the Panther Haters on this blog, let’s consider this: the Crown Vic’s rear leg room isn’t great, much less class leading.  But 39.6 inches is greater than 37.6 inches. However, neither of your choices is ideal.  Perhaps you should consider the Toyota Camry? It has a couple inches more, ya know.

Did I really just recommend a Camry over Panther Love?  Shut ‘yo mouth!

So anyway, the Crown Vic is the obvious choice. Just go drive one.  You like? Then you won’t regret.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

 

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You’re Going To Like The Way You Look In A Malibu Turbo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/youre-going-to-like-the-way-you-look-in-a-malibu-turbo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/youre-going-to-like-the-way-you-look-in-a-malibu-turbo/#comments Fri, 21 Sep 2012 19:44:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=461216 Hey kids! Are you feeling nostalgic for the old Celebrity Eurosport? Well then — line right up! Although the Malibu Turbo is coming to market about two years behind the Hyundai Sonata Turbo and Kia Optima Turbo, it does make less power than either and it also has less room in the trunk and rear […]

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Hey kids! Are you feeling nostalgic for the old Celebrity Eurosport? Well then — line right up!

Although the Malibu Turbo is coming to market about two years behind the Hyundai Sonata Turbo and Kia Optima Turbo, it does make less power than either and it also has less room in the trunk and rear seat. Probably. Still, based on how long it took GM to bring out the Fiero after the X1/9 debuted, and the length of time between the showroom appearance of the first PT Cruiser and the Chevrolet HHR, this is remarkably rapid response from GM. The car also features a full nineteen more horsepower than the old Malibu Maxx SS from a decade ago, even if it can’t quite match the older car in actual passenger volume or utility.

Look for the Malibu Turbo to comprehensively beat the Sonata Turbo around a road course thanks to aggressive shock settings and for this fact to be widely touted even as the ‘Bu’s inability to keep within javelin distance of a Camry V6′s taillights is thoughtfully ignored by GM’s media lapdog. Sorry, kids, this time the Japanese Beigekrieg is likely to blitz the feckless General.

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GM Deathwatch Part 1! This Time, It’s Forbes Doing The Countdown http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/gm-deathwatch-part-1-this-time-its-forbes-doing-the-countdown/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/gm-deathwatch-part-1-this-time-its-forbes-doing-the-countdown/#comments Fri, 17 Aug 2012 14:49:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=457198 “President Obama is proud of his bailout of General Motors. That’s good, because, if he wins a second term, he is probably going to have to bail GM out again.” Sounds like our august founder, Robert Farago, sounding off about American Leyland the New GM. Nope, it’s Forbes this time, and they come to bury […]

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“President Obama is proud of his bailout of General Motors. That’s good, because, if he wins a second term, he is probably going to have to bail GM out again.” Sounds like our august founder, Robert Farago, sounding off about American Leyland the New GM. Nope, it’s Forbes this time, and they come to bury the General, not to praise him.

Louis Woodhill’s article pulls no punches. Using TTAC’s Winterkorn Meets The i30 article as evidence, combined with Car and Driver‘s decision to rank the 2012 Passat first in a family-sedan test (and the Malibu last), Woodhill states

Uh-oh. While Dan Akerson is busy rearranging the deck chairs on GM’s Titanic, Martin Winterkorn is leading VW to world domination via technical excellence.

Your humble author would suggest that it is Toyota, not Volkswagen, that has its foot on the General’s throat, but that’s a minor point.

The Forbes article rustled enough jimmies on Wednesday that the publication decided to run a counterpoint today, entitled “For GM, Bankruptcy Talk Is Its Own Fault”. The author, Micheline Maynard, argues that GM has a good cash position — sounds familiar — and plenty of ability to borrow more — which they’ve done in the past. When the best argument your defenders can make against bankruptcy is that you can borrow more money, you’re in bad shape. My AMEX is supposedly ready to charge a Lamborghini Aventador but that doesn’t mean I can pay for… hmm. Okay, I’m going to wrap this up. In unrelated news, TTAC may have a review tomorrow of the Lamborghini Aventador.

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Review: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/review-2013-chevrolet-malibu-eco/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/review-2013-chevrolet-malibu-eco/#comments Fri, 16 Dec 2011 00:35:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=422547 Through the mid-1980s, General Motors essentially owned the midsize sedan market. This dominance was ended by the original Ford Taurus, and GM’s position sunk further with the rise of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry to the top two spots. In recent years the Fusion has replaced the Taurus, while Nissan, Hyundai, and (for 2012) […]

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Through the mid-1980s, General Motors essentially owned the midsize sedan market. This dominance was ended by the original Ford Taurus, and GM’s position sunk further with the rise of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry to the top two spots. In recent years the Fusion has replaced the Taurus, while Nissan, Hyundai, and (for 2012) even Volkswagen have become serious contenders. For GM to reclaim one of the top spots, the Chevrolet Malibu had better be a damn good car. The model has been redesigned for 2013. Is the new car good enough? After doing my best to get some seat time in the Detroit area, I gave up my press junket cherry to Chevrolet to find out.

The Sonata gained its current position partly through striking exterior styling. The same won’t happen with the new Malibu. It’s a handsome car, especially with the LTZ’s 18-inch five-spoke alloys (the chunky overhangs appear more massive with the Eco’s 17s), and the ends of the car are distinctively Chevrolet, but the side profile has been seen many times before in various Accords and Camrys over the past 15 years. The trunk bustle was introduced on the 2002 BMW 7-Series, though it is more successfully (if still not entirely successfully) incorporated here. Chevrolet touts the Camaro-inspired tail lamps, but will many potential buyers notice or care unless the car also performs like a Camaro? Either way, the Malibu might be more attractive than most competitors but its conservative shape won’t grab the attention of potential buyers.

