By on May 19, 2010

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.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

109 Comments on “Review: Chevrolet Malibu 2LT 2.4...”

  • avatar

    I can square my jaw and say with confidence that I, who came of age in the GM dark ages of the 80s, LIKE this automobile.

    It would probably make a very handsome wagon.

  • avatar

    I like the Malibu and think the styling is nicer than the Accord or Camry but unfortunately that doesn’t give a Honda or Toyota buyer much of a reason to visit a Chevy dealership. Given that by almost anyone’s standards the Malibu is a completely competitive offering in its segment it gives you a good perspective on how much of an uphill battle it is for GM to successfully compete. Years of subpar offerings can’t change market acceptance of a brand even though the current Malibu warrants consideration from midsize buyers.

  • avatar

    I recently rented an LT ‘bu on a trip to Florida. Mine had paddle shifters (!), the same five spoke chrome wheel covers that made me look twice to make sure they weren’t actually polished alloys and the same white color.

    I had the much the same impressions that you did. It has decent enough power, especially when using the paddles, a very nice balance of ride and roadholding and slightly over-boosted steering.

    The interior was clearly better than the Camry I sat in at the auto show with very nice finishes and very good ergonomics. The AC was first-rate and the trunk was very big and the opening was quite usable.

    In all, it’s a solid, honest car. Personally, I think it’s also the best-looking car in its segment.

  • avatar

    Still no rear seat armrest I see, but the trunk lid is lined so there’s that, but I’d rather have the rear seat armrest. The Accord does without the lined trunk lid.

    Nice looking car though, I’ve always appreciated the look.

    I thought the little GM badges of excellence were being discontinued?

    • 0 avatar

      I know this is wishful thinking, but I’d love to see the Impala move to a Zeta (or even a larger/stretched Zeta platform) and have it as Chevrolet’s full-size/RWD flagship (yes, Corvette as “halo”) when the Malibu moves to Epsilon II soon. That, or discontinue it and let a larger-than-Malibu car be available only at Buick/Cadillac. As-is, I don’t think there’s enough differentiation to justify its existence (yes, I know you can get 6-passenger version of the Impala, but not the Malibu). I suspect they’re keeping the Impala around virtually unchanged for so long for the same reason Ford kept Panther going for so long – fleet sales, mostly to police departments.

      For what it’s worth, the LaCrosse rental I had recently seemed to have a much better interior look, feel, space utilization, and volume versus this current Malibu. Driving dynamics were a slight step up, but not as far ahead as the interior. I hope for Chevrolet’s sake that the Malibu redesign will keep the materials quality of the LaCrosse, with fewer features. I’ll echo what’s been said time and time again. GM needs to differentiate Chevrolet and Buick with content (e.g., nav system available in the LaCrosse, but not Malibu) or model availability (e.g., Chevrolet gets to sell Spark, Cruze, Malibu, while Buick gets LaCrosse and up only) with equal quality across the board, or will fall victim to its old patterns of badge engineering.

    • 0 avatar

      My 2010 Accord has a lined trunk lid. Of course so does my 1999 Mercedes.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve always avoided riding in the trunk.

      Therefore I can’t recall which of my cars had lined trunk lids and which didn’t.

    • 0 avatar

      You should ride in the trunk more. It’s a great place for a nap and the lined ones are cushy over the bumps.

      @william442: Do you have a V6 Accord? Maybe the V6 models have it, but the EX-L 4-cylinder I looked at did not. The dealer told me they used that money to better seal the body, sure. For what it’s worth, my ’04 V6 sedan had a lined trunk lid.

    • 0 avatar

      My 2006 Accord 4-cyl VP doesn’t have a lined trunk either, which is fine by me.

    • 0 avatar

      To Wagen, your wish for an Impala may be coming true. The rumours out of Holden’s Elizabeth plant is that the Statesman/Caprice (Buick Park Avenue) is going back across the Pacific as the new Chevrolet Impala. This is to bolster the Police Cruiser that GMH is trying to sell to the U.S.A. Also gives GM the tagline of a “local” car for the police car. The rumours gain strentgh from the fact that Holden is considering putting the second shift back on in Elizabeth at the start of the new year to produce the Cruze wagon locally.

    • 0 avatar

      It is an EX-L four cylinder. We removed it looking for a rattle so I am pretty sure it has one.

  • avatar

    Very nice article….

  • avatar

    The 6A really makes a huge improvement.

    IIRC, any Malibu with the 6A has paddle shifters, which allows you to overcome the transmission’s original high-efficiency programming. It is also borderline fun to drive around using the paddles.

    Compare this to the 4-cyl Fusion and Accord, where you don’t have any manual control and are at the transmission’s mercy.

    Also, does the Malibu now have the DI version of the 2.4L? I thought one needed to go with a Buick or Theta to get the DI.

    • 0 avatar

      This did have paddle shifters. I didn’t mention them because I didn’t use them… the yellow-light scenario could probably have been made less stressful if I’d been comfortable with using them.
      And you’re absolutely right… the Malibu is not available with the DI 2.4… sure fooled me though. Text amended.

    • 0 avatar

      Compare this to the 4-cyl Fusion and Accord, where you don’t have any manual control and are at the transmission’s mercy.

      Of course, the Fusion and the Accord offer a stick as an option – unlike the ‘Bu…

    • 0 avatar

      Of course, the Fusion and Accord are available with proper transmissions too – ones that require a clutch pedal…

    • 0 avatar

      iOf course, the Fusion and the Accord offer a stick as an option – unlike the ‘Bu…

      That’s true, although I didn’t much like the manual transmission in the 1st-gen Fusion. Don’t know about what the 2nd-gen manuals are like.

  • avatar

    Too bad the Malibu finds me banging my head everytime I enter the drivers’ seat, has a useless shallow trunk than can barely fit a bag of groceries upright, is very narrow and confined feeling in the cockpit and it’s much less powerful 2.4 gets about the same mileage as the Impalas V6 engines 4 speeds be damned. Added to that the Bu lacks those sometimes handy overhead assist grips, the missing rear seat center armrest and it’s glovebox is smaller too. I also prefer the Impalas flip and fold rear seat to the Malibus setup. The Bu’s driving dynamics are better if your into corner carving or spend lots of time on bumpy roads. The 2010 Impala has been improved with a taughter touring suspension, 17″ fascia wheels, std stability control/ABS/traction control so it does drive better than the 2006-2009 generation cars. What I would love to see and would buy as my next car is a Malibu sized like an Impala with 30 MPG highway, 6 speed automatic and the Bu’s driving dynamics and smart looks combined with the Impalas reliability, non- electric steering, trunk space/flip fold seat and the interior amentities.

    • 0 avatar

      Get the V6 in the Malibu, and you also get hydraulic steering.

      The rear seat is similarly low, perhaps even lower, in the Impala. But the rear seat in the Fusion is less comfortable, at least for me. The Accord and Camry are better.

      Responses to TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey suggest that reliability is about average for the 2008 and better than average for the 2009 so far.

