This is the first new Malibu I’ve driven, and it’s pretty darn impressive. That’s not surprising, though, since my colleagues chose this car as one of our ten 2008 All-Stars (I didn’t vote, because the All-Stars drive occurred at the same time that I was laboriously driving my ’67 MGB/GT home from California last fall).
I think the Malibu is good-looking, especially from the back end (love those protruding taillamps!). However, the body-panel fits on this car are weak, particularly around the head- and taillights and the bumpers.
I drove this Malibu more than 130 miles in one day, and the trip computer indicated that I averaged 29 mpg–not too bad in a biggish sedan like this. A Toyota Camry Hybrid would get better even mileage (as we found in our Four Seasons test), but the Toyota’s base price is about $1000 more than the Malibu Hybrid’s. Still, the Camry’s 34-mpg combined EPA rating is worth that premium when you consider the Malibu Hybrid’s less impressive 27-mpg combined economy rating. (Why the big difference? The most noticeable difference is that, unlike the Camry, the Malibu’s engine doesn’t turn off in coasting situations. The Chevy’s powerplant does switch off while you’re waiting at traffic lights, though.)
With better steering and a slightly tighter suspension setup, the Malibu is more fun to drive than its most obvious competitor, and I like its looks better as well. And I’d be willing to bet that the actual transaction price for one will be a quite a bit less than that of a Camry Hybrid before too long, since hybriders tend to flock to Toyota dealerships and Chevy dealers might be more willing to make a deal.