The best-looking car I saw in Austin? That would be a double-dubbed 1961 Cadillac Coupe de Ville:

The new Malibu’s interior is better. Though there’s nothing exciting about the instrument panel’s styling, and the strakes connecting the vents are a questionable element, it looks and feels much more upscale than those in competitors, especially the Camry and Passat. Much of the instrument panel and door panels are soft-touch surfaces suitable for a more expensive car.

Step up to the LTZ trim (not available with the eAssist powertrain, and so not offered at launch), and you can get stylish brown and black leather seats with orange piping and neon blue stitching. Sound like too much? Well, it actually works:

In the Eco, the optional leather is a relatively drab single shade, and the standard cloth is even more downscale. At night, everything is lit in ice blue. The various buttons do have a feel in keeping with the car’s price point, but they are large, logically arranged, and within reach. The Eco has MyLink standard, which provides Bluetooth smartphone integration complete with voice activation and apps for Pandora, Stitcher, and others to come.

The new Malibu is 2.7 inches wider than the current car, and rides on a wheelbase 4.5 inches shorter. These dimensional changes translate to the interior, where there’s more shoulder room but less rear legroom. The VW Passat now clearly leads the segment in the latter. The front seats are fairly comfortable, at least when fitted with four-way power lumbar (which is on the passenger side only with leather). Without the adjustable lumbar lower back support is lacking. Unlike in some recent GM cars, power recline is available for both front seats. Raise the driver seat a couple inches to clear the tall instrument panel, and the view forward isn’t too far off the segment average. The view rearward, on the other hand, could well prove a stumbling block for many potential buyers. Because of the very high trunk, the rear window is a narrow slit. And to get the drag coefficient to 0.30 (for the Eco, 0.29 for the upcoming LS with its narrower tires) the side mirrors were downsized.

Though the official rear legroom stat of 36.9 inches suggests otherwise, the back seat is just large enough for one adult male about six-feet in height to squeeze behind another. While the large cushion promises good thigh support, it’s mounted a couple inches too low to actually provide it. Compromised by the rear-mounted battery pack, trunk space and utility are only a match for hybrids. The rear seat folds, but as in the Camry Hybrid the pass through is a small slot on only one side:

Buyers for whom trunk space is a priority will strongly prefer the related conventionally-powered sedans in all cases. Interior storage is fairly generous, and includes a hidden compartment behind the display screen.

Eventually three four-cylinder engines will be offered in the new 2013 Malibu: a 182-horsepower 2.4-liter with “eAssist,” a 190-horsepower 2.5-liter, and a turbocharged 2.0-liter. At launch in early 2012, only the first will be available. Horsepower ratings for the 2.0T, like the 2.5 part of a new Ecotec engine family, haven’t yet been announced for this application. But in the Cadillac ATS it’ll churn out a not-quite-Sonata 270. “eAssist” refers to an electric motor linked by a belt to the engine that charges a small battery pack while braking then provides up to a 15-horsepower boost—on top of the engine’s 182—while accelerating. So it’s essentially GM’s “light hybrid” system from a few years ago with upgraded components (including a lithium-ion battery pack) and re-branded to lower expectations vis-à-vis full hybrids with larger battery packs and more powerful electric motors. How much more powerful? The Toyota Camry Hybrid’s motor-generator can produce 105 kW. The Malibu’s? Eleven.

To take advantage of this assist to benefit fuel economy, GM has fitted the Eco with a taller final drive ratio (2.64 vs. 3.23). Perhaps they should not have. While 190+ horsepower should be plenty to motivate the Malibu’s 3,620 pounds (about 130 were saved through Eco-specific lightweight parts), in practice the powertrain often struggles, especially up hills. While the engine is nearly silent under 3,500 rpm, above that mark a high-pitched whine suggests that too little engine has been given the task of accelerating too much car. Whatever assist is provided by the “eAssist” is far from evident. The full hybrids from Toyota, Ford, and Hyundai all feel significantly quicker. For best performance it helps to manually downshift the six-speed automatic (the only transmission likely to be offered with any of the engines), but this proves awkward. The manual shift rocker switch is on top of the shifter, so you cannot grab the shifter in a conventional manner to operate it. I improvised by using the armrest to fully support my arm, and then tapping the rocker with my free hand.

The EPA rates the Malibu Eco at 25 city, 37 highway. The trip computer reported about 25 in suburban driving with about one complete stop per mile. Out on a rural highway we occasionally observed just over 30. While the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid also struggles to match its EPA numbers, both the Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry are capable of low 40s in suburban driving. Of at least equal concern: the non-hybrid Sonata (24/35) and Camry (25/35) have EPA ratings nearly as high as the Malibu Eco’s.

The new Malibu is even more resistant to stopping than accelerating. While the regenerative braking is transparent, braking force does not build linearly, and the brakes don’t do much until quite a bit of effort has been applied. Repeatedly I had to step up my braking effort, then step it up again, as the Malibu Eco rushed towards a stopped car ahead.

The Malibu’s handling casts further doubt on its claimed 3,620-pound curb weight. Though closely related and dimensionally similar to the Buick Regal, through its steering wheel the Chevrolet feels much larger and heavier. Suspension tuning that contends for the title of softest-in-class is part of the reason. While over decent roads during casual driving the payoff is a very smooth ride, hit wavy pavement at speed and the under-damped body floats and bounds about. The suspension geometry seems sound and the car’s handling is always safe, with mushy understeer as the low limits of the Goodyear Assurance tires are approached, but there’s little sense of what’s going on where the rubber meets the road. Confidence is not inspired. I’d much rather drive a Regal or even a 2012 Camry on a challenging road. What the Malibu does do extremely well: keep outside noise outside. It’s an incredibly quiet car. Even the clatter of a Ford diesel pickup accelerating uphill with a loaded trailer the next lane over was barely audible.

