If you're looking for a stylish, reliable and economical used family sedan, the 2012 Chevrolet Malibu should definitely be on your top-10 list. The Malibu's sleek lines and European-inspired chassis make it a viable alternative to the more commonplace Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Ford Fusion. Overall, the Malibu stacks up well when compared with other family sedans and, in many ways, outshines the competition. Strong styling, ample front-seat legroom, and a choice between a frugal 4-cylinder or powerful V6 give the Malibu broad appeal, while its ride and handling attributes receive universal high praise. Solid and stable, the Malibu instills a sense of luxury to a class of car often associated with airport rentals. For 2012, Chevy adds a few new packages, including a new Uplevel package on the Malibu LS and a Sunroof and Convenience package on the 1LT.

From its quiet cabin to its stylish interior, the Malibu looks and feels like a more expensive import. Good resale and reliability ratings -- though not as strong as the Honda Accord's or Toyota Camry's -- should also make the purchase of a previously owned 2012 Chevrolet Malibu a no-brainer.

What We Like

Bold styling; smooth ride; quiet interior; superb handling; comfortable and roomy front seats

What We Don't

Lower trims have too much gray plastic inside; small trunk opening; no navigation radio option; no hybrid or all-wheel-drive model

Fuel Economy & Engine Specs

The 2012 Chevy Malibu offers two engine choices. First up is a 2.4-liter Ecotec 4-cylinder teamed to a 6-speed TapShift automatic transmission. This engine makes 169 horsepower and 160 lb-ft of torque, earning an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 22 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. E85 estimates drop fuel economy considerably to 15 mpg city/23 mpg hwy. The 3.6-liter V6 bumps output to 252 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque, with fuel economy ratings of 17 mpg city/26 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

For 2012, the Malibu can be purchased in four trims: LS, 1LT, 2LT and LTZ.

The Malibu LS includes 16-inch painted steel wheels, power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, air conditioning, a 6-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with satellite radio and an auxiliary input jack, keyless entry, OnStar, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, cruise control, automatic headlights, an outside-temperature gauge, a tire-pressure monitor, a trip computer, a rear-window defroster, electronic traction and stability control, and six airbags, including full-length side-curtain airbags.

The Malibu 1LT adds 17-in alloy wheels and steering-wheel audio controls.

The Malibu 2LT goes further with heated front seats, a power adjustable driver's seat, remote starting, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, power adjustable pedals, and more interior color and trim choices.

The Malibu LTZ adds leather seating, dual exhaust, heated side mirrors, 8-speaker audio, 18-in alloy wheels, fog lights, automatic climate control, silver exterior accents, a 6-disc CD changer and a power passenger seat.

Pricing

The 2012 Chevrolet Malibu holds slightly above-average resale values, making it easier to get more car for the same money that you might spend on a 2012 Honda Accord or Toyota Camry. To get a good idea of the Malibu's price range, we suggest using the Kelley Blue Book used-car values at KBB.com. You can also search the AutoTrader Classifieds to see what models are currently for sale in your area.

Recalls

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued the following recalls for the Chevrolet Malibu:

A recall was issued for a possible defect in the body-control module that may affect the brake sensor and cause numerous problems, including failure of brake lights, difficulty using the brake pedal to disengage cruise control, and disablement of crash-avoidance features such as traction and stability control.

Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed, and if not, will fix the car at no charge to you.

Safety Ratings & Warranties

As for safety, NHTSA gives the Malibu excellent scores, netting five out of five stars for the driver and passenger in both the front- and side-impact crash tests. The Malibu earns four out of five stars in the rollover crash test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also gives the 2012 Chevy Malibu high marks, with its highest rating of Good achieved in the offset front-end crash test, the side-impact crash test and the roof-strength crash test.

The Malibu left the factory carrying a 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 5-year/100,000-mile drivetrain warranty. GM also offers additional coverage on its certified pre-owned (CPO) Malibus, extending the factory coverage to as much as 7 years/