Buy American without compromise
The Chevy Malibu was all-new for the 2008 model year, so there are only a handful of changes for 2009. Late in the '08 model year, LTZ models with a four-cylinder engine were available with a six-speed automatic; that's now standard, and available on LT2 and LT1 trims as well. Bluetooth is also optional for the first time, and stability control is standard across the board.
Yes, and not just for some silly "buy American" patriotism. The 2009 Chevy Malibu is one of the best cars in its class, and is an excellent choice against the likes of the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Mazda 6 or any other mid-$20,000 sedan you'd care to mention. The fact that it's an American brand is really beside the point.
The six-speed automatic transmission paired with the four-cylinder engine gives the 2009 Chevy Malibu a distinct advantage. First, more gears means better fuel economy, since the transmission has more fuel efficient options. Second, it improves acceleration. And third, only one other car in the Malibu's class, the 2010 Ford Fusion, has a six-speed with a four-banger, and that car's not going on sale for a few more months.
The 2009 Chevy Malibu competes at the head of the class against the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima. All three of them are class leaders, and all three offer a navigation system, an oversight on Chevy's part with the Malibu. Other competitors include the Hyundai Sonata and Ford Fusion.
The 2009 Chevy Malibu is a mid-sized four-door sedan available in three trim levels. The base LS trim starts at $22,275 including the $670 destination charge, and includes power windows, locks and mirrors; cruise control; anti-lock brakes and stability control. Step up to the $23,175 LT and you get chrome exhaust tips, body color outside mirrors, audio and cruise controls on the steering wheel; the 2LT costs $25,375 and nets you Bluetooth, heated front seats, and a standard six-speed automatic transmission. The top-level LTZ costs $27,550, keeps all that and throws in automatic climate control, leather seats, an eight-speaker audio system with two subwoofers, power front seats and LED taillights. A 252-hp V-6 is available for $1,795 on the 2LT and $1,575 on the LTZ. Other major options include an $800 sunroof, a premium audio package for 2LT models for $550, and a rear power package that adds a manual shade for the rear window and rear power plug for $250.
The 2009 Chevy Malibu hits a sweet spot between value, driver satisfaction and just plain vehicle goodness. The Malibu looks good from every angle, and is easily one of the best looking modern sedans from General Motors. Cool details abound, like the die-cut Chevy bowties on the bulb shields in the headlights, or molded into the plastic lens of the side marker lights. The interior is dominated by a sweeping curve from the doors onto the dash and down into the center console, and on LTZ models it can be ordered in contrasting colors usually not found at this price point. Plus, it drives as well as it looks, with a powerful V-6, smooth and quiet four-cylinder, and a class exclusive (for now) six-speed automatic available with the four-cylinder. About the only major oversight in the Malibu is the lack of a navigation system. Sure, there are aftermarket alternatives, but GM should really step up with one as soon as it can, just for the sake of competitiveness.
By Keith Buglewicz Photo credit: Ron Perry