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2012 Chevrolet Malibu Review: May the Best Car Win

16 September 2012  
Chevrolet’s Malibu may be the best looking sedan in its class.

2012 Chevrolet Malibu Eco proves GM's new slogan isn't just talk.

General Motors' new ad campaign sure makes it sound like American automakers are finally waking up. GM is challenging shoppers to compare their products and choose the best vehicle they can get for their money. So, is the new slogan all talk, or is GM really producing world-class cars again?

The answer depends on which GM car you're looking at and what you're hunting for in a vehicle. Many of GM's new offerings are truly at the top of their classes, and Chevrolet's new Malibu is among those strong Detroit contenders.

Unfortunately for the Malibu, it's a top contender against the two best-selling cars in the world: Toyota's Camry and Honda's Accord. Given how daunting the competition is, Malibu makes a strong showing and is well worth an honest comparison from buyers.

In the past I have not advised sedan shoppers to consider the Malibu, but all that changed when Chevrolet introduced this all-new Malibu a couple years ago. The 2012 model represents a gigantic step forward for GM, and it lands well within reach of the Honda and Toyota benchmarks.

To put it less officially, this car blew the lid off my own expectations for a Chevrolet. In some categories it outright beats the socks off Camry and Accord. In others, it's a toss up.

From the outside-in, this Malibu looks great. It drives with poise, comfort and a hint of performance, while also delivering 37 miles for every gallon of gas on the highway. The interior is far superior to any previous Chevrolet sedan, and it earns 5-stars in all government crash tests.

Inside, Malibu feels upscale and refined. It's ride is notably quiet at highway speeds, almost Lexus-like. And in a class where utilitarian interiors rule, the Malibu's two-tone dash and seats offer a pleasing dash of style and design. Form doesn't sacrifice function though. I found the temperature, radio and other controls to be well placed and comfortable. Some tall passengers may find the backseat a bit tight, but there's little else to complain about inside.

Chevrolet has also concocted a pleasing blend of performance and comfort in the Malibu's suspension. Around town and on the highway, this sedan cruises with the comfort one expects from an American sedan, particularly on long highway commutes. But Malibu sits on tighter springs than previous Detroit sedans, and holds its composure through tight turns and twists.

Malibu buyers can choose from multiple engines, each of which produce exceptional gas mileage, thanks to GM's automatic 6-speed transmission. That transmission performed flawlessly in my tests, though it required some coaxing to shift out of gas-saving mode and into passing mode. The Eco Malibu delivers an impressive 37 mpg on the highway.

So is Malibu the "best" car in its class? It certainly makes a showing. Ultimately you'll have to test it, and decide for yourself. In the opinion of this auto reviewer, the new Malibu is certainly among the best in its class.

malibuinterior

Malibu’s two-tone interior and upscale craftsmanship make for a refined cabin.

 

© 2012 John Dickerson, Horsepower Auto Reviews

 

 

 

 

2012 Chevrolet Malibu

John Dickerson, Auto Reviews

Each month John Dickerson tests a worthy car. From smoking teenagers at stoplights to cramming groceries and small appliances into the trunk, Dickerson examines the features you actually care about, like how well a spilled mocha cleans off the upholstery. Dickerson was raised on industrial pollution, deer venison and American steel in Detroit, Michigan. His co-workers often find him in a trance, slumped over his keyboard, uttering words like “torque steer, horsepower-to-displacement ratio” and “nav system.”