While the Malibu Eco can’t match the Fusion or the Camry hybrids in terms of performance and economy, it also costs less despite having a much more upscale look and feel. The Malibu starts at $25,995. Load one up, and the sticker is $30,625. A similarly-equipped Ford Fusion Hybrid lists for $33,835, over $3,200 more. TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool indicates that in terms of features the cars are close to equal. A similarly loaded up Camry Hybrid or Sonata Hybrid splits the difference between the two: both are about $1,900 more than the Chevrolet after adjusting for feature differences. But a Sonata Limited costs about the same as the Malibu, while a Camry SE is about $2,000 less. So the Eco only seems a good value if compared against full hybrids—with which it cannot compete in terms of fuel efficiency. The Malibu 2.5, when it goes on sale next summer, will likely cost about $2,000 less (the amount GM charges for this system in the Regal).

So, the Malibu Eco isn’t terribly fuel efficient, and also certainly isn’t a driver’s car. And yet Chevrolet will likely still sell many of them (especially once the other engines arrive). Toyota’s and Volkswagen’s recent decontenting have opened up a hole in the segment. Many midsize sedan shoppers prioritize interior materials and a cushy, quiet ride above all else, and Chevrolet has done a very good job with the new Malibu’s interior and an outstanding job with noise suppression. This formula has been working with the Chevrolet Cruze and Equinox. It will likely work with the new Malibu as well.

For this review, GM paid to fly the author to Austin, TX, put him up for a night, and fed him four meals.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

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Review: 2012 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/review-2012-chevrolet-malibu-ltz/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/review-2012-chevrolet-malibu-ltz/#comments Mon, 05 Dec 2011 14:35:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=420173   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 […]

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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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As The World Shrinks: 2013 Chevy Malibu Debuts In Korea http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/malibus-korean-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/malibus-korean-debut/#comments Wed, 05 Oct 2011 15:08:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=413556 Like the Chevrolet Cruze before it, the new Malibu was supposed to debut in Korea (probably as a Daewoo) a good year before it arrived in the US. But a few things have changed in GM’s relationship with its Korean unit, no longer called Daewoo but GM Korea. The Daewoo brand is gone, for one, […]

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Like the Chevrolet Cruze before it, the new Malibu was supposed to debut in Korea (probably as a Daewoo) a good year before it arrived in the US. But a few things have changed in GM’s relationship with its Korean unit, no longer called Daewoo but GM Korea. The Daewoo brand is gone, for one, replaced by the Chevrolet bowtie. And with Bob Lutz’s blessing, GM CEO Dan Akerson pulled forward the US Malibu launch by some six months, which means we should be getting it in the first quarter next year.

And though the possibility of a simultaneous global launch is still out of reach (video of the Korean launch can be found here), this model is a key element in GM’s globalizing effort, replacing not only the US Malibu, but also the Daewoo Tosca (a.k.a Chevy/Holden Epica). We knew GM has way too many architectures across its global lineup, but were you aware that the Tosca/Epica had optional Porsche-designed transverse straight-six engines, in 2.0 and 2.5 liter configurations? Neither did I. But with the new Malibu, it’s straight-up-and-down GM: the Epsilon II platform, with 2.0 or 2.4 Ecotec engines (in Korea, anyway… an all-new 2.5 liter engine is on tap fro the US). We may be quick with the Daewoo jokes, but this new Malibu is doubtless making the automotive world a much smaller, more homogenous place. Welcome to the future… [Hat Tip to our man in Korea, Walter Foreman}

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New or Used: Wants, Needs and Bathwater http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/new-or-used-wants-needs-and-bathwater/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/new-or-used-wants-needs-and-bathwater/#comments Tue, 30 Aug 2011 18:14:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=409271 Steven writes: Sajeev and Steve, I have a 2001 Volvo XC wagon, that has about 175 k on it, the car is in pretty good shape, had the tranny replaced before I got it, I have put about 4k in since Jan, the real problem is it gets about 22 MPG with 90% highway, all […]

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Steven writes:

Sajeev and Steve,

I have a 2001 Volvo XC wagon, that has about 175 k on it, the car is in pretty good shape, had the tranny replaced before I got it, I have put about 4k in since Jan, the real problem is it gets about 22 MPG with 90% highway, all wheel drive and Turbo=bad gas mileage, I drive about 40,000 miles a year and betwen the gas and the upkeep I am getting killed, hence time for a new car.

This is what I want, good to great on gas,auto, 4dr or wagon  safe and comfy on the road, no suv, no RWD,( drive from NY to Boston year round, I am in sales so it needs to be somewhat presentable.  No americian cars, sorry no faith that they will hold up in the long run, and need some soul (hence no Camry) since I live in the car, budget anywhere from 15k to 30 k, I would perfer used but with prices this high not sure if it makes sense, I like Saabs, Audi,Acura, had a bunch of Accords but not since 2006. Lately have been very tempted by a 2011 VW Jetta TDI, great MPG but VW does not have a great rep. It seems VW TDI hold their value very well so that is why I am considering a 2011, love Saabs bc they do not hold their value so a great used buy ( had 2 in the past) I need some quick help from you and the board, before the volvo needs another $1500 in repairs/ maintance. thanks

Sajeev answers:

I’d definitely gravitate to a new vehicle, given your budget, career and high prices of lightly used vehicles. Which pushes me (you) to the mainstream sedans that you might hate. You need to test drive a bunch of them to see what really speaks to you: important for someone in your line of work.

Okay, so no Camry, but you should at least drive the SE model. Ditto any Ford Fusion, Chevy Malibu: I know, I know! The Accord is also worth a look, but I am gonna recommend two sweethearts in this class: the Hyundai Sonata (SE or Limited) and the Mazda 6. Both are rather cool for their class, and the Hyundai has a great warranty (with roadside assistance) for a road warrior.

