It thankfully does not try to accommodate foreign design sensibilities as do the generic looking Cruze and the slightly odd-looking Buick LaCrosse. In fact, the Malibu looks more overtly American than ever thanks to several cues adopted from the Camaro. They include square dual taillights in back, muscular haunches over the rear wheels, and a distinct Coke bottle shape to the side profile. It's a credit to the skill of GM designers that these muscle-car touches look subtle and interesting rather than out-of-place and slightly desperate (as on, say, the Dodge Avenger). For upper-level models, HID headlamps, LED tail lamps, and nineteen-inch wheels complete the package.
The clear American character is largely due to the fact that the home market buys more midsize sedans than anyone else. But for dozens of foreign markets that still associate Chevrolet with rebadged Korean subcompacts, the Malibu will make an important statement, one Nesbitt expects them to like.
"People love the Camaro, wherever you go," he notes.
Interior leaps forward in quality, technology
The last Malibu was a revelation over its predecessor in terms of interior quality. This new one is less so simply because we've become accustomed to General Motors opening its pocket book. Successful elements like the dual-cove dash and creative color combinations (the New York Show car features mocha and black leather) are reprised here. There are also features we've seen in other GM vehicles, including the ambient lighting and square gauges found in the Camaro. Still, the Malibu takes another important step forward. The faux-leather on the dash and door panels, for instance, looks more realistic than ever thanks to a new process whereby the graining is lightly stained. More important, GM accountants seem to have let go of the last few pennies they were pinching, exorcising a few cheap flaws like flimsy armrests and squeaky door panels (we'll need to see the production cars to be sure, though). As noted, the Malibu now rides on the shorter Regal wheelbase, but interior volume has increased over the old model by nearly four cubic feet, with an emphasis on more shoulder and hip room.