  • avatar

    Chevy needs to save itself and the buying public from the buying public. If Impalas are stinkin’ up the showroom next to Malibus, people are going to buy them. But you can’t sell crap if you don’t make crap, and the Impala, Cobalt, HHR, and Aveo are all balks beside the Malibu home run. When the Malibu grows in size and refinement in 2012 or 2013, the Impala better be shown the door, at least until a new one can be developed. None of Chevy’s rivals has two products so different in character and refinement yet so closely competing with each other within their own lineup as these two sedans. It’s a problem with many solutions. GM needs to pick one and execute.

  • avatar

    I know this is wishful thinking, but I’d love to see the Impala move to a Zeta (or even a larger/stretched Zeta platform) and have it as Chevrolet’s full-size/RWD flagship (yes, Corvette as “halo”) when the Malibu moves to Epsilon II soon. That, or discontinue it and let a larger-than-Malibu car be available only at Buick/Cadillac. As-is, I don’t think there’s enough differentiation to justify its existence (yes, I know you can get 6-passenger version of the Impala, but not the Malibu). I suspect they’re keeping the Impala around virtually unchanged for so long for the same reason Ford kept Panther going for so long – fleet sales, mostly to police departments.

    For what it’s worth, the LaCrosse rental I had recently seemed to have a much better interior look, feel, space utilization, and volume versus this current Malibu. Driving dynamics were a slight step up, but not as far ahead as the interior. I hope for Chevrolet’s sake that the Malibu redesign will keep the materials quality of the LaCrosse, with fewer features. I’ll echo what’s been said time and time again. GM needs to differentiate Chevrolet and Buick with content (e.g., nav system available in the LaCrosse, but not Malibu) or model availability (e.g., Chevrolet gets to sell Spark, Cruze, Malibu, while Buick gets LaCrosse and up only) with equal quality across the board, or will fall victim to its old patterns of badge engineering.

  • avatar

    Edward, I have some additional comments from someone who’s had a 1LT Malibu rental from Enterprise for over 6 weeks… but first I have a correction:

    The Malibu is not available with the DI engine. The only 2.4L engine for this vehicle is the 169hp port injected version. The DI is standard in the Equinox however.

    Additional comments:

    Just about every time I stop for gas, at least someone comments on what a handsome car it is.

    This is a VERY quiet car. Double laminated windshield, and front side glass is great!

    It gets GREAT mileage. I am a sales-rep and do about 700 miles a week… I am averaging 27 mpg in combined driving, which is frankly amazing for a car if this size. I do about 50/50 city/highway miles… in Chicago where the traffic is pretty bad.

    The trunk opening is a joke. The trunk itself is not badly sized but the opening is mail-slot like.

    The highway ride is almost European, and has little or no “float”.

    The 1LT version does not have the hideous fake wood… just a simple painted aluminum trim in it’s place.

    There is an issue with quality that I should bring up too… I am on my 4th Malibu in the 7 weeks I have been without a company car. All of them (including the one that I have now) had less than 10K miles and were otherwise identical… and all of them have “SERVICE AIRBAG” warnings on the dash. I returned the first three, and kept the last one because it is intermittent. I did some research and it seems this is an issue with the 2010 cars, but does not affect the airbag function.

    • 0 avatar
      Acc azda atch

      I believe….

      Ive heard about this..

      Its an issue where the cars were ordered without them.. to save money, but now there is a lawsuit where one wasnt included… so.. (I believe) they are being replaced.

      I also found this..

      Not that I wanted to go to that site *shudders*

  • avatar

    GM junk disguised as a car.

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe take one for a drive before you make a judgemental remark? You might like it.

    • 0 avatar

      Did. Didn’t.

    • 0 avatar

      GM is not making junk.
      Many of their models are more competitive than imports/transplants. (Think Silverado / Tundra).

      That said, as someone who tends to drive cars to dust, if I were in the market for a new vehicle, I’d steer away from GM. Toyota/Honda/Nissan/Mazda/Audi/BMW/Ford tend to honor borderline warranty claims and have better resale values.
      Maybe in 4 years or so, I’ll try a new GM product. If they can handle a (possible) change in congressional/presidential party control, show return to profitability (without a UAW hissy-fit), and improve residual values, they’ll win me over.

    • 0 avatar
      Acc azda atch


      I tested one of those damn things.. then drove to the Saturn dealer to gape at the Aura.. and I had to go home and scrub myself with a iron brush and BLEACH.

      I walked in there.. looking for the LTZ or the XR interior on the Aura.. and all they had was this disgusting mess.

      Test driving one, wont let me wash off that unwashed feeling.. of walking into a GM shop.

      And somehow,
      I can be honest by saying the LTZ interior.. with the red body color.. looks damn sharp!

      Then again..
      I have a fetish for the a ’98 Green PONTIAC BONNEVILLE SSEi.
      GOD what a fantastic ASS on that DAMN CAR.

      Then I get inside.. and want to run for the hills.
      Christ.. that is what an interior stood for for a PONTIAC in 98?!

      4 steps forward…
      9 STEPS back!

  • avatar

    Here’s my issue… not with the car, with car reviews. Car and Driver praised the Malibu’s back seat. So did another review I recently read saying it was the only car in its class with a wide enough back seat to fit 3 baby seats.

    So what gives… why the disparity? (It a rhetorical question… don’t try to answer).

    And at least the last 4 GM new car launches have been out of the park home runs in terms of sales. Regal is next up and it looks to be a whopper too. Hopefully the new Malibu can pull off another big win. The General is definitely turning around!!!

    • 0 avatar

      Car and Driver praised the Malibu’s back seat. So did another review I recently read saying it was the only car in its class with a wide enough back seat to fit 3 baby seats.

      Car And Driver is on drugs.

      Actually, no, it’s that evaluating rear-seat accommodations are just not their thing. The buff books spend much of their time on upper-crust and unobtainium and, unless the car is egregiously bad, they won’t really test it. Back seats, in their world, are for other people. Child seats? Are you kidding?

      If you care about the practicality of a car, this is where Consumer Reports is golden: they’ll tell you if the seat is low, badly angled or difficult to strap a childseat into. For family sedans, it’s the go-to because a lot of these deficiencies aren’t really obvious until you’ve lived with the car a while.

      For the record, low and short seat cushions are a trademark of GM cars, no matter how large, and the Impala is demonstrably worse than the Malibu. Toyota has similar problems with short front-seat cushions. Ford has trouble with front lumbar support, Chrysler with front padding and the Europeans with rear legroom.

  • avatar

    Positive GM comments…is this TTAC?

    I don’t understand all the Impala hate. IMHO it’s a good and solid car for the money.

    • 0 avatar

      Many people agree with you it’s the execution really. But it’s a big, cheap, comfortable car, which is what Chevy’s largest model has always been. I think many people wish for higher quality interior materials and that a beefed up version of the 6 speed would make it’s appearance on the Impala. Oh and many people say the Impala is “floaty.” Honestly I think it’s likely appropriate for it’s intended market.

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe it is now, but when I drove a rental Impala, almost 3 years ago now, it was absolute crap. Easily the worst transmission I have ever had the misfortune of not shifting. The response time between me flooring the gas and the car actually accelerating was glacial. It really made me appreciate the feel and responsiveness of my Mazda6 when I got home.

    • 0 avatar

      The Impala is a solid car for the money. So is the Yaris. Both are not particularly good cars vis a vis their competition.