Steve answers:

I wouldn’t throw out the Camry with the bathwater just yet. Last Tuesday I test drove all the new Camrys and found the Hybrid model to be the absolute embodiment of everything you likely want. Plenty of power and comfort. Exceptional fuel economy (43 city, 39 highway). Surprisingly tight handling and ‘healthy’ road feel in what is supposedly a traditional conservative car.

I would put that model near the top regardless of the bulbous marshmallow nature of the outgoing generation.

The rest of the results are pretty much in line with what Sajeev suggests. On the new side there is the Fusion, Sonata, 6, and Altima. On the used side it depends on whether you’re willing to consider any unpopular cars. Yes, SAABs are cheap now. So is the Infiniti G25 which is one of many near luxury sedans that fall through the cracks due mostly to ‘spec junkies’ wanting the more powerful model.

If you’re willing to consider a 1 to 2 year old CPO car that offers a fantastic warranty, I would opt for a step up. The C-Class, Audi A4, and Infiniti G25 would be on my list as well. Although to be frank, I would likely just go with the new Camry Hybrid if I had to drive all those miles in the pothole marred northeast. Good luck!

 

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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New or Used: MAXX-ing out Mom’s Next Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/new-or-used-maxx-ing-out-moms-next-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/new-or-used-maxx-ing-out-moms-next-wagon/#comments Thu, 02 Jun 2011 16:52:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=396296 Michael writes: My mom’s 1998 V70 with 215k miles is starting to leak coolant, with no major puddles on the ground.  I told them to look at the oil to see if there were any signs of the coolant in the oil.  I personally think the time with the Volvo is almost over as the […]

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Michael writes:

My mom’s 1998 V70 with 215k miles is starting to leak coolant, with no major puddles on the ground.  I told them to look at the oil to see if there were any signs of the coolant in the oil.  I personally think the time with the Volvo is almost over as the dealership (an independent dealership) said that its time was slowly approaching about a year ago, but they couldn’t promise how fast.  My mom loves this car and my dad likes it too.  Her requirements are preferably station wagon, heated leather seats, and automatic.  They live in Michigan so it gets cold.  AWD is not a necessity, and she knows that snow tires work just fine.  She does haul a bike on occasion, so it must be easy for her to haul the bike without having my dad there at all times.

She loves her Volvo and would like another if she could find one that would be reliable.  I recommended the Outback, especially the 2005 and later models.  What are other possibilities?  Their budget is around $15,000 or less.  They tend to drive their cars into the ground, so reliability is more important than the badge.  What should she look at?

Steve Answers:

This is a very tough call. On the used side I tend to encourage folks to keep their vehicles. Your post doesn’t mention anything about where the coolant is leaking. I would like to know about what the mechanics did find and whether there are any rust or powertrain issues.

A new low mileage engine would cost perhaps $1500 at most if or when it’s needed. Throw in some new shocks, a detail, and any other minor issues and she may need only about $3000 at most to keep it for another five years. If it’s been garaged and diligently maintained, it’s definitely a consideration.
A good wagon replacement for a Volvo V70?  A Ford Freestyle Limited loaded up with perhaps 50k miles on it. You have the exact same underpinnings as the far pricier Volvo XC90 with plenty of interior space and excellent fuel economy. If she likes a more enclosed feel like her old Volvo she may also go for the Ford Flex. It’s a bit pricier than the Freestyle. But it has a very high level of features (just like Volvo’s had in days of yore) and has a stellar reliability record.
Sajeev Answers:
Steve, as per usual, is right.  The Volvo is probably just a few weeks and a couple grand away from being a nice and reliable driver for your mom. Think of that trip to the mechanic as a spa vacation for your ride!  Too bad that doesn’t work for most people.
That said, the Freestyle (or Taurus X) is a good alternative.  The Outback is a good choice, but they aren’t a homogenous grouping like said Ford.  Some need timing belt replacements, some get really upset if you don’t follow oil changes to the letter of the owner’s manual.  And some require premium fuel, which is a concern to some.  It is hard to know which one you will recommend to your Mom, make sure to Google up the goods before pulling away from the seller’s lot.
My choice? None of the above.  The Chevy Malibu MAXX does it all: wagon, leather and heated seats in LT trim.  Unlike the sedan, the outside styling has gotten better with age. While the interior is pretty terrible for the OCD car nut, every non-Volvo discussed here isn’t exactly inspiring in that arena.  And if anyone in the family has a penchant for performance motoring, get the SS model. Like many half-baked treats from GM (from the Corvair to the G8) the MAXX deserved a better fate.  That baby had some legs to it.
Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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Does The New Malibu Trade Interior Space For Trunk Room? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/does-the-new-malibu-trades-interior-space-for-trunk-room/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/does-the-new-malibu-trades-interior-space-for-trunk-room/#comments Tue, 12 Apr 2011 21:36:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=391042 When I reviewed the current Chevrolet Malibu, I was generally impressed with GM’s effort in a highly competitive segment, but I had a few complaints. One of those complaints had to do with the ‘bu’s back bench, which prompted me to note the rear seats seem like almost an afterthought compared to the well-appointed front […]

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When I reviewed the current Chevrolet Malibu, I was generally impressed with GM’s effort in a highly competitive segment, but I had a few complaints. One of those complaints had to do with the ‘bu’s back bench, which prompted me to note

the rear seats seem like almost an afterthought compared to the well-appointed front row. Low seat height, a relatively narrow bench and unsupportive seating make for a poor combination

With images of an updated Malibu making the rounds of the blogosphere, and the Detroit News reporting that its production has been pulled ahead by six months by the order of Dan Akerson, you might think GM had taken the opportunity to improve the Malibu’s second-row shortcomings. But, according to Automotive News [sub]‘s product editor, Rick Kranz, it seems that GM has done the opposite of improve rear-seat interior space… because of yet another of the ‘bu’s shortcomings.

