I have an admission to make: I like the Chevy Malibu Hybrid! I never thought I would tell the world that I liked a Malibu, but there it is. I like the Chevy Malibu.
The basic, middle of the road family sedan has never been my thing. Yes, they fulfill the more basic people moving needs of many families, but they just don’t usually stir any sort of emotion in my ample belly. The Malibu on the other hand has actually made an impact on me because it is so much better than past models, or the competition for that matter.
Inside and out, fit and finish are on a par with what consumers have come to expect from Toyota. Surface materials inside are top notch. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the interior looks and feels better than our recent testers from Toyota and Mazda. The designers have managed to create an interior that is unmistakably from The General, yet feels more like a Traditional Import. Perhaps it is the two tone interior treatment, or possibly the brushed metal trim line that wraps around the for part of the cabin and separates the shades but the Malibu’s cabin feels like a much more expensive car.
In fact, several passengers who work within the auto industry commented that the Malibu was an incredible value for a car of it’s size and with a Hybrid system to boot. Our tester rang in at $27,760 cdn before destination charge, which is close to 3 grand less than a Camry Hybrid.
On the road, there isn’t a whole heck of a lot of excitement happening but the Malibu cruises along quietly and comfortably. There is more than enough oomph on tap that the natural cruising speed is somewhere around 120 kmh. On the hybrid side of things, the electric motor assists the 2.4l Ecotec 4 cylinder on acceleration and charges the NiMH battery pack on deceleration. At rest, the gas engine shuts down and is auto started when the brake pedal is released. During our week with the car, we only managed to achieve 9 L/100 km which is considerably poorer than the advertised 6.9 L/100 km. In fairness to the Malibu, the ambient temperature was below minus 12 Celsius for the entire week, some days dipped to minus 20. Not exactly the weather you want for optimum fuel economy. Nor is cruising at 120 kmh all that great for consumption. Still, I wonder how the non hybrid Malibu would have fared during the same week of driving.
The one place the Malibu did fail us, is in our signature 3 hockey bag test. The trunk is a usable size for getting groceries for this family of 5, but would only accommodate one 40″ hockey bag. It certainly wouldn’t hold the 3 bags we often cart around, partially in thanks to the hybrid battery pack.
Space issues aside, I came away feeling good about the Malibu. The fit and finish, ride and performance are on par (or better than) with anything the competition has to offer. GM is in serious need of some home runs these days. While the Malibu may not make it quite out of the park, it comes awfully close to the fence and all 4 runners are going to come home. If the 2009 Malibu Hybrid is any indication of the type of quality products The General has coming, then we can expect to see some change in their future.