      I want to like the Impala, what with it’s being the hometown favourite, but the Malibu is the better car in every way but trunk space and hip room.

  • avatar

    glad you ran into a professional salesman, so many have left the business.

  • avatar

    Ed, great review. I recently bought a 2010 Accord, but drove many competitors before buying and the Malibu was my next choice. It surprised me because I have zero love for GM’s products. I was drawn to the ‘bu because of it’s styling – I think it’s one of the best looking sedans, especially in profile, at any price. Pluses for me were the balanced ride and handling, surprisingly strong and refined engine, exterior styling and good feature content.

    Negatives – hated the steering feel (there was none). Liked the interior styling, but the execution (materials, fit, finish) was mediocre. You took the words right out of my mouth regarding the backseat – it’s an afterthought – no armrest, low cushion, door trim does not extend to rear doors, etc.

    I ultimately chose the Accord because it’s a better driver, period, and because I could get one with a manual. It’s not particularly attractive, but it drives sportier than a family sedan should. The steering is sublime, the ride is firm and well damped, the 2.4 likes to rev, and the 5 speed is like buttah. And while the ‘bu has more dramatic interior styling, the Accord’s materials and fit and finish were a notch or two above the ‘bu, and the driver interface (wheel, seat, pedals) is about perfect.

    Still, I really liked the ‘bu and the choice would have been harder had it been available with a stick. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to owning a GM product, and I have to say I was really impressed with it. If the ‘bu is a portent of things to come for GM, they’ll be fine.

  • avatar


    I still remember how people praised the 1998 Malibu, which had a rear seat space smaller than a Corolla.

    If exterior styling is what people are praising it for, then it’s really sad. Camcords may not be beauty queens but they are sleek. The bar in the teeth styling will age quickly and be gone before you can notice.

    I sat in the new Malibu once. It’s really small. The thing will GM’s cars are that they are a half size smaller inside than those from Toyota/Honda of the same class.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a clean design. Like the Fusion, the designers have managed to integrate the head and tail lamps smoothly into the sheetmetal. How this simple task has become a lost art, particularly with Toyota, Honda, and now Mazda, is beyond me. I find the treatments on the Camry, Accord, Civic, 3, & 6 to be heinous. With the exception of some of the Chrysler offerings, Detroit & Europe somehow largely manage to produce vehicles that aren’t downright offensive when viewed from certain angles. Camrys and Accords sleek? Only when viewed in profile. I don’t care for the Chevy family grill either, but it doesn’t leave me shaking my head like the Camcords et al.

    • 0 avatar

      I think Civic is the most stylish mainstream car now. So … let’s stick to discussing interior sizes.

    • 0 avatar
      Acc azda atch

      I should SO be beaten for even THINKING this…

      When the Maxx came out.. I thought it would CHANGE the world. I liked the hatch design. I liked the sliding rear seats…

      But the interior.. awful.

      Now, they could have taken a grinder and cut down A LOT of the hard angles the car has and made it better. They even tried pushing an SS version for the MAXX.

      But it was a failure on a dozen levels.

      As for as the Civic goes..
      I liked it when it came out, then I got into it.. and its competitors.. and it sorely lacks. Honda is doing these cheap drop in boxes for nav units.. dumping their whole load on the center console, with no extra money for the rest of the dash.. WTF!

      Th motor is only a 2ltr, the interior is sorely lacking. I doesn’t have enough interior features.. to be even considered with a Mazda3. Best part.. Canada and Europe get better versions.

      The SI is a joke.. cause the standard unit is better.

      Its just not enough.
      Then autoblog /jalopnik come out with a story about how the Civic was going to grow in size.. what is the point in that?!

      Things like that that make me want say FU to Honda. Screwing with the Accord to make her a fat POS. Messing with the CIVIC to make it larger.. WTF happened to compact decent sedans.. with wagons over there.. *lunatic ranting* DAMN!

    • 0 avatar

      I liked the Malibu Maxx too, especially the SS version but I know the interior was lacking. I wish the current Malibu came as an honest to God wagon. So well executed that the market couldn’t ignore it.

    • 0 avatar

      Best part.. Canada and Europe get better versions.

      Canada does, if you count the Acura CSX, but the “better” is mostly cosmetic in that case. Other than that, our Si is the same as your Si.

      Europe does not. Lots of people think they do, but the Type-R hatch has a much less sophisticated rear suspension than North America’s Si sedan and is no more powerful. Our Si coupe is probably a better holistic car.

  • avatar

    Nice review! Glad to see the product isn’t designed to chase buyers right out of the showroom (Aveo, Cobalt…). Also good to hear that the driver’s seat is not a hunchback’s delight (Acadia & kin). Now let’s see about long-term reliability. When the General gets that right, people will listen. They’ve always had the capability to deliver excellent cars.

  • avatar

    Edward: Even with more refinement and development, the Malibu will still be judged in its context. Nothing can escape its context.

    Therein lies the rub. Twenty-seven large. Probably not.

  • avatar

    ‘meyer, that’s a fine article about the ‘bu in ‘AC

  • avatar

    You can´t buy a Malibu in Europe.
    That´s because it simply cannot compete with the cars of Europe.

  • avatar

    You know, I’ve been an import buyer for a long time, and I’ve always favored small hatchbacks. Nevertheless, I rented an Impala for a week or so, with the 6-cylinder that goes down to three cylinders when coasting/downhill/cruising, and you know what? It’s a very comfortable car to tool around New York in, and the gas mileage was surprisingly good. As much as the Malibu is (presumably) a good car, I stopped being surprised that the Impala outsells it as soon as I drove one for a while.

    Mind you, the first two days I drove it, I hated it. It’s the kind of car you drive without paying attention to it. The ambient music of car-dom. I even considered buying one, and that’s the only time in a decade a GM product was even on the list.

  • avatar

    I have always liked the car.
    Tested it against the Mazda6, Accord and Fusion…before the latest Fusion.
    I came away with the Mazda6 S.

    I returned a Mazda6 i after a short time, perhaps a week. I simply got tired of the sound of the 4 cylinder working at each green light.
    Same with the Malibu. I liked it in and around the parking lot, but once driving, the effort and strain begins to wear on me.

    Do yourselves a favor, get the 6 cylinders until they are better with low end torque, or become turbo.

    By the way, what IS the best of this class?
    I can’t decide.
    It seems each one of the top (to me), Accord, Mazda6, Fusion or Camry has one ot two things in its favor.
    But it will always be subjective on the final decision.

    Mazda6…looks, size, performance and drive.
    Fusion, AWD, size and looks.
    Accord, solid, size and performance.
    Camry, reliability, comfort and quiet.

  • avatar

    For the money Government Motors wasted on the cutesy bowtie logos in the headlamp reflectors, one wonders if the money wouldn’t have been better spent to say, I dunno…

    Refine the piss-poor steering?

    Cure the throttle-on lag on the I4?

    Put in a damn rear seat armrest? (Something you don’t realize how much you miss, until it’s not there.)

    Invest in oh-so-slightly-less-Fisher Price-like interior plastics?

    This car has rightfully failed in the retail marketplace, relegating it almost solely to rental car status. Gov’t Motors once again missed the mark on what midsize buyers really want. But hey, those reflectors are pretty neato.

