On Sale: Fall 2007
Expected Pricing: $20,000-$26,000
Ever since the Malibu returned to the Chevrolet lineup in 1997 after a 14-year hiatus, it's been a triumph of steadiness over inspiration: a reasonably priced, plain-as-blue-jeans mid-sized family hauler and little more. That's about to change.
The all-new 2008 Chevrolet Malibu, unveiled at January's North American International Auto Show in Detroit, promises to be everything that the previous model was not: stylishly dressed inside and out and as roomy and smooth-driving as the class-leading Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Exterior fit and finish, quality of interior materials and driving refinement all take a big stride forward.
The all-new sheetmetal sweeps up from the twin-slot grille over the three-box sedan body and flows into a classy roof that looks much like that of the recently departed, ultra-luxury VW Phaeton.
And it's a much larger car now: the 2008 Malibu's wheelbase (a big determinant of interior room) is six inches longer than the old model's. The Malibu now virtually matches the Camry's total legroom, meaning stretch-out room for six footers front and rear.
The Malibu remains a front-wheel-drive vehicle with MacPherson strut front and mulit-link rear suspension. The engineers promise that the much-stiffer body shell and careful suspension tuning give it a smooth, refined ride. And a quiet one; it's blanketed with sound deadening materials including laminated glass to better damp out road and wind noise.
Underhood are two engine choices: a 164-hp 2.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder and a twin-overhead cam 3.6-liter V6 that should add some zip with its 252 hp output. Four- and six-speed automatic transmissions are available depending on engine and trim level. The Ecotec delivers an impressive 31 mpg on the highway according to the EPA.
Three flavors of Malibu are available: base LS, LT and top-model LTZ. The interiors of all three variants are far more upscale now, and there are tasteful two-tone combinations to choose from. Standard equipment includes XM satellite radio and OnStar Gen 7, which incorporates an integral GPS navigation system.
Nor did Chevy scrimp on safety gear. Front airbags, front and rear head curtain side air bags, front thorax air bags, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and traction control are all standard. Electronic stability control is standard on LT and LTZ.
The Malibu is nothing if not surprising in design, quality and equipment. While its base price will rise about $2000, the perception is that the change is worth every additional penny, and then some.
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