The Chevrolet Malibu nameplate has been around for a long, long time, in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Once a big car, the Malibu has in recent years been Chevrolet's bread-and-butter sedan, fitting in the lineup just below the larger Impala, which is itself a downsized version of the old full-size Impala.
Today the Malibu competes directly against the other midsize sedans on the market, among them the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, and Ford Fusion.
The 2008 Chevrolet Malibu is an all-new model. This edition of the Malibu shares its underpinnings with the other GM cars mounted on the Epsilon front-drive platform, including the new Saab 9-3, the new Saturn Aura, the Pontiac G6, the European-market Cadillac BLS, and the German Opel Vectra. That's a fine group of cars to be associated with and the Malibu is expected to be the biggest seller among them.
Chevrolet says it has modified the platform with some extra strength and extra steel in the central tunnel area and the bodysides to help quiet the car and improve its crash performance. More quiet was added with composite inner fenders, thicker glass, and sprayed-on sound insulation throughout the body cavities. Still more quiet was engineered into the induction system, to make the engine sound powerful but quiet at full-throttle and during downshifts. It's a bigger car inside than the previous model, but it's smaller on the outside, although the design makes it look even longer than the outgoing car.
The Malibu will be sold on its obvious exterior glamour, its initial pricing, and its good fuel economy, with EPA ratings of 22/30 mpg for the base 4-cylinder and 4-speed automatic, 17/26 mpg for the V6 engine and 6-speed automatic, and 24/32 mpg for the so-called mild Hybrid. All models are four-door sedans with front-wheel drive.
We found the Malibu to be a smooth, comfortable sedan with plenty of power and responsive. It strikes a nice balance between well-controlled handling and a smooth ride. Overall, the new Malibu feels smooth and refined and pleasant to drive.
The cabin is nicely designed, attractive, and everything is easy to operate, and the seats are comfortable.
In short, we think the Chevy Malibu stands up well when held against the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord gold standards. Choosing among them largely comes down to nitpicking, splitting hairs and personal preference. Camry and Accord may have an edge on resale value, but they're also likely to come with higher price tags. In any case, we don't see the gap between this Chevrolet and the imports that we used to see.
The 2008 Chevrolet Malibu range includes the LS ($19,995), 1LT ($20,995) 2LT ($22,635), and LTZ ($26,995), plus the Hybrid ($22,790). All prices are MSRP and include a $650 destination and delivery charge; prices can change at any time without notice.
The Malibu LS comes with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and four-speed automatic transmission. The base model also comes with electric power steering, to saved drag on the engine, while the V6-powered models come with hydraulic power steering.
LT models come with the 3.6-liter V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission along with StabiliTrak yaw control, 17-inch wheels and tires, dual exhausts and manual shift control.
LTZ adds 18-inch alloy wheels and tires, fog lights and clean-lens LED taillamps, and comes with a long list of standard equipment items, plus and a higher-capacity six-speed automatic. The LTZ will also be available with the four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic.
The Hybrid comes in an LT-level of trim with special 16-inch low-rolling-resistance tires.
Options include a power sunroof, remote starting, power adjustable pedals, upgraded interiors, and an upgraded eight-speaker, 210-watt entertainment system.
The safety package is comprehensive, with front, side and curtain airbags, ABS, traction control, tire pressure monitoring. StabiliTrak electronic stability control comes standard on LT, LTZ, and Hybrid models and includes Brake Assist.