The Chevrolet Malibu midsize sedan blends a smooth ride with responsive handling, a quiet interior, effective crash performance and noteworthy build quality. We think the Malibu stands up well against the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, the benchmarks for midsize sedans.
Malibu offers a choice of four-cylinder and V6 engines. A new fuel-saving 6-speed automatic transmission with TAPShift manual control is standard on all 2011 Malibu models. OnStar 9.0, the latest version with improved voice recognition, comes standard with six months of Directions and Connections service with Turn-by-Turn Navigation. Other upgrades for 2011 Malibu models include 17-inch bright aluminum wheels on the Malibu 1LT, and 18-inch Chrome Tech aluminum wheels for the Malibu 2LT V6.
Malibu offers value, with a lower purchase price, and good fuel economy: EPA City/Highway ratings of 22/33 mpg for the four-cylinder, 17/26 mpg for the V6.
The cabin is nicely designed, attractive, and everything is easy to operate, though there are some hard plastics that detract from an otherwise first-rate interior. The seats are very comfortable, with plenty of front-seat room. The back seats offer generous legroom. Trunk space is tight, however.
We found the Malibu pleasant to drive. It's smooth and comfortable, striking a nice balance between well-controlled handling and an even ride. It has with plenty of power when equipped with the V6.
Choosing among the best midsize sedans largely comes down to nitpicking, splitting hairs and personal preferences. The 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. Malibu, Camry and Accord, and the Ford Fusion are all superb midsize sedans. The Chevrolet Malibu was last redesigned for the 2008 model year.
The 2011 Chevrolet Malibu range includes the Malibu LS, Malibu LT, and Malibu LTZ. (The mild-hybrid model is no longer available.) The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and 6-speed automatic are standard and come with electric power steering. A 3.6-liter V6 is optional and it comes with hydraulic power steering.
Malibu LS ($21,975) comes with air conditioning, cloth upholstery, power height-adjustable driver's seat with lumbar adjustment, cruise control, 60/40 split-folding rear seat, power windows, power mirrors, power locks, remote keyless entry, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with XM satellite radio and auxiliary input jack, outside temperature display, automatic headlights, six months of OnStar 9.0 Directions and Connections service with Turn-by-Turn navigation, and P225/50R17 tires on steel wheels.
Malibu LT ($22,825) adds steering-wheel audio controls, ambient lighting, body-color mirrors, more bright trim, carpeted floor mats, new- for-2011 bright aluminum wheels, and a longer option list. Malibu 2LT ($25,235) makes more options available (including faux suede upholstery), and adds a standard bright exhaust tip and Chrome Tech wheels.
Malibu LTZ ($27,015) upgrades to automatic climate control, leather upholstery and steering wheel, eight-way power driver's seat, six-way power passenger's seat, heated front seats, heated power mirrors, auto-dimming inside mirror, iPod adapter, eight-speaker 210-watt stereo system, Bluetooth, remote engine starting, fog lights, a manual rear sunshade, clear-lens LED taillamps and P225/50R18 tires on alloy wheels.
Options include a power sunroof ($850), a dual-screen DVD rear entertainment system ($1,740), a 110-volt power outlet ($150), paint upgrades, and additional convenience features.
Safety features are comprehensive, with front, side and side-curtain airbags, tire-pressure monitoring, ABS with brake assist, and StabiliTrak electronic stability control with traction control.