  • avatar
    Acc azda atch

    Edward Niedermeyer:

    You dont like the LTZ’s “garish interior”. I ‘d like more info on that…

    Its the ONLY interior Id actually BOTHER with.. I F I could be bothered with buying THIS CAR. Its actually a decently styled interior, light color, soft on the eyes. A blessing against the black mess you had to sit in. — God that’s awful.

    And do help me out..
    I know their tier system is..

    But why do they put in 1LT or 2LT, what difference is there.. and is there a 1LS and or 2LS?

    And 27g for a 2LT?!?!
    How is this in competition against the majors in this segment.. (being that NONE are mid-sizers, and all are fullsizers)
    Sonata etc etc

    • 0 avatar

      They make different colored interiors because everyone has different tastes. I like black interiors personally, and I prefer wood, real wood with a dark stained finish, to metal/carbon-fiber/etc. A nice car with a black leather interior, dark wood, and black interior pillars and headliner is a very relaxing and comforting place for me to spend my driving time. Others go ga-ga over light creme or tan leather, Audi’s light wood finishes, or hi-tech interior trims, to each their own.

      The 300 and Avalan are much larger than the Malibu/Fusion/Camry. The Accord sort of straddles the line, technically a full-sizer, but more similar to the mid-sizers in actual interior space.

      The Impala may be Chevy’s official large car, but the back seat is a miserable place to spend any time. The back seat of a Fusion or Accord (never been in the back of a Malibu) is 10x more comfortable than the back of an Impala.

    • 0 avatar
      Acc azda atch


      I didn’t/don’t “think” cared about our tastes and what we prefer. They make their money telling “us” what we want, and what they will give us.. ntm what wont sell. Like telling the chicken and the egg what to do.. never win.

      I believe(d) its a matter of cost. How cheap can we make this damn thing for people with bad enough credit to buy it and be marginally pleased.

      I disagree….
      Camry/Avalon and Accord, Malibu and Impala, and Mazda6 ntm, Legacy, 300 are all in the same size bracket.

      Its only Fusion that has stayed with the Accord size of ’06.

      Heck line these cars up in a parking lot in any mall, and its scary how large all of these are.

    • 0 avatar

      What can I say, tastes vary. The LTZ just felt over-the-top and slightly chintzy… trying too hard is how I’d put it. But then, you can apparently get an LTZ with the black interior as well, so maybe that’s better. As I said in the review, the ‘bu’s interior has so much going on that in the lighter colors all the gaps and meeting points just leap out at me. Every rave review of the LTZ shows the same picture of that”brick”-color, two-tone interior, and it just doesn’t translate for me in real life.
      On a more abstract level, Buick will soon offer two sedans on the same platform as the Malibu… not only is the LTZ trying too hard, it’s doing so at the expense of Buick’s raison d’etre. How’s that for intellectualizing a subjective aesthetic preference?
      Also, the Malibu’s trim levels are explained here.

    • 0 avatar

      You guys that are aghast at the $27k MSRP would do well to remember that’s not even close to the street price. Hell, the article even said there’s $3k on the hood for starters. Knock off another grand or so and, compared with the strippo CamCord you get for the same money, the Malibu starts to look pretty good.

      That is, if you can stand the appearance of the front and rear. If I were in the market for that size car, I’d probably go for a Fusion, though.

      Or, like most folks seem to be doing, moving up to an Impala. Yeah, it’s a poorer performer (particularly with the craptacular 3.5L), but it rides better on the highway and looks better.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s one more trim level you forgot about, that’s the “1FL” level. The step below “LS”. Fleet and rental only, it’s the car you get at the airport that makes you not want to buy one ever. A brand new Malibu that doesn’t play MP3 CDs? Stereo with segmented LEDs like Ford of a few years ago? Urethane steering wheel and unflattering gray pebbled plastic everywhere you look or touch…

      That one rental convinced me that new GM and old GM weren’t any different. The new Malibu should not be that similar to a Cobalt.

    • 0 avatar
      Acc azda atch


      I was HOPING someone would catch me on that. Its something I always forget about in the grand scheme of option packages for a car.

      I did hear that more amd more of the upper level cars are going towards fleet.

      Now I cant remember if upper level means LS or LT against a 1FL… but there should be SOME glory / glamor in a GM fleet vehicle.

      Heck there SHOULD be SOME glory in driving a rental vehicle.. it is the face of what you see when you aren’t in your own.

  • avatar

    Had a LTZ Malibu as a rental in December 2008 with the 2.4L and the 6-speed auto. I was stunned on how good it was, the bar was very low in my mind as the last Malibu I drove was a 2005 Maxx.

    The Cobalt is gone and when you look at the list of GM product launches including from defunct brands:

    Pontiac G8 – home run, and not a 315 foot at the corner home run either, we’re talking 475 feet over the center field wall to the second tier seats home run

    Lambada quadruplets, Traverse, Outlook, Acadia, Enclave – now a Consumer Reports Best Bet

    Chevrolet Equinox – can’t build them fast enough, literally

    Buick LaCrosse – sales keep going, and suddenly the Toyota Avalon is the car of the living dead (look at their ads) and Buick is, gasp, exciting???

    Cadillac CTS and CTS-V – hello coupe, wagon??? V – oh ya the V

    Chevrolet Malibu – head and shoulders better than the car it replaced

    GMT900 platform – top in fullsize fuel efficiency, Consumer Reports Best Pick for quality – and light and day compared to the GMT800 they replaced

    I think a lot of people are living in the past when it comes to GM. As you noted when you look at cars like the Cobalt (and the 260HP SS was bad exactly how???), which is also at the end of its life with the Cruze around the corner.

    • 0 avatar

      I never drove a Cobalt, but I wouldn’t have liked it, since I really hate most FWD cars and I will probably never own one. My sold FWD vehicle was a 4cyl Caravan, and it’s lack of guts and odd FWD handling annoyed me, big time.

      I went out of town with a friend recently, and after we got to where we were going, the transmission in her 2007 Accord puked (again, it’s on the third one, counting the originally), and while it was being fixed, she rented, from the dealer (Who had a whole bunch of different makes of cars there)a Malibu, equipped almost exactly like the one in the article, and I drove it about half the time over the three days we had it, and it was OK. I needed a tad more shoulder room, but was pretty comfortable in it. The steering is very odd though. All in all though, I didn’t hate it by the time it went back, unlike the last few rented cars I have driven, including a 2008 Camry (what’s the appeal of it?), a 2009 Galant (Yuck), and the ugliest, a 2009 Accord (I have to admit it drove ok, but was ugly and BORING inside and out) Of the three, the Camry would be my pick, but I would take the Malibu over any of them. I’ve never had a bad GM vehicle, period, and so I don’t harbor the prejudice against them a lot of posters have. In fact, two of the three I owned were almost perfect over the 5 years I had both of them, and the other one, after some teething issues, went 3 good years until it was involved in a wreck where it totalled 2 other cars, and it was never right again.

