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November 9, 2007

The All New 2008 Chevy Malibu

The redesigned, all new Chevy Malibu, is it really the car you can’t ignore? GM/Chevy would like you to believe that yes it is. Its styling reminds me of Adam West’s Bat-mobile with some of the clean, sleek lines of a classic Corvette. Did all that allow me to put aside my prejudices against American made vehicles? See for yourself.

I had the chance to test drive three versions of the new and improved Malibu. That’s right GM footed the bill to fly me down, put me up, wine me and dine me while I checked out their newest baby. I will say that for GM the Malibu is their new baby. They put a lot of thought not just into the aesthetics but the inside and under the hood areas as well.

I drove 150 miles in three versions of the Malibu all over back roads of Mississippi and Tennessee and found that the only big difference between the four cylinders and the Hybrid model ($22,790) is the price. And you know what? It’s only an $1800 (with a $500 after tax credit) difference which is huge when you are looking at other car companies Hybrid’s. They are typically several thousand dollars more. It really is an affordable Hybrid and it makes you feel good while driving it with its 24 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. I think more car companies need to take a lesson from GM and make Hybrids an easier more affordable option.

The new Malibu has a rather posh, sometimes sexy interior, especially the LTZ ($26,995). It has been designed to be give you more bang for your buck. Wood-grain runs along the dash, soft upholstery cushions you in some pretty sweet seats and XM radio comes standard with each model. The steering wheel has many touch features right there for the driver which is a plus in my book. I like not having to reach across the dash to adjust things. The trunk button is located below the door handle on the driver’s side not hidden away or tucked by the seat.

The Malibu is also quiet. This is a big point for me. I loathe external road noise. The Malibu is so insulated even the double ply acoustic glass and carpet assist in cutting down on noise to a bare minimum. All the models were incredibly quiet enabling me to listen to the XM radio without revving up the volume.
When adjusting the seats I found that the levers and buttons were exactly where my hands automatically went. It was downright logical. There was absolutely no searching around. This is rare and such a nice touch. No more grasping under the seat when you are in this car. The back seat however is a bit small and rides like many mid-size sedans. It does have great child safety hooks for car seats. They are covered yet in plain sight. There is no ‘search and reach behind the seats’ in any of the models. You can easily fit two car seats in the back seat too. There are air bags all over these cars including roof-drop ones and the seatbelts tighten on rear-impact. Not that we needed that while driving the back roads.

This car has a wide wheel base that grips the road nicely. Even when I manically swerved it to and fro it turned well and hugged those twists and turns. It maintains its corners well too. It is as if the tires and the steering sense what you will do before you do it. It was really great when that pick-up truck came barreling down the middle of the road and I had nowhere to go but hold on tight.

I do not like American cars. I’ve never owned one and until the Malibu I hadn’t considered it. When I look for a new car my mind never wanders into the American foray. I like fun details though. I like wood grain, chrome, softly lit mirrors, quietly shutting doors and a car that looks like it possesses a lot of power and motion. You can find that in the Malibu especially theV-6 LTZ. The four cylinder drives just like you think a four cylinder would. The Hybrid takes a bit to get going, especially on hills, but that is common with a Hybrid vehicle. You swap out pep when you go green it’s just a fact of life right now.
So what didn’t I like about the Malibu?

The Hybrid’s trunk lacks the side cargo nets that the other models possess. These are handy pieces to have in a trunk. It annoyed me that the Hybrid was missing them. When I sat in the backseat of the car it wasn’t as smooth of a ride as I would have thought or liked. It felt just like sitting in the back of my ’98 Corolla. I wanted it to feel like a $40K car in that respect and it just did not. The cup holders in the back are small too. They are small and shallow. My water bottle kept falling out. If my kids drink, especially an uncapped drink kept falling out and spilling all over the backseat I would be in a red hot rage. The gas pedal is oddly small as well. It’s not that I need a large gas pedal but it was definitely something I noticed when I put my foot to it. It put me off even before I started driving.

So what is the outcome of all this? Can I ignore the new Malibu? Should you? I say no. If you are in the market for a new mid-size car then all three of the Malibu’s models should be part of your consideration. The quality is there it just boils down to personal preference and your bank account. It seems that Chevy has finally created a car that can compete with the others (Accord, Altima, and Camry) in comfort, perks, and price. I could go on about all the little bells and whistles, the subtle differences between the models and the soft and improved colors of the Malibu (starting at $19,995) but really you will just have to head down to your nearest dealership yourself and take this car for a ride. You just might be impressed. It certainly made me reconsider buying American.

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