by J.T. Hills
SGN Contributing Writer
- 26 MPG city and 34 MPG highway
- Sophisticated exterior design
- Spacious cabin
- A manual transmission might make it more fun to drive
- Who does a four-speed automatic transmission anymore?
- GM has an amazing Nav. system, unfortunately not available on the Malibu
The Chevy Malibu was first introduced in 1964 as the nameplate for the top level Chevelle, and returned for the 1997 model year as an all-new front-wheel-drive sedan. For 2008, the Malibu, Chevrolets mid-sized sedan, receives a complete bold redesign. The Malibu continues to be a five-seat front-wheel-drive sedan, but is now three inches longer with a six-inch longer wheelbase, in four different trim levels, and three different engine choices. After a week with the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, Ive compiled a brass-tacks list of highly technical scientific data based upon observations, experimentation, tabulations, inspections and so forth. Here we go:
Chevy Malibu: Going green with mainstream design
The Japanese hybrids have a lot of great attributes. For one, the Toyota Prius gets a phenomenal EPA estimate of 48 mpg, but with love-it-or-hate-it looks. The Honda Civic Hybrid is comparable with an EPA estimate of 45 mpg. These are popular cars, but sometimes size does matter; not everyone can comfortably fit into a Prius or Civic, no matter how green you want to be. The Chevrolet Malibu fits a nice niche in that its a earth- and gas-friendly hybrid, but it has a more palatable size for those who need just a bit more space and are looking for a more conventional design.
Theres a lot to like about the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid. For one, the price; its nearly $1,500 less expensive than the Toyota Camry hybrid. Also, the design is contemporary and very attractive. I like the long, low-slung, muscular look of the Malibu. It looks more expensive than it really is, and more substantial. I also like the fact that they put 17 wheels on it. Youre driving something green, but you dont look like you have to economize on design to achieve it. Being over six feet tall, I also like the fact that you can get in the front seat and be able to stretch your legs out. You also dont have to recline your front seat so that your head is right next to the B-pillar instead of the door window. The interior of the Malibu is also well designed. The interior ergonomics are excellent with all the controls well within easy reach. The Malibu comes standard with nice conveniences like XM Satellite radio, a three-spoke steering wheel with mounted audio and cruise control, and OnStar Gen 8 with Bluetooth connectivity. OnStar is great, but I dont really get why Chevy doesnt even make their Navigation system an option on the Malibu. Personally, I think GM has one most driver-friendly and easiest to use Nav. systems available, and you cant get it on any trim level of the Malibu.
Chevrolet outfitted the Malibu with a 164 horsepower Hybrid Ecotec 2.4-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine. It gets an EPA estimated 26 mpg city and 34 mpg highway, and is attached to a four-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission. I wouldnt exactly call the Malibu Hybrid inspiring to drive, theres no great thrill of adrenaline as youre racing up the onramp, or even a hint of enjoyment as youre trying to pass the car in front of you on the freeway. Then again, I cant really say the Civic or Prius Hybrids will do that for you either. I suppose in these days of fluctuating oil prices its not really the point. One thing about the driving experience of the Malibu, having just driven comparably priced Civic Hybrid, is that you dont feel detached from the road; you feel as though youre driving, a car not guiding one.
OK, for a before-tax price of $25,345, what do you get?
The 2009 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid comes sufficiently equipped with some popular features with a base price of $25,345. Heres a quick look at some of my favorites:
- 2.4 liter DOHC four-cylinder MFI 164-hp engine
- Hybrid Propulsion Electric System, includes 36-volt NiMH battery and tray
- Belt Alternator System (BAS)
- Eco mode for HVAC system which maximizes fuel economy
- 17-inch ultra bright aluminum wheels
- Chrome exhaust tip
- Dual stage front air bags
- Side curtain airbags
- Front seat-mounted thorax protection airbag
- Traction control
- Stabilitrak traction control system
- Four-wheel antilock disc brakes
- Integrated key fob
- Fog lamps
Comfort and Convenience
- Onstar Gen 8 with Bluetooth connectivity
- XM Satellite Radio
- Three-spoke steering wheel with mounted audio and cruise control