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Chevrolet Malibu Mini-Review

August 27, 2011

So I got the chance to drive around a Malibu the other day. Having had my mind blown recently by a Ford Focus I’ll admit Chevy hasn’t really been on my radar lately. I wasn’t expecting a lot from this, I suppose it’s meant to compete with the Ford Taurus and I’m not really a sedan person. But at any rate, here’s my take on it.

First of all, being a stick shift driver I had no idea how to get the parking brake off. It’s one of those foot pedal ones. Which is fine, but the little pull that’s right above it is apparently the pull to open your hood (oops!). The key is to have your foot on the foot brake and then tap the parking brake with your other foot and you’ll be able to get it to spring off. But if you didn’t know you needed your foot on the break first, or kept opening the hood on the accident (not like someone you know) it might be kind of  a pain and you might hope you have a smart phone so you can look it up, and then not bother to use the parking brake the whole rest of the trip.

Moving on. Cup holders are also difficult to find. In the middle of the center console is this little pull down thing that looks very nice. But if you didn’t know you needed to kind of pull it directly down before it’ll slide (it’s kind of latched) you may not realize you have hidden cupholders there at all. There are some in the doors as well, but trust me they’re not terribly convenient.

I’d bet the larger center console storage area would probably be a good place for a custom insert for some larger and more convenient cup holders as well. Though I don’t know if something like that would actually exist.

I had to carry a passenger on this particular trip and the Malibu proved to be pretty good as a sedan and passenger vehicle. We were both incredibly comfortable. Seats were very nice and there was a good amount of room inside. The trunk wasn’t as big as maybe you’d think given the Malibu’s overall size, but maybe that’s because extra room has gone into the interior.

Where Chevrolet did a fantastic job is on the dials. Combine that with a pretty slick looking interior and it looks great. Unlike the SS Camaro I test drove last spring where the dials were lacking and looked like they’d ported them out of a cheapo Cobalt. The Malibu on the other hand looks like it’s finally pretty good competition for the other sedans in this range. The interior was just really nice.

But then, the interior had better be nice. Exterior of the Malibu can look a little dated, a little too rounded, but maybe if you like 90’s Buicks this is the car for you. Also given its size I sort of expected a little bit of power and was disappointed in that arena. A 2.4L 4 cylinder engine it has 170 hp. But you wouldn’t know that if you drove it. It can be a bit sluggish on hills, a bit tough in passing people, and just sort of feels heavy without really feeling heavy. 170 hp used to be enough for an entry level sports car but nowadays cars are so much heavier that if you have a largish sedan like this it may not be enough to give you the beef you really expect.

On the other hand, a 4 cylinder engine is a great way to save money on fuel. The Malibu promises 22/33 mpg and that certainly seems in line with my driving of it. Combine that with a big tank and I’d say it can be as convenient on a long trip as the Focus was. Maybe it’s not quite up to the fuel efficiency of the Elantra, but let’s face it if I had to spend several hours inside a car on a long trip I’d much rather it be the Malibu than an Elantra. It was just really classy, comfortable and nice.

(Photos from Chevrolet)

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