In a blog post rather than a news piece, (indicating that GM has not yet officially announced these numbers), Kranz points out that the updated 2013 Malibu is now a global product, and that as such, it’s been altered to serve the needs of consumers in markets outside of the US. Kranz notes:

My understanding is that the passenger compartment will be a little bit tighter… While the overall exterior dimensions are essentially the same as those of the 2011 model, 4 inches have been trimmed out of the wheelbase. Those inches have been shifted to the trunk area. The trunk area also is taller. The bottom line: The 2013 Malibu has more trunk space.

As Jack Baruth (among others) has pointed out, the current Malibu’s small, access-hampered trunk does not win it many friends among family sedan shoppers, so GM’s decision to cut from the rear legroom in order to improve the trunk makes a certain amount of sense. But, opines Kranz

Now this would seem to suggest rear passengers will give up legroom comfort to create a bigger trunk. I would think Americans prefer more rear legroom.

So, can the Malibu afford to give up a few inches of length? At 37.6 inches of rear legroom, the outgoing Malibu bests the Nissan Altima (35.8) and Hyundai Sonata (34.6), while basically matching the Ford Fusion (37.1) and Honda Accord (37.2). Of its direct competitors, only the Toyota Camry enjoys a significant advantage in rear legroom, at 38.3 inches. Even if the new Malibu lost the full four inches that Kranz implies it could in a worst-case scenario (which it likely won’t), it would still be just an inch shy of the Sonata’s 34.6 inch mark.

Go back to reviews of the Malibu, here at TTAC and elsewhere, and you’ll find that complaints about the ‘bu’s cramped rear seat accommodations rarely focus on legroom (although one blog item by BusinessWeek’s David Kiley blast’s the Malibu’s lack of legroom as a taxi). Hip and shoulder width, as well as the “low seat height, relatively narrow bench and unsupportive seating” that I found lacking, tend to dominate negative impressions of the Malibu’s people-carrying talents. In short, if Chevy’s engineers were able to keep rear legroom losses to three inches or fewer while improving the vehicle’s width and the quality of the rear seat, we’d tend to call the compromise largely worthwhile (pending a full test).

Here’s what doesn’t make sense about Kranz’s shortened-Malibu rumor: as a newly global car, GM definitely tweaked the Malibu with an eye towards its largest market, China. But, as Bertel has explained time and again, Chinese car buyers (especially buyers of relatively upscale foreign cars) tend to put an inordinate amount of importance on rear legroom, as many upwardly mobile Chinese prefer to hire a driver while staying camped in the back seat. It was for this reason that Volkswagen stretched the rear legroom of its China-oriented 2011 Jetta by some 2.7 inches, to a current-Malibu-beating 38.1 inches. Ironically, GM’s China-centric global strategy seems to suggest more rear legroom, rather than less, would (or at least should) be on the agenda as it re-engineered the Malibu to be a global vehicle.

Perhaps we should just wait for GM to release specs for the new ‘bu (planned for a week from today) before we start bemoaning American-market compromises in the name of global tastes.

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2012 Malibu Plays Peek-A-’bu http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/2012-malibu-plays-peek-a-bu/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/2012-malibu-plays-peek-a-bu/#comments Thu, 31 Mar 2011 14:57:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=389283 When March sales come out tomorrow, the Chevrolet Malibu will likely find itself in a tough position again. Last month the car that was once hailed as Chevy’s Lutzian turning point had fallen to fifth place in the midsized segment, having sold only slightly better than the Impala which has never been hailed as anything […]

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When March sales come out tomorrow, the Chevrolet Malibu will likely find itself in a tough position again. Last month the car that was once hailed as Chevy’s Lutzian turning point had fallen to fifth place in the midsized segment, having sold only slightly better than the Impala which has never been hailed as anything other than a large, inexpensive and unsexy sedan. But Chevy has learned from Ford that the right amount of mid-cycle styling freshening can go a long way: the Fusion never quite lived up to its hype until an update that was more than just a facelift improved its aesthetics, sending it soaring to the number two sales spot in the segment. Chevy is clearly hoping that a fresh look, featuring Camaro-style taillights (a move that echoes the new Charger’s retro-taillamp graft from the Challenger) will juice up the ‘bu… and with no Impala replacement coming for at least a few years, most of Chevy’s midsized-segment chickens are in this retro-look basket.

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Malibu Dreaming: Why Can’t Chevy’s Mid-Sizer Vanquish the Impala? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/malibu-dreaming-why-cant-chevys-mid-sizer-vanquish-the-impala/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/malibu-dreaming-why-cant-chevys-mid-sizer-vanquish-the-impala/#comments Wed, 08 Sep 2010 14:01:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=364999 It looks like the Malibu is finally outselling the Impala. There’s been a lot of discussion, here on TTAC and elsewhere, as to why that hasn’t been the case all along. After all, the Malibu is the shining example of New GM’s ability to compete on an even footing in the marketplace with relevant, modern […]

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It looks like the Malibu is finally outselling the Impala. There’s been a lot of discussion, here on TTAC and elsewhere, as to why that hasn’t been the case all along. After all, the Malibu is the shining example of New GM’s ability to compete on an even footing in the marketplace with relevant, modern product, while the Impala was originally engineered in 1986 and has an interior made entirely of recycled Tupperware. Every “car person” in your life, from the neighbor kid who drives a slammed Civic EX Coupe to your IMSA Patron GT3 Cup-racing podiatrist, knows the Malibu is the smart choice.

I’ve been driving GM10 and W-body cars since I first rented a 1990 Cutlass Supreme sedan for a Spring Break trip (to Chicago, dammit, not Daytona Beach) twenty years ago, and I know them pretty well. It had been a while since I’d driven a ‘Bu, however, so I snagged an el-cheapo 1LT 2.4L/six-speed from Budget Rent-A-Car and put 1100 miles on it over the course of four days. Perhaps the Malibu would explain to me why it hasn’t left its ancient showroom mate in the dust.