      I really liked the G8, enough that it as one of my final choices when I bought a car in Dec 2007. It came out just a little too late for me to actually buy due to early (As in high) pricing, as I had to make a descision very quickly so I would have a vehicle I could easily get into/out of when I got out of rehab after a knee injury. My 2003 Ram 1500 4×4 was too risky, especially in the winter. I had a buying service price the following vehicles, I had already test driven all of them just before I got hurt:

      Chrysler 300
      Charger R/T
      Pontiac G8 GT
      Saturn Outlook
      GMC Acadia

      The Acadia/Outlook were just too high, but I really like them. A friend has an Acadia, and it’s been great. I’ve driven it a couple of times and I could live with it fine, but the payments would have just been too much for the AWD model I would consider buying. They would have been the most practical of the bunch for my dogs and ease of loading/unloading the stuff I lug around.

      I have to admit, I really like the V8/RWD Cadillacs (I can’t remember the model off the top of my head, why can’t they just name the damn things instead of making up things like CTS?) but pricing took them out of the final list. I resist buyng used, since my used cars have all been problem plauged. I couldn’t see paying extra for the 300 over the Charger, and I hate the font on the guages on the 300, and I hated the weird two tone steering wheel too. I’m not thrilled with the steering wheel on the Charger (a little too big, and the Ram’s head could go away too), but it’s not hideous like the Mustang and Camaro’s steering wheel is. So, I ended up with the Charger R/T. Unlike most people posting here, I have almost nothing but good things to say about it.

      I will hit 30K later this week, with the sole issue being a rattle in the dash on cold days. I think it’s the wiring inside the dash setting up from the cold, and jiggling when the car goes over bumps and roug surfaces. I like the dark interior, and would rather have it than tan or beige, or two tone where one color is very much ligher than the other. It’s very comfortable for a bigger guy like me, and it’s fun to drive. And the factory stereo actually sounds ok! That’s a first, in every other car I’ve owned, I wanted the factory stereo gone ASAP.

      I recently took a ride in a relative’s VW Taureg. I really liked it, but the mechanical and electrical problems it’s had would scare me off, it’s been a nightmare. It’s going to be his first and last VW, as his wife’s Beetle was a horror story of electrical problems, and can’t be trusted to start more than a half dozen times in a row. The towtruck driver has become friends with my cousin and his wife from all the times he’s carted their vehicles back to the dealer, who is really trying to fix both of them, but not having much luck.

    • 0 avatar
      Acc azda atch


      While I appreciate your insight…

      I do however find it very interesting.. that you basically chose between 3 cars.

      The Lambdas (knowing there is the Equinox and its triplets walking the earth.) One concept of having 4 vehicles of the same floorplan competing against each other.

      The LX cars from Chrysler..

      And a G8.

      The Maxima or Altima in either the SE-R or the 3.5 SL from Nissan didn’t interest you?

      I’m amazed at the fact that someone would actually buy a Chrysler vehicle. Even though I secretly drool for a Magnum or the Lime / Plum Crazy Charger.

  • avatar

    “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.”

    Ed, I understand the animosity and history between GM and TTAC. But how can you say that TTAC believes in the importance of sampling vehicles from dealer lots when five of the last ten reviews were of cars provided by manufacturers? Are you saying you would not accept press loaners if GM offered them to you?

    By the way, I do applaud TTAC’s disclosure of press cars and junkets, and in this case, disclosure of feigning interest in the car with a salesman. You guys lead the way in that category. Honesty is the best policy.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    Sounds good and I’m very glad things seem to be looking up at GM (and Ford and Chrysler) but I think my 2010 Audi A4 Quattro with 6mt for all of $3,000 more is a better deal than this car. I’m confused by its “peer group” or “class” etc. I’m thinking 27k is not what it should really sell for, more like low in the 20s.

    Still, its moving in the right direction.

    • 0 avatar

      I really don’t think A4 to Malibu is an apples-to-apples comparison. Consider that once you account for the $3000 in cash already sitting on the Malibu, it’s more like $24k, and the fact that the least expensive Quattro manual A4 is $33k (with no metallic paint, seat heaters, or iPod integration), we’re looking at more of a $9k difference.

      Yes, as regards interior quality and aesthetics as well as driving dynamics, I’ll take the A4 in a heartbeat. Now as for total cost of maintenance and repairs if one were to keep the vehicle until say, 150k miles, I bet the Malibu would be far ahead in that calculation.

  • avatar

    Great review as always! I have to say though it looks like it should have “Gwinnett Police” on the side. Sheesh any color but white!

  • avatar

    I rented a Malibu not too long ago and I was overall quite impressed. I had the upscale two tone interior and I liked it; at least it was trying to say something other than “boring.” The only nits I would pick are that the transmission occasionally hunted between two gears when traveling about 40 mph (a problem I have had on other GM FWD cars), and yes the cruise control and other steering wheel mounted buttons are too small.

  • avatar

    I had one of these (a 1 LT I think – it had the chromey plastic wheel covers that are actually very convincing) as a loner when my ’07 9-5 Sportcombi was in for a warranty repair. The interior matched the SAAB in interior quality, if not execution (no surprises here – the 07 SC is little changed from the ’99 model.)
    The belt line is high, but unless it’s a Subaru all the belt lines are high these days. The ride was good, and interior noise was well below the levels of my 9-5. The first thin I noticed when I drove the Malibu was how quiet it was, and how much loader the 9-5 is when I turned the loaner in.
    I wish it were available as a wagon – oh wait, they make an awkward Malibu wagon called the Equinox. Bleh.

  • avatar

    I worked in management for GM. I know what they build, and have driven most of them. ACC is correct.

  • avatar

    Most current reviews now rank the Malibu near the back of the pack among the very best compacts. I am now seeing reviews where the Malibu is finishing no better than 5th place. Sure, it may be more competitive than the Aveo and Impala, but it is still below the industry average. Due to its superior sales most Chevrolet dealerships would prefer the Impala to the Malibu.

    GM cars with the exception of a few luxury cars are simply not competitive. The best cars are winning and they are not from GM.

    • 0 avatar
      Acc azda atch



      Malibu is going up against Camry, Accord, Mazda6, Legacy… they aren’t compacts. Put them in the same mall parking lot for size reference and ya got 6 FULLsize CARS.

      I wouldn’t say there’s much size difference against a Malibu and a Impala.

      Malibu, current gen… COMPACT?!
      Civic isn’t even a compact, Civic is (pretty damn close) midsizer.

      Aveo is a B class car.. and a gutless one.

      Its not a hidden truth that GM isn’t competitive.. with other makes. Gm is only competitive against its own vehicles / companies/brands.

      Tahoe / Burban and their copies.
      Then there is the Equinox and its copies

  • avatar

    I have not driven a Bu, but I rented a Saturn Aura a short time ago. I found the car to be a mixed bag. Over 2 days, I spent 6 hours working in the back seat while my wife drove. The back seat in the Aura was unimpressive. It was not all that comfy, but then, it was better than the back seat of my Honda Fit for a drive of that distance. Also, it was WAY less roomy (front and back) than the Accord that I rented a couple of weeks later.
    The body was better than GM’s efforts of a decade ago, but I was unimpressed with the interior materials. The dome light had a neat touch where the lens was divided into quadrants, and the back two quadrants served as reading lights for the rear passengers. The problem was in execution, as the one I tried to use would not work right, and I had to figure out ways to tickle it to get the light on and off. Great concept, cheapo execution.
    My other gripe was the low roof that made entry and exit (from both front and rear) harder than it had to be.
    The car did not drive badly. But personally, GM has a ways to go before it can sell me, and I was not sold.
    There have been several comments about the attractive profile of the Bu, and I agree. The front, however, is butt-ugly, and the rear is average, at best. Somebody needs to shake Chevrolet’s stylists to drop that awful front end theme that they have decided is mandatory. It is hurting them (and the rest of us too).

