KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
Fresh from a major makeover last year, the Malibu sedan and Malibu Maxx wagon continue to offer consumers a strong incentive to move away from the leading imports and come home to Chevrolet. Loaded with unique features and based on a proven European platform, known in General Motors as the Epsilon, the Malibu and Malibu Maxx have strong appeal to consumers looking to get out of their gas-thirsty SUVs and into something fuel efficient, roomy and fun to drive. Although their engines and transmissions are not yet up to the standards set by Toyota and Honda, the Malibu and Malibu Maxx are far from outdated. Unfortunately, the pair still has some catching up to do in the area of residual and long-term resale values.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you're looking for a mid-size sedan or hatchback with generous rear seat leg- and headroom plus an ample cargo hold, the Malibu and Malibu Maxx should be on your list. Those who spend hours in their cars will appreciate the excellent front seats.
You May Not Like This Car If...
If you're partial to Japanese-quality interiors, the Malibu probably won't cut it. Though clean, the overall interior is not up to the standard set by Mazda, Toyota and Hyundai. There is no manual transmission option, either.
What's Significant About This Car?
The 3.5-liter V6 is fitted with variable valve timing (VVT) and front and rear head-curtain airbags are now standard on LS and LT trims.
The Epsilon platform on which the Malibu rides shows itself once you start tossing the sedan into turns. The stiff body and firm suspension give up very little in the way of body lean, squat or dive. The Malibu easily pushes through tight turns, hindered only by its touring tires that squeal once they near their limits. At a standstill, the power steering is so light you can turn the wheel with one finger. Once in motion, however, the steering quickly firms up to return accurate and linear road feel. The four-speed automatic performs admirably, with a convenient up/down shift button that lets you toggle through gears one through threea useful device when driving in snow.
Up/Down Shift Button
The up/down shift button on the automatic transmission lever lets you toggle between gears one through three.
Fold-Flat Passenger Seat
The Malibu's fold-flat front passenger seat increases cargo-hauling capability.
The Malibu's interior features large, legible gauges, a modern and clean center cluster and some of the best seats we've experienced in a Chevrolet. New colors and seat patterns definitely brighten the formerly monotone interior, but the plastic on the dash and door panels still needs some work. As for dimensions, the Malibu offers plenty of leg-, hip- and headroom both front and rear. The sedan's huge trunk also expands easily via the folding rear seat, while the Malibu Maxx wagon offers a sliding fore-and-aft split rear seat.
Though handsome, the Malibu's exterior sheetmetal holds nothing earthshaking. Standout features include large jewel-like headlamps, styling lines that curve over the front and rear wheel arches and a bright chrome bar splitting the grille. While the sedan and wagon are virtually identical from the B-pillar forward, the Malibu Maxx distinguishes itself via a large flip-up hatchback and an additional six inches between the front and rear wheels.
Notable Standard Equipment
The Malibu LS includes, as standard equipment, a 2.2-liter, four-cylinder engine, air conditioning, power door locks, four cup holders, dual power mirrors, power driver's seat height adjustment, two 12-volt outlets, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, tachometer, cruise control, power windows, AM/FM stereo with CD, front and rear head-curtain airbags and full wheel covers. The LT trim adds the 3.5-liter V6 (Maxx only), 16-inch alloy wheels, premium cloth seats, body-colored mirrors, door handles and rocker panels and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with touch controls. The LTZ adds automatic air conditioning, heated mirrors, side-impact airbags, heated leather seats, six-way power driver's seat, 17-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels and power adjustable pedals.
Notable Optional Equipment
Popular options include a power sunroof, OnStar, front seat side-impact airbags, six-way power driver's seat, auto-dimming interior mirror, XM Satellite Radio, remote control starter, rear-seat DVD entertainment system (Maxx only) and a six-disc in-dash CD changer.
Under the Hood
The standard 2.2-liter engine is an underwhelming performer, but returns outstanding fuel economy considering the Malibu's size. The V6 models offer better power, with city/highway fuel economy almost equal to the four-cylinder. The new 200-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 with variable valve timing accelerates briskly, with very little growl even under full throttle. Passing power is also excellent and, once up to speed, the engine is barely audible inside the passenger compartment.
2.2-liter in-line 4
144 horsepower @ 5600 rpm
155 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/34
217 horsepower @ 5800 rpm
217 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/32 (sedan), 20/29 (Maxx)
The Malibu LS has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $17,640, while the LT and LTZ are $18,865 and $24,095 respectively. The Malibu Maxx LT has an MSRP of $21,060, while the LTZ trim is $24,395. To make your best deal, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price that shows what others in your area are paying for a Malibu or Malibu Maxx. Although Chevrolet has made big strides in quality and pricing, the Malibu and Malibu Maxx still lag behind the projected resale values of the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and even the Hyundai Sonata.