This is the basic Malibu interior. The materials and execution aren’t terribly different from what you would find in the base Fusion. There’s that same combination of dark-grey plastic and silver-finish accent, but the Malibu is more obviously “designed”.

This is the Impala interior. It’s clearly from a different school of design. What stands out to me is that the Malibu interior, combined with the significantly more narrow passenger compartment, works to “envelop” the occupant. The Impala, by contrast, offers far more room to maneuver one’s body. When properly seated and adjusted in the vehicle, neither car impinges on me personally (I’m 6’2″ and 225lbs) but the Malibu doesn’t give me the impression of room to spare, while the Impala does. The same is true of the back seat; the Malibu has enough room, while the Impala has more than enough.

One particular gripe about the way the Malibu “fits”: the rather fast windshield line brings the intersection of the roof and windshield uncomfortably close to my head. It doesn’t touch, it isn’t really cramped, it just feels cramped.

Now let’s talk transmissions. The Malibu’s standard 2.4L/six-speed tranny combo is just fine for very slow-paced driving, and it returns more than 30mpg any time you’re on the freeway. Up the pace a bit, and it becomes easily confused. I ended up really disliking this transmission over the course of a few days running around downtown Toronto. It’s almost always in the wrong gear and the throttle/gearchange synchronization is miserable, leading to bucking and odd behavior on the fly.

The Impala has two fewer gears and benefits from base and optional engines that deliver much more torque than the Malibu’s. As a result, there’s less transmission work going on and it’s rarely confused on the move. The Malibu has less wind noise, while the Impala is mechanically quieter. Your choice.

Nobody’s going to buy a Malibu for cargo room, that’s for sure. Trunk space is another Impala strong suit, as is trunk access through a decklid that is longer and taller than than of the smaller Chevrolet. The Impala is just large enough to be a cramped police car and/or taxi, which opens it up to fleet and municipal sales opportunities denied the Malibu.

I prefer the far more modern stying of the Malibu; it just looks so much more modern in its proportions and detailing. The revised Impala isn’t hideous, however, merely generic in a kind of previous-gen-Accord way. I liked the previous model better, style-wise, but this one is okay, and your opinion may differ.

In the real world, the cars are priced pretty closely. There’s almost always more money on the hood of the Impala, and when you correct for equipment (V6 et al) the Impala is probably cheaper. If you’re simply looking for the proverbial most car for the money, don’t bother with the Malibu.

Let’s sum up. In the Impala’s corner, we have

  • More spacious
  • More cargo room
  • More standard power
  • Mechanically quieter

In the Malibu’s, we have

  • Far more “modern” inside and out
  • Better fuel economy
  • Available four-cylinder and six-speed transmissions
  • Styling

I would also suggest that the Impala will be more reliable in the long run, being made of simpler components that have seen far more real-world mileage. When we look at the lists above, it seems to be to be a conflict of tangible versus intangible. The Impala has more and does more, but the Malibu is simply better somehow.

I have a few theories about why the Impala refuses to fade away.

Theory #1: The Malibu is designed to appeal to “import intenders”. Those people end up buying imports. The Impala is designed to appeal to “domestic intenders”. Those people end up buying an Impala.

Theory #2: The design superiority of the Malibu doesn’t impress people as much as automotive journalists think it should. Real buyers prefer interior space to Motor Trend’s endorsement.

Theory #3: The Impala has been a generally decent car for a long time, and it’s been more or less the same car for over a decade. The Malibu was a dead nameplate before being resurrected on a straight-to-rental yawner and a chrome-faced oddity. It will take a few years for the nameplate equity to come back.

Of the three theories, only #3 helps explain why the Malibu is finally pulling away from the Impala in the sales race. I’d be interested in hearing your theories, but I suspect it comes down to this: No matter what the people from the color rags and big websites say, people will still buy the product that appeals to them. For better or worse, the Impala continues to appeal. You can call it a case of stupid flyover country hillbillies buying the crappy old throwback, or you can call it a case of smart consumers buying a tried-and-true product with their hard-earned money, but it’s still a case of consumers making their own decisions. How can that be bad?

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Sales Chart: The “Big Six” Midsize Sedans In 2010 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/sales-chart-the-big-six-midsize-sedans-in-2010/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/sales-chart-the-big-six-midsize-sedans-in-2010/#comments Fri, 02 Jul 2010 19:34:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=360146 These six sedans are the fleshy part of the American car market. Big-name D-segment sedans sell like crazy, and pretty much made Honda and Toyota what they are today. Their dominance of this segment, often called “Camccord” after their two best-sellers, remains unchecked as each has spent three months on top of the chart. But […]

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These six sedans are the fleshy part of the American car market. Big-name D-segment sedans sell like crazy, and pretty much made Honda and Toyota what they are today. Their dominance of this segment, often called “Camccord” after their two best-sellers, remains unchecked as each has spent three months on top of the chart. But there’s danger down below. Hyundai’s Sonata has been making steady progress all year (June excepted), and the Malibu has enjoyed more modest, but equally steady growth. Altima all but matched Camry in February, and gave Accord a scare in March. There’s still a tight pack of four nipping at the heels of the big dogs. Time to start coming up with a new nickname for the D-Segment?

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Review: Chevrolet Malibu 2LT 2.4 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/05/review-chevrolet-malibu-2lt-2-4/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/05/review-chevrolet-malibu-2lt-2-4/#comments Wed, 19 May 2010 19:22:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=356927 Context is everything. Because TTAC has never tried to operate as another entry in the press-car sweepstakes, our context for the industry tends to be based more on news from the business end of things than on a regular sampling of the latest vehicles to hit the market. This basic truth about our perspective goes […]

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Context is everything. Because TTAC has never tried to operate as another entry in the press-car sweepstakes, our context for the industry tends to be based more on news from the business end of things than on a regular sampling of the latest vehicles to hit the market. This basic truth about our perspective goes a long way towards explaining our obsession with the travails of the domestic car industry, and the resulting accusations that we are institutionally biased against Detroit. If we do harbor such biases (and our commitment to the truth won’t let us pretend that true objectivity exists anywhere), it is because we are products of the steady flow of bad news that has bled out of Detroit for the past decades. But this is no excuse: we owe it to you, our readers, to be ever mindful of our own shortcomings. With this in mind, I set out on a quiet weekday afternoon in search of more real-world context about the automaker we are most often accused of harboring bias against.