  • avatar
    Sammy Hagar

    Unlike many of the cars reviewed here (and elsewhere) of which I’ve seen few in person, the Malibu is all over the place (sort of like Pontiac G6’s a few years ago). The appearance is fine, if not ground shaking, though the rear treatment seems like an afterthought…”choppy,” for lack of better Latin. Reviews tend to be positive and short-term reliability is up for GM, which is great…as we all own the company. But that said, I don’t know where that “$27K” number comes from. Sure, there are rebates and dealer cash available to knock this thing down to sub-$24K; however, is it really a “deal” at that price? My local mega-Ford dealer is offering multiple Taurus’s (Tauri?) at $26K and w/no hokey “$500 Former Astronaut Rebate,” “$1000 M1A1 Abrams Tank Conquest Cash,” etc. Apples-to-apples, you could probably negotiate yourself into a Fusion for a fair bit less than the $24K Malibu. And if you’re not committed to Lee Greenwood (or conversely, not worried about UA), my local Toyota dealer always has a few 4cyl Camry’s (again, w/out goofy rebates/discounts) for $18,999 during the last week of the month.

    Out-the-door price on the Malibu needs to be south of ~$21K for it to be a sales success. I’m sure some people are getting that with incentives and timing, but to even float a number like $27K is ridiculous.

    All that said, I’ll be very happy to own a Malibu in a couple of years when I can get a gently used one w/<30K miles for around $13K (ala the former G6). Or conversely, the crazy $30K Regal that after three years will be had for $15-17K. Of course, that doesn't help GM…but it will make for a great used car purchase.

  • avatar

    Mom has one – 2008 LT2 w/V-6. I told her to go look at it when she was about to buy another (previous generation) LaCrosse. She looked, liked, and bought it the next day. The Malibu is a seriously nice car, and a great drive for the $$$.

  • avatar

    After my costly time-consuming numerous negative experiences regarding GMC/Chevy ignoring my valid pleading to perform the needed legitimate warranty work upon my 2004 Silverado no matter how nice the vehicle is today the many negative memories/experiences from that Silverado purchase will drive me away from every GMC vehicle and compel my continued warning others of what I experienced and the possibility they may experience the same.

  • avatar

    More the 50% of the Malibu’s sales are to the rental fleets. It is a sales dud. In fact even the Impala’s retail sales are better.

    • 0 avatar

      Do some research before posting this crap. April sales for the Malibu were 12,546 retail, 3,990 fleet. Or is this some sort of amazing sales anomaly?

    • 0 avatar

      Yep, an anomaly. Take a look at sales trends for the year.

      Funny how a mountain of cash on the hood helps move product, huh?

    • 0 avatar

      @Rob Finfrock: You could say the same thing about Toyota right now.

    • 0 avatar

      Ohhhhh no, there’s a big difference. Hindsight, being 20/20, shows Toyota probably overdid it with the cashback programs — as the SUA issue has largely disappeared from public view, except on forums like this one.

      Bold prediction: if the economy stays on its current upswing, Toyota won’t need the rebates in a year.

      By comparison, Gov’t Motors still desperately needs sales volume to justify its existence, and is (yet again) willing to lose its shirt to do it. Further, people simply will NOT buy a Gov’t Motors car at sticker — and they won’t do so a year from now, either. Too many owners out there, with too many sour experiences with subpar products, combined with everpresent distaste and disdain for Government Motors.

  • avatar

    Resale value stinks on the Malibu. Look around at cheaply priced 5 year old Malibu’s on the car lots and then drive one and see why they are worth peanuts. Clunk,rattle,check engine light on, abs light on, buzz, sloppy shifts and burning oil smell. These cars do not age well. All the parts made by the lowest bidder in Mexico and China assembled by an inferior workforce. Why would the 2010 be made any better. Has GM stopped using inferior parts or got all the coke heads off the assembly line?
    I worked as a contractor in the Impala plant 3 years ago installing data cable and witnessed stoned and drunk workers smoking up and even urinating on the shop floor. Months later I worked in the Corolla plant and was impressed by the discipline, organization and cleanliness of the workers. If you saw these things it would make you never want to buy GM again.

  • avatar

    I’ve had a GM car in my garage all my life. Every now and then, GM can make a great car. I still don’t think the Malibu is a great car, but it is pretty good, and it did attract me into a GM showroom to have a closer look. I even rented on once. But my issue with GM is that for every decent car they make, they also put it up there with 5 or 6 truly uncompetitive cars. There is nothing GM can do that would assure me that, if I buy a Malibu, the plastic lightbulb sockets are not going to melt just like they did in the Buick I got rid of not too long ago. Fit and finish may be gorgeous just like the Toyota’s my wife had 15 years ago, but I can never be certain the plastics aren’t going to warp and crack in spite of my efforts to keep my car looking like-new (just ask my neighbors).

    Is the Malibu a better car than the one it replaced? It better be. Is the Malibu a car that would set a standard for midsized family sedans? The salesman would like me to think so. GM thinks so, and so does Mikey (I really do enjoy, and have come to admire Mikey’s fervent support for his former employer). But I’m not convinced GM is producing great cars as a whole. I don’t feel the culture of GM has changed sufficiently. So long as there are more bad “I can’t see how that car got past approval” cars out there than “this is the best car in segment out there no apologies made” , GM hasn’t really changed that much. GM lost most of their customers because they got tired of being apologised to and told it will be fixed the next time.

    I am really saddened for those that were/are convinced their Cobalts are the best bang for buck great cars (especially since it totally outshines the Cavalier), only to have a GM exec come out and say the product is total crap, you should buy a Cruze. What is he going to say when the Malibu replacement is ready to roll out?

  • avatar

    I know about a worker in Poland (Opel factory)
    He was working with quality, checking manufactured cars for faults.
    He reported the faults to his boss.
    He thought he was doing a very good job.
    After a week he was called to the office.
    There he got yelled at for reporting to many faults.
    He defended himself by saying that he only reported the faults he was told to report.
    He was told that he can´t report everything because he was slowing the production.
    I hope this is not a common thing in GM plants.

  • avatar

    Hmmm. A lot of people seem to think the Malibu is “handsome.” I must be an anomaly. The whole front end with the big center grill strip just looks cheap to me…out of place on a car. I don’t mind it on the pickup trucks but on a car it makes the front end look chubby, instead of low and sleek. But then, I’m not enamored by the big chunky Fusion front grill either. IMHO, these cars need to be sportier looking…not have bulbous trucklike front ends, but low aerodynamic looking ones.

