KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 11/4/2011
Many critics believed GM could never build a mid-size sedan to compete with the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. But, the 2012 Chevrolet Malibu sedan has made believers out of the most strident GM-bashers and given the entire mid-size segment a loud wakeup call. Chevy's Malibu is a stylish sedan with a handsome, intelligently laid-out interior, a choice of fuel-efficient 4- or 6-cylinder engines, and a penchant for driving. Unfortunately, Chevrolet does not offer a hybrid Malibu, leaving green-friendly drivers to shop the Fusion, Sonata, Optima or Camry hybrids. If the 2012 Malibu mid-size sedan falls short in one area, it's the car's entertainment and communications offerings. Unlike the Ford Fusion, the Malibu doesn't offer a SYNC-like system and there is no factory navigation option, although turn-by-turn directions are available through the OnStar system. If these things are an important part of your car-buying decision, you may want to hold off a bit longer when the all-new 2013 Malibu sedan arrives. Already unveiled, the 2013 Malibu offers an even bigger dose of expressive styling, a very cool interior and GM's MyLink voice-activated communications system.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you've been wanting to come back to a domestic sedan, but felt the quality, styling and features just weren't there, the 2012 Chevrolet Malibu is your ticket back to the good old days. Long-legged occupants will appreciate the Malibu's generous legroom both front and rear.
You May Not Like This Car If...
If you're all about cutting-edge electronics, the 2012 Chevrolet Malibu sedan falls a bit short of the mark. Those who prefer the fun of driving a manual-transmission car will be better served by a Honda Accord, Kia Optima or Ford Fusion.
What's Significant About This Car?
For 2012, the Malibu LS sedan receives a new Uplevel Package option, while the 1LT offers a Sunroof and Convenience Package.
The 2012 Chevrolet Malibu sedan's impressively smooth and controlled ride is a direct result of its European-inspired suspension, stiff body, long wheelbase and wide stance. On uneven or rough pavement, the 2012 Chevy Malibu is able to absorb all but the harshest road imperfections while maintaining its composure, never giving in to wheel hop or chatter. We tend to like the driving dynamics of the V6 models more than the 4-cylinder cars due to the conventional hydraulic power steering setup. The 4-cylinder Malibu uses a fuel-save electric-assist power steering setup that feels a bit detached and lacks good on-center feel. GM's fuel-efficient 6-speed automatic is a welcome addition to the Malibu lineup and offers paddle shifters for more spirited driving.
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.
Although in its final year in this form, the 2012 Chevy Malibu sedan's interior doesn't look old or dated. The smart "dual-cockpit" instrument panel is made of quality plastics that fit together well. Upper-trim models feature two available 2-tone trim combinations-Ebony and Brick, and Cocoa and Cashmere-with metallic-look or wood-grain accents. Cool blue backlighting illuminates the Malibu's gauge cluster, while warmer ambient lighting resides in the foot wells and in the LED overhead pin lighting that projects onto the center console. Abundant storage space is provided throughout the 2012 Chevy Malibu's interior, most notably in the deep center console bin and in the covered storage bin atop the dash. Helpful for laptop or video-game use is the available 110-volt AC power outlet. As for interior space, the Malibu provides excellent legroom for tall passengers, although the headroom for such folk is far better up front than in the rear seat.
The 2012 Chevrolet Malibu sedan displays taut proportions, finely tailored sheet metal and definitive style that is pure Chevrolet. With its wheels pushed to the furthest corners, the Chevy Malibu presents an image of stability and strength; the design also stretches the car's wheelbase to its maximum limit creating a larger and roomy interior. The Malibu's short deck lid opens to reveal a larger and deep trunk, with a low lift-over height for easy loading. In LTZ form, the Malibu sedan is even more distinctive with front foglights and clear-lens LED taillights. V6 models are easily distinguished by their twin chrome exhaust outlets.
Notable Standard Equipment
The 2012 Chevrolet Malibu sedan's comprehensive list of standard safety features includes 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS and traction control, StabiliTrak stability control, front seatbelt pretensioners, OnStar 9.0 and six air bags: dual-stage front, front seat-mounted thorax (side) and 2-row head-curtain bags. Also standard are a 6-speed TAPshift automatic transmission, 17-inch painted steel wheels, XM Satellite Radio and (surprisingly) a choice of interiors that includes 2-tone trim combinations. The range-topping LTZ offers front foglights, 18-inch aluminum wheels, dual chrome exhausts and clear-lens LED taillights.
Notable Optional Equipment
2012 Chevrolet Malibu sedan option and equipment packages include such features as power-adjustable pedals, up-level interiors, leather seats, power sunroof, Bose audio, Bluetooth, power equipment groups and a premium audio system. A touch-screen GPS navigation system is not 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 2012 Chevrolet Malibu sedan offers a choice of a standard 169-horsepower 2.4-liter Ecotec four, or a 252-horsepower 3.6-liter V6; both engines feature dual-overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and variable valve timing. Chevrolet's fuel-efficient 6-speed automatic is standard across the line, and features a manual shift mode to aid when passing or merging. The 2012 Malibu does not offer a manual transmission option.
169 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
160 lb-ft of torque @ 4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/33 , 15/23 (E85)
252 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm
251 lb-ft of torque @ 3,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/26
This 2012 Chevrolet Malibu mid-size sedan is offered in three well-equipped trims: LS, LT and LTZ. The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the LS starts just under $23,000, with the LT trim starting closer to $25,000. A fully loaded LTZ V6 tops out around $34,000. To make your best deal, be sure to check our Fair Purchase Price, which shows the typical transaction price others in your area have paid for their car. The Malibu's only significant competitive disadvantage to rivals Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata 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 years down the road. The Ford Fusion, Malibu's natural domestic competitor, offers a 4-cylinder/automatic combination that starts just under $22,000 and has slightly higher projected 5-year residual values.