To be perfectly honest, I actually set out to drive a Buick LaCrosse in order to get a little more context for my forthcoming road test of the Buick Regal. After an unsuccessful five minutes at my nearest Buick dealer, the worst prejudices of my TTAC-bred GM worldview were only confirmed. Mired in dealer arbitration, this Buick showroom was a ghost town populated only by one LaCrosse, one Pontiac Solstice, one friendly receptionist and one profoundly depressed and antagonistic “salesman.” Caught between “Old GM” and oblivion (thanks to ongoing dealer cull arbitration), it was impossible to begrudge the dealer a little depression or blame GM itself for my unsavory experience with him. Still, as anyone’s mother will tell you, courtesy costs nothing, and you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

After the rudeness and crushing sense of defeat and uncertainty at the Buick dealer, and not immediately knowing the location of the next nearest un-culled (or not) Tri-Shield peddler, I made tracks for a centrally-located Chevy dealership. Posing as a potential Malibu customer, I was quickly introduced to a friendly, personable salesman who ushered me to a waiting 2LT-trimmed ‘bu.

Because of TTAC’s belief in the importance of sampling vehicles as they’re available on dealer lots, I’ve lied to more car salesmen than I care to think about in order to get time behind the wheel. Suffice it to say that this was the first time I’ve ever felt bad about the subterfuge. This guy was that good. As unscientific as the sample size was, these two visits proved in dramatic fashion that GM is neither “good” nor “bad,” but a company of contrasts: in terms of dealer experience anyway, true excellence exists just down the road from abject misery.

And so it is with GM’s cars. The handsome Malibu I drove was nestled between those two icons of “old GM,” the Cobalt and Impala, and the contrast could hardly have been more dramatic: the Malibu’s clean, graceful lines made it look like the single name-brand interloper on a shelf filled with off-brand crap. If, as some industry types like to suggest, the car business is no different than the fashion business, the Malibu would be GM’s best-selling car hands-down. In reality though, it’s been consistently outsold by the Impala, and those styling-über-alles insiders are superficial fools. So much for looks then.

Settled inside the Malibu, the favorable impressions continue. Having been previously turned off the ‘bu’s interior by the garish top-spec LTZ trim’s two-tone interior, the 2LT was a refreshing, if somewhat more somber reintroduction. Acres of softish black plastic isn’t everyone’s cup of 10W-30, but it conceals the occasionally awkward intersections of dash/console panels and uninspiring material texture pattern far better than the lighter-colored interior options. As a result, the design comes across as less busy, and the overall impression of quality is much improved.

The 2LT’s power-adjustable, heated driver’s seat is a comfortable place to spend time, with only a slight feeling of shoulder-up claustrophobia compared to the more generous real estate offered by competitors. Ergonomics are similarly up-to-snuff, offering far more intuitive controls than the button-jammed IPs of other latter-day Chevy offerings. Despite getting a leather-wrapped steering wheel with the 2LT trim level, the steering wheel is the only real disappointment lurking in the Malibu’s front row. Tiller-mounted audio and cruise control switches are densely clustered and take time to learn, and the wheel itself felt small, slightly loose and generally detracted from the overall quality impression.

Similarly, the rear seats seem like almost an afterthought compared to the well-appointed front row. Low seat height, a relatively narrow bench,and unsupportive seating make for a poor combination, and the contrast here with the Impala is unmistakable. Sure, the suede-alike seat inserts look and feel nice, but the impression of quality doesn’t approach the level of the preconception-banishing cockpit. Here’s hoping that GM’s success in the rear-seat-obsessed Chinese market eventually leads to improvements in the US-market Malibu. A D-Segment sedan should be designed to satisfy and impress more than just the driver and front passenger.

This is doubly true, given how refined the Malibu’s ride is. The interior is quiet and rattle-free, and the suspension wafts with well-damped grace, unsettled only by direct pothole strikes and some tire rumble on poor surfaces. Though tuned for comfort, the ‘bu’s suspension feels well-poised, and and keeps the driver feeling in control at all times. Perhaps too in-control: the super-light electric power steering feels effortless in the parking lot, but almost silly-overboosted at speed. Feedback may be AWOL, but at least there’s no attempt to hide the fact with confusing, artificial wheel feedback. This test didn’t provide an opportunity to tackle much in the way of curves, but nothing indicates that a perception-altering experience was missed.

On the other hand, GM’s 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine did impress greatly. Thanks to a low first gear, the four-pot Malibu covers up a weak-ish tip-in, and quickly reaches peak torque. By the time it reaches 160 lb-ft at 4500 RPMs, the engine provides surprisingly generous shove, accompanied by a muted, grinding growl reminiscent of gas direct injection engines. Performance would best be called adequate, but refinement lives up to the Malibu’s overall impression of quality.

The autobox’s six speeds make up for a lack of rev-happiness, and encourages a fuel-efficient driving style defined by brisk acceleration and easy light-throttle coasting. The major downside here is that the drivetrain tries to be too efficient for its own good: approaching a yellowing light while cruising at light throttle, the right foot didn’t find the torque needed to effortlessly power through until it was on the floor and the transmission got the hint. This would have been more disconcerting if the Malibu’s brakes weren’t strong, consistent and confidence-inspiring.

