New model more than a match for import rivals
The 2008 Malibu is such a quantum leap over the past two generations of Chevy front-drive cruisers - not to mention prettier - that it should come with a new name. Maybe the Chevrolet Laguna Beach?
But a small drawback is Chevrolet seems a bit too confident of its abilities. First, the exterior treatment features no less than 12 (hidden) Chevy bowtie logos. Second, the automaker initially considered selling it next to the Toyota Camry in Chevy showrooms.
Really? Is the new Malibu that good?
If you're disenchanted by the number of recent Toyota recalls, and love the Malibu's shapely lines, yes. If you're willing to give the General another shot, yes. But, unfortunately, in this segment, it's increasingly hard to have consumers choose a North American car brand over an Asian one. Some import buyers simply won't set foot in a domestic-brand dealership.
The Malibu's $22,995 base price should help. As base models go, that's some two grand lower than an Accord, about $1,500 less than a Nissan Altima or Mazda6, and still edges Toyota's Camry - even after the latter's recent drastic sticker reductions.
That base Malibu LS features an automatic transmission, 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine, folding rear seat, power driver's seat, six-speaker AM/FM/CD/satellite radio audio system, dual front airbags, dual side airbags, dual curtain airbags, electric power steering, outside temperature display, power windows, locks and mirrors, keyless entry, air conditioning and cruise control.
Moving up, the Malibu 1LT costs $24,895 and includes a stereo upgrade and 17-inch wheels.
The Malibu 2LT, at $25,995, has broader buyer appeal with its simulated suede/leatherette two-tone interior, heated front seats, 17-inch alloy wheels, universal garage door opener, remote start, electrochromatic mirror, power adjustable foot pedals and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter.
The $33,610 Malibu LTZ offers a six-speed automatic, 3.6-litre V6, power passenger seat, 18-inch alloy wheels, hydraulic power steering, heated door mirrors, six-disc in-dash stereo with MP3 capability and eight speakers, climate control and fog lights.
All right, so it's pretty good value, GM's warranty is competitive, and its finance and lease rates are traditionally among the lowest in the business.
Interior quality is staggering; the Malibu is nearly at the top of its class, certainly earning marks for its two-tone interior.
But pay attention when reversing, given this sedan's substantial rear window pillars. And the four-speed automatic does hunt for a suitable gear in hilly terrain. The addition of a LTZ four-cylinder model late next year, equipped with a six-speed automatic will help immensely - Malibu engineers say the transmission will be phased into the Malibu hybrid model as well.
2008 Chevrolet Mailbu LS