  • avatar

    I had a 2010 Malibu as a rental about a month ago and was extremely disappointed with it. I’m not sure what trim level it was (LS, probably, unless there is one lower than that), but I wanted to like this car. I’ve always liked the exterior styling, so no problems there. The interior was nicely appointed for a car in its class, with good-quality cloth seats and an intuitive control layout. The other interior materials ranged from not-bad to downright cheap, but the build quality was good and the overall presentation worked.

    Then I drove it. It wasn’t as gutless as I figured it would be. Driving it in the hills of western North Carolina for a week, I found the acceleration to be perfectly acceptable if not inspiring. It is definitely tuned for fuel economy and cruising, not track day, but you expect that. The transmission was smooth and responsive, though you did sometimes have to floor it to get it to drop a gear when you wanted. It had paddle shifters, but I honestly wasn’t tempted to even try them out. What’s the point? It’s just not a “fun” car to drive.

    The steering was over-boosted and offered no feedback, but that’s pretty typical today. More concerning was its road manners at speed. It needed frequent correction, and the suspension was chattery over even moderately bumpy pavement. The most hair-raising part of my trip was when I took a long, sweeping downhill curve at about 70 – the car said it would give it a shot, but offered no guarantees on the outcome. My Mazda6 wagon wouldn’t have blinked.

    My greatest complaint is over something comparatively small, but I offer it up because of the stupidity of the problem. Notice, in the above article, the photo of the open trunk. The hinges mount on the outside of the trunk opening. On the inside of those is about 1-1/2 to 2 inches of metal and the weather seal. because of that wasted space, I couldn’t get my golf clubs in the trunk unless I took them out of my travel case, and even then they just barely fit. The reason this bothered my so much is that it so completely avoidable. Why not use rear-mounted trunk hinges like everyone else? Or if you must do it this way, then why not design it so the trunk opening is of a usable size? Yeesh.

    Anyway, overall I wasn’t impressed with the Malibu. It was nice looking, and the interior was generally decent (though I never tried the back seats, so I can’t say anything about them), but its road manners were a grave disappointment. It was, in other words, a GM car.

  • avatar

    A question nobody has really asked here is why the Impala outsells the Malibu? It is the question you could do a business dissertation on. Maybe the Impala is more honest on what its competition is. It does not try to outdo either the Camry or Accord, but appeals to the last surviving traditional domestic customer base. The only other competitor for the Impala is the even more aged Crown Vic. I also think the Impala’s V8 plays a role in its success. It has that good old fashion off the line acceleration that some Americans like. The impala also looks the part of a traditional American family sedan, while the Malibu seems to be a poser pretending to be a direct competitor to the best imported cars.
    The Impala also has a tidy looking front end that is still attractive, even though it borrows a little from pass generation Accords.
    Whatever, the reason the current Impala is the last American sedan to reach the 300,000 sales mark, which it did several years ago. Don’t count the Impala out this year. I have noticed it pulls ahead of both the Fusion and Malibu during the fall.

    The Impala is like the energizer bunny. GM keeps trying to knock it off but it comes roaring back on the sales charts. I am betting they the end of this year the Impala will be the best selling American sedan for the fifth consecutive year. Now I know where all those Ford Taurus customers went!

    I just answered my own question!!!

    Impala’s success = forgotten Taurus customers.

    • 0 avatar

      You hit the nail soundly on the head. The Impala is more appealing to its intended market than the Malibu is to midsize sedan buyers. The relative dearth of competitors also helps.

      And that isn’t a new phenomenon. When I sold Chevys in 1997*, I couldn’t get over how many Luminas I sold, compared to the then-new Malibu (which, for all its many, many faults, really was a breath of fresh air from GM in that segment.)

      I quickly learned a “Chevy buyer” didn’t want a Camry competitor; they wanted the next Caprice. That continues to be true today… as is the fact most affluent, educated consumers still won’t even look at a Chevy.

      *This was a sad, shameful phase in my life… albeit a profitable one.

    • 0 avatar

      From Wikipedia; “For the 2010 model year, the Impala is the only GM W-body car in production. The eight-cylinder SS model has been discontinued. LT models now include fog lights. The 3.9L V6 is no longer available for the LT model. Three new exterior colors are available: Summit White, Cyber Gray Metallic, and Aqua Blue Metallic. Four exterior colors have been deleted. The (PDG) convenience package, AM/FM stereo with 6-disc in-dash CD changer, and trunk cargo net are no longer available. The Impala emblems on rear sail panels as well as the rear decklid badge on LS models have been deleted. Early ’10 models had the lower front-side GM badges but were also later deleted.”

      So sorry no more V8 but I think a few of your comments may have a ring of truth about being the most traditional remaining American car. I’d love to see a punch up of the average age of Impala buyers vs the average age of Malibu buyers.

      As a side note I love that for quite a few years the 3.9V6 was available in the Impala LT. Every once in a while on eBay or Auto Trader I’ll stumble across a fairly basic LT model with a rather depressing low rent interior and then under the hood will be a 3.9V6 with 240hp, that’s what the old (supercharged 3800V6) Impala used to make. Cheap car, big engine, soft suspension, that’s AMERICAN!

    • 0 avatar

      Wow Dan… when an automaker deletes BADGING on one of its products (the LS) you know they don’t care much about the car!

  • avatar
    Acc azda atch


    While I appreciate your insight…

    I do however find it very interesting.. that you basically chose between 3 cars.

    The Lambdas (knowing there is the Equinox and its triplets walking the earth.) One concept of having 4 vehicles of the same floorplan competing against each other.

    The LX cars from Chrysler..

    And a G8.

    The Maxima or Altima in either the SE-R or the 3.5 SL from Nissan didn’t interest you?

    I’m amazed at the fact that someone would actually buy a Chrysler vehicle. Even though I secretly drool for a Magnum or the Lime / Plum Crazy Charger.

  • avatar

    May 19th, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    “Compete against what,the overpriced garbage from Mercedes? Or maybe a VW that spends half its life in the shop?

    European cars were on the scene here in the “new world” long before the Asian invasion came to be.

    They were over rated high maintenance rust prone pieces of s–t then,and not much has changed.”

    Come on, you know that Chevy Malibus are crap compared to European cars.
    Maliby buyers must be blind patriots in denial.

    If you visit Sweden, i´ll let you drive my new Merc.

    • 0 avatar

      Well Buckshot,with all due respect I beg to differ. Living where I live in Southern Ontario the costs of owning, and driving European are staggering.

      Malibu vs Merc? Sure,on face value the Merc is twice the car,as it well should be.

      I could make 3 payments on the Bu,with the cost of one repair bill on the Merc.

      Now back to the Malibu. My my retirement package from GM included a car voucher. I was torn between the Malibu and the Impala. I rented a Malibu in Florida for a week,and I was impressed. But I just liked the Impala more.

      I got the Black LTZ with leather and 18 inch wheels,with the sun roof open, and a carefull detail job the Impala, IMHO has the Bu beat on looks and I couldn’t give a rats ass what anybody thinks, I love it.

    • 0 avatar

      mikey, if ownership cost is what you are focused on, then shouldn’t you be buying a Camry or Accord.

      As I last checked, according to CR, Toyota and Honda are still way better than GM in reliability.