For around $27,000 including an uprated, USB port-equipped stereo, this Malibu 2LT seems like the kind of car that should be driving GM’s sales as well as its image as an automaker that can build competitive mass-market cars when it puts its mind to it. Strangely though, the Malibu hasn’t convincingly outsold its far less competitive predecessor, let alone its double-cheeseburger-value-meal Impala cousin. This is all the more surprising considering that GM is offering $3,000 cashback on the image-busting sedan.

Context gained, it’s impossible to not be impressed by both the Malibu and my random sample of the Chevy dealer experience. Still, the bad old Buick dealer and the Malibu’s lamentable lot-mates, as well as the few niggling annoyances with the ‘bu itself were enough to give pause. GM execs have recently taken to publicly stating the goal of “making every new model a home run,” a line that inevitably draws some eye-rolling from longtime GM watchers. But the Malibu and its context really reinforce the seeming truism. It’s a truly good car, especially by the standards of past GM sedans, but it needs a context that quells any fear that this quality might be a mere fluke. Unfortunately, it appears that the already old-school Impala will still be providing context to the Malibu, even after the ‘bu’s planned 2013 redesign. Even with more refinement and development, the Malibu will still be judged in its context. Nothing can escape its context.

General Motors and TTAC’s long-standing animosity provided the psycho-drama and digressions for this review.

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GM Do Brasil Imports Malibu! Why, Oh Why? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/05/gm-do-brasil-imports-malibu-why-oh-why/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/05/gm-do-brasil-imports-malibu-why-oh-why/#comments Wed, 19 May 2010 18:28:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=356928 Long rumored to be arriving, the Chevy Malibu has now, finally, arrived! It is yet another car to be mused over by import crazed Brazilians. It comes in LTZ guise with a 2.4L gasoline-only engine that’s good for 171 ponies. It comes mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission that allows manual shifting. And it’s loaded […]

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Long rumored to be arriving, the Chevy Malibu has now, finally, arrived! It is yet another car to be mused over by import crazed Brazilians. It comes in LTZ guise with a 2.4L gasoline-only engine that’s good for 171 ponies. It comes mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission that allows manual shifting. And it’s loaded to the gills (at least by Brazilian standards) with 6 airbags, ABS, stability control, automatic A/C, and even (by gosh!) electrically-adjusted and heated seats, remote start key, 18 inch aluminum wheels and, last but not least, an audio system with CD and MP3 with 8 speakers (according to Bestcars). All of this for a princely 89,000 Brazilian reais or $49,900 (at 1.8 real to the dollar).

No, I won’t go there this time, but, but (sadly, there always seems to be a but or two)…

Why now? Isn’t the new Malibu coming out in 6 month’s time? Is GM foisting leftovers on hapless Brazilians? Will GM send slightly banged-up stamping tools to make this car in Brazil, liked in the bad old days? Or is GM just testing the waters, and if we bite, will they bring the new Malibu to Brazil? Is GM doing this only to increase foot traffic at dealers at a time when the new Fiat Uno is grabbing all the attention (see my next article for more on this)?

There is a market for this kind of car in Brazil. Ford’s Fusion and Hyundai’s Azera sell about 800 of each every month.  But, GM seems late to the party, and wearing clothes that look like hand-me-downs. Is GM counting on Brazilians being so disconnected that they don’t know anything and will buy this car like there’s no tomorrow? Will the hapless Brazilian consumer be stuck with a car with a run of a year or less and all the attendant difficulties in terms of parts, depreciation, etc.?

So, GM will bring this car for a year or thereabouts, and then substitute it with the new one? Or abandon the market yet again? And, again, sacrifice their good name in the Brazilian market? Tell me, how is this good for GM? Is GM willing to tarnish their good standing in the big car market in Brazil just for the sake of flipping some leftovers?

So many questions. Does this make the Malibu a questionable car?

The mind boggles. And the lights seem to be out at the RenCen.

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GM Cutting Prices, Upping Ad Spend For Once-Hot Malibu, CTS http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/gm-cutting-prices-upping-ad-spend-for-once-hot-malibu-cts/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/gm-cutting-prices-upping-ad-spend-for-once-hot-malibu-cts/#comments Sat, 09 Jan 2010 00:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=341219 When someone pays tax, they generally like to think it’s going to towards something that will benefit society. Maybe it might be a repaired road? Or funding towards a crumbling school? I doubt they would want the money to go towards shifting a supposed CamCord killer or an alleged 3 series rival, but that’s what’s […]

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But who saves the savior? (courtesy:mtforums)

When someone pays tax, they generally like to think it’s going to towards something that will benefit society. Maybe it might be a repaired road? Or funding towards a crumbling school? I doubt they would want the money to go towards shifting a supposed CamCord killer or an alleged 3 series rival, but that’s what’s going to happen. BusinessWeek reports that executives at “New” General Motors are going to cut prices and rework adverts to boost flagging sales of the Chevrolet Malibu and the Cadillac CTS; two saloons considered critical to meeting Ed Whitacre’s target of a profitable 2010. That’s right, “New” GM are going to cut prices (A.K.A “Cash on hood”) to make more sales. Sound familiar?

GM’s North American president, Mark Reuss, are hoping that these plans will reduce the excess inventory at dealerships. Inventories were at five months’ supply, more than twice the industry average. “The CTS is going to be fixed, now,” said Mark Reuss. “We’re going to be right on the back of that working on Malibu. We’ve got to have Malibu selling a lot more than we do right now. We’re looking at what we should be doing with the car versus where we’re at.”. Steve Shannon, executive director of marketing at Cadillac said that CTS prices were cut by as much as $3000.

Business Week also reports that 3 people, familiar with Ed Whitacre’s plans, say that one of his criterion is to maintain U.S market share at 20%. However, the 3 people asked not to be named because the plans are not public. The GM CEO and Chairman wasn’t commenting on his plans. So much for transparency at GM.

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