By KBB.com Editors
Chevy's mid-size Malibu, like most GM passenger cars, suffered corporate neglect in the 1990s and early 2000s as customers---and the company's engineering attention and budget---increasingly shifted toward trucks and SUVs. Still, the plain-looking previous Malibu has drawn kudos as a solid, reliable, high-value contender and has sold fairly well. This new one, though, vaults Chevrolet straight to the top of the mid-size sedan game. It looks wonderful, is solidly built and carefully crafted inside and out, offers good fuel economy, drives wonderfully and is priced to sell in serious volumes. There is even an affordable "mild" hybrid version that performs better than the base four-cylinder car and gets two miles-per-gallon better economy.You'll Like This Car If...
The Malibu's bold, attractive sheetmetal and stylish interior touches are backed by confident handling, a quiet ride and an overall level of refinement competitive with the category's best.You May Not Like This Car If...
The Malibu doesn't offer the same all-encompassing feel of precision that some of its competitors have been able to achieve.What's New for 2008
The 2008 Chevrolet Malibu---which shares GM's global mid-size platform with the Saturn Aura, Saab 9-3 and same-size German Opels---offers a stiff, solid, quiet-riding structure and precise build quality. More than three inches longer than the 2007 Malibu sedan, and on a six inch-longer wheelbase, its added length and wheels-at-the-corners stance simultaneously enhances its appearance, handling and interior roominess.
The 2008 Chevrolet Malibu's long wheelbase, wide stance and stiff structure combine for a pleasing balance of ride and handling that's not at all common in this class, particularly for a domestic brand. The energy-efficient electric power steering on four-cylinder models---though better than earlier GM electric power steering applications---feels a bit artificial on-center; the conventional hydraulic power steering on V6 cars offers more precise feel. The standard four-speed automatic, a perceived disadvantage to competitors with five-speeds, is smooth and pleasant on the road. GM's new six-speed automatic, offered with the V6 only at launch, will become available on four-cylinder cars later in the year. The Malibu hybrid, though not as fuel-efficient around town as the more expensive "full" hybrid Camry, delivers smooth performance and a two miles-per-gallon economy enhancement for about $1,800 more than a conventional 1LT four-cylinder.
Available on 1LT models and standard on 2LT and LTZ, this terrific feature lets you start the engine and warm or cool the interior from a distance, with the car still locked, well before departing.
A GM OnStar feature, this service provides precise verbal directions through the car's audio system without the need to program in a destination.
The 2008 Chevrolet Malibu's beautifully crafted interior uses premium materials throughout. The "dual-cockpit" instrument panel's major gauges are backlit in blue, ambient lighting provides a warm environment and overhead LED floodlights project subdued light on the console area between the front seats. The deep center console's sliding cover opens to accommodate large items, there's a handy storage compartment atop the instrument panel and an available "rear power center" provides a 110-volt AC power outlet. Two available two-tone trim combinations---Ebony and Brick and Cocoa and Cashmere---offer a choice of metallic-look or woodgrain accents, while an all-Ebony combination is accented with tasteful woodgrain.Exterior
The 2008 Chevrolet Malibu hits a high-water mark for its size and price with taut proportions, elegant lines and a crisp, clean profile. Its split grille represents the new global face of Chevrolet cars, and its twin round taillamps are traditional Chevy cues. LTZ models feature front fog lamps and clear-lens LED taillamps, while V-6-powered Malibus sport twin chrome exhausts. With tight panel gaps and rich-looking details, this new mid-size Chevy looks like $40,000 while starting at half that price.
Malibu's comprehensive list of standard safety features includes four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and traction control, front seat-belt pretensioners, "Gen 7" OnStar and six air bags: Dual-stage front, front seat-mounted thorax (side) and two-row head-curtain bags. Also standard are a four-speed automatic transmission, 16-inch painted steel wheels, XM Satellite radio and (surprisingly) a choice of interiors that includes two-tone trim combinations. Mid-range LT models add Stabilitrak stability control with panic brake assist, remote starting (2LT) and 17-inch chrome wheels. The range-topping LTZ offers front fog lamps, 18-inch aluminum wheels, dual chrome exhausts and clear-lens LED taillamps.Notable Optional Equipment
2008 Chevrolet Malibu option and equipment packages include such features as power-adjustable pedals, uplevel interiors, leather seats, power equipment groups and a premium audio system. A GPS navigation system is not yet available (partially because the center stack design doesn't provide room for a screen), but "turn-by-turn" verbal directions can be easier to use (you call in destinations to an OnStar operator rather than program them in) and you may not miss the screen.Under the Hood
The 2008 Chevrolet Malibu offers a choice of a standard 169-horsepower 2.4-liter ECOTEC four, a 164-horsepower four-cylinder "mild" hybrid system or a 252-horsepower 3.6-liter V6, all with dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and variable valve timing. The Hybrid teams a small electric motor with a more fuel-efficient version of the 2.4-liter four-cylinder to deliver two miles-per-gallon better fuel economy. The four-cylinder is teamed with a four-speed automatic, while a six-speed automatic is standard with the V6. A new six-speed automatic will become available on four-cylinder models later in the model year.
169 horsepower @ 6400 rpm
160 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/30
252 horsepower @ 6300 rpm
251 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/26
This new Malibu's only significant competitive disadvantage to rivals Honda Accord and Toyota Camry is projected residual value; Kelley Used Car Blue Book residual values indicate that those long-term segment leaders will fare much better five years down the road. Malibu's roughly $20,000 Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Value (MSRP) is the same as its Fair Purchase Price, about equal to that of a comparably equipped Camry with four-cylinder engine and automatic and a few thousand less than that of the new Accord. The Ford Fusion, Malibu's natural domestic competitor, does not offer a four-cylinder/automatic combination but starts around $22,000 with a V6/automatic and should have a projected five-year residual value about equal to the Malibu's.