    • 0 avatar

      wsn.. I believe Mr Buckshot was trying to compare a Malibu to a Merc.

      If I was buying a toaster I might take glance at CR,before I plonked my 20 dollars down.

      Now if I’m going to drop 30 grand down,I’m going to talk to repair shops,and tow truck dudes,taxi owners and people that live and work in the real world.

      Long term, 10 to 15 years, GM rules when it comes to cost of ownership.

  • avatar
    Christy Garwood

    Edward, thanks for taking the time to drive and review the 2010 Malibu. Your comments regarding GM dealerships are welcome too.

    As a GM employee, I am going to partcipate in an new outreach program in June in Philadelphia where employees from different functions visit dealerships and talk to everyone who works there to improve the realtionship between the manufacturer and the dealer. Plus we will be talking to customers as well to improve that relationship. The new GM recognizes this opportunity and is working to improve.

    Regarding the Malibu, I have never driven one, but I spent 11 hours in the rear passenger seat of my sister’s 2009 Silver Moss Malibu LTZ V6 auto trans. At 5’3″ I guess I didn’t notice the short bench. Nor did I miss a right arm rest. I pulled the center cup holder down from the back rest and leaned my left arm on it. I had plenty of room to stretch, move, put a pillow on the window and sleep comfortably. I had good visibility out the windows and forward. I was fine with it.

  • avatar

    The whole sage of the Malibu vs. the better selling but aging Impala was seen before at Pontiac a few years ago. In this case the Grand Prix was playing the Impala’s role and the GTO and G8 the Malibu’s. Despite its age the Grand Prix was a solid seller (80k a year). Suddenly, Pontiac introduced the GTO that was superior in almost every way with the possible exception of styling. However, both the GTO and G8 failed to find customers. The marginalized Grand Prix still managed to outsell the GTO by a 2 to 1 ratio. As GTO’s piled up on the dealers lot it was up to the G6 and Grand Prix to pull Pontiac through. It was too much to ask and Pontiac’s final swung song was the G8, which will probably be remembered as the car that finally tanked Pontaic. The Grand Prix could have been improved and its customer base maintained.

    The G8 is probably the best car ever to destroy a division. The lesson here is if marketing and product don’t align properly the results can be catastrophic.

    The Grand Prix was an honest muscle car and far more sophisticated than its crude ancestors from the early 70s.

    Another example would be the hot selling ION and the Astra, which has the distinction of being the poorest selling small car in GM’s history. I think Saturn only sold 10,000 Astra’s in its final year!!!

  • avatar

    It wasn´t me who started talking about Mercedes.
    If the Malibu was going to Europe, the competitors would be cars like Skoda Octavia, Ford Mondeo, Peugeot 407 and Renault Laguna.

  • avatar

    Rented a Malibu (a nice 2LT) and the car is dead sexy outside, like a 4 door Camaro. I really love the 2-tone interior color scheme, BTW, although mine didn’t have it. Very little road and wind noise, sufficient pickup. But the downfall for me was the sound of that engine! Ugh! Same problem with my old Saturn SL2: the power was impressive for a four, but THE SOUND was so agricultural and unpleasant. You would think GM would have learned. If I were buying a ‘bu, I’d get the smooth and whoomfy-sounding 6 cylinder, fuel economy be damned.

  • avatar

    I think the Bu is a good overall car, still can’t get passed the sad eyes design of the rear, but it’s got character.

    i wouldn’t buy one, but would possibly be on my top 3 shortlist for my mom’s car….

  • avatar

    I own a 2008 Impala LT with the 3900 V6. Bought it with around 24K miles from the original owner for $15995 last year when the car was but a year old. It is a basic LT model with cloth bucket seats but it has more equipment than the regular 3500 LT of the time did including fog lamps, 17″ alloy wheels, upgraded sport suspension, rear spoiler, dual exhaust, flip and fold rear seat and stability control/ABS. It is one of the best cars I have owned or driven in a while. The 3900 is very responsive at all times and will pull 30 plus MPG on the open road all day long which is a pipe dream in a Malibu V6 which sacrifices fast acceleration for fuel economy. The car is very easy to live with on a daily basis and I enjoy it now as much as the day I bought it. It now has just turned 63,000 miles and has only suffered one issue- the typical GM intermediate steering shaft clunk going left. That was replaced and the Impala is back to a nice tight front end and effertless highway cruising, even at well over legal speeds. No other problems at all. No squeaks or rattles or any odd behavior to note. The GM 4 speed automatic always shift right on time with no hesitation(something no Malibu or Camry 6 speed I have driven can say) and passing power on the highway is more than enough. The front seat is noticeably roomier than the Malibu, I don’t bang my head everytime I get into the car and the center console isn’t two feet wide as in the new LaCrosse or Taurus which steals what room there is. I have driven many cars over the years either in ownership or rental. The Impala just seems to do everything fairly well and the size, ride/handling/mileage/reliability/price are all spot on.
    The poster above who stated that when Chevy keeps trying to copy the Camry and Accord it usually ends up failing while the good old traditional Chevy excels. Never has there been a truer word spoken. Chevy buyers are expecting to come into a Chevy store seeing cars like the Impala not a CamCord. If they want a CamCrod then that is what they purchase. If GM would take the hint and build and improve on what they do best cars would fly off the lots. The Impala is certainly not there best effert and could for sure use improvement. A nice smart shifting 6 speed automatic tied to a SIDI 3.6 would make a excellent LTZ drivetrain for starters. New more padded and better contoured seats and a higher quality dash would be another. Chevy also has a perfect RWD full sized sedan with traditional V8 power sitting right in there poilice fleet called Caprice for 2011. Why this car isn’t available for the public is a total mystery to me as I think they would sell like hotcakes.

  • avatar

    I don’t agree with a lot of these comments ripping the Impala. I drive a 2006 Impala and I think it’s a great car. It hasn’t given me much trouble and I drive a lot. Right now, I’m in the market to buy another car. I’ve been looking at the Malibus and I really like them. I’m looking at one that is light blue (it’s actually called golden pewter. Doesn’t make sense but OK). Anyway, I test drove the Malibu and it’s OK. I’ve got to say that overall, I’m not 100 percent impressed with this car and it pains me to say that. I really love the styling and the color of this car. But the interior feels too small compared to the Impala, and the radio dash looks like cheap silver plastic. Why didn’t they get something that looks nicer? And the little buttons on the steering wheel are way too small. Also, I drove an LT and it’s not much better than the LS. Now, I’ve got my eye on another Impala. So, which one should I go with? The roomier Impala or the Malibu, which is sort of the “hot” car right now but I feel like I’d be getting less car for the money. Please give me your honest opinion. Thanks.

Read all comments

Recent Comments

  • slavuta: dal, this is [another] example of reality vs wishful thinking “December 7, 2011 Today’s Moscow News...
  • slavuta: Jeff S US is already somewhat dependent on Russia. If it wasn’t, why Trump and Biden, both talk to...
  • slavuta: Jeff, for your last comment, there will be 1 country 2 systems. Do you know what’s interesting? Around...
  • mcs: What about indigenous people claiming parts of the US. Or even Mexico taking back Texas?
  • Boxerman: The car companies are looking for government money to compete with tesla a product none of the existing...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber