SENIOR EDITOR FOR NEWS BOB GRITZINGER: From fit and finish to refinement in ride and powertrain, this Chevy is clearly on par or better than anything from the Japanese midsize competition, and equal to the also excellent Ford Fusion. The Malibu is remarkably solid, quiet, steady and smooth–an easy car to like and to enjoy driving. It’s obviously no race car so the standards are different, and for many years the standard in this segment has been set by the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry. No more. This car defines what an American midsizer ought to be.
What makes it so good? Starting outside, the styling is clean and crisp, with wide door openings for easy access. The doors close with a solid thunk that seems far more upscale than this car is. Inside, the upholstery insets of suede make for a luxury feel, along with the soft-touch materials on the dash and doors. The interior also seems quite roomy, even with a full load of passengers. It’d be quite comfortable for four, even on a long trip. The ride is smooth and comfortable without any banging suspension noise, while showing surprising poise for a family sedan. Finally, the four-cylinder powertrain isn’t anything to brag on, but it does the job of getting the car rolling without too much straining and noise from under the hood. The six-speed automatic is super smooth and allows the engine to run at merely 2,000 rpm at 70 mph. Who needs hybrids and all the associated extra complexity and weight when you can have this simple tried-and-true powertrain?
Though the steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters seem out of place in this obviously nonenthusiast model, I found them handy at times to help rev-match with traffic and when I wanted to get a little more out of the car in corners and off the line. If they don’t add much to the cost, I’d say it’s nice to have General Motors think of the driving joy of the average guy for a change.
My only wish is that GM would consider offering a wagon version of the Malibu, or at least bring back the hatchback Maxx.
The biggest problem facing GM is now that the Malibu has caught up with–and in my mind, exceeded–the Hondas and Toyotas of the world, at least in this segment, the real competition is from South Korean carmaker Hyundai. The new Sonata blows this and everything else away in virtually every category, except maybe engine refinement.
EDITOR WES RAYNAL: Here’s the new Camry. In other words, here’s the midsize sedan that should be fighting to be the No. 1-selling sedan in the country. This and the Ford Fusion, that is.
The Malibu is as good or better than the Camry in all the important ways: The four cylinder is as powerful, the interior is as nice, the exterior looks better to my eye (which is to say the Malibu is dull to look at, just not as dull as the Camry), the Malibu is quiet and I like this Opel-based chassis and suspension.
I would agree with the above that the Malibu is solid, quiet, steady and smooth, though I wouldn’t say remarkably so as Gritzinger does. I’d say it’s on par with the competition but no better. For GM to win buyers back, its bread-and-butter sedans need to blow away cars such as the Camry and the Sonata. This car is good but doesn’t blow anything away. Maybe the next one will. We’ll see.
COPY EDITOR CYNTHIA L. OROSCO: This Malibu has nice exterior lines (the red paint is very attractive), and the pleasing looks continue on the inside. The materials are quality, the center stack layout is user-friendly and the seats are comfy. The steering wheel is quite big, and the steering seemed pretty light, especially around curves.
On my way in this morning in the rain, I noticed myself slowing even more around bends as the car seemed a bit floaty; it may have just been the wet pavement. But overall, there’s good power from the four, no noticeable lag, and merging and passing are accomplished with ease. Braking is solid.
In the midsize-sedan segment, I’d definitely put this Malibu up there with the very-nice Hyundai Sonata and the fun Ford Fusion.
2010 Chevrolet Malibu 2LT
Base Price: $25,895
As-Tested Price: $27,070
Drivetrain: 2.4-liter I4; FWD, six-speed automatic
Output: 169 hp @ 6,200 rpm, 158 lb-ft @ 5,200 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,436 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA/AW): 26/23.7 mpg
Options: Bose premium audio ($500); red jewel tintcoat paint ($325); interface package including USB port, 110V outlet ($250); compact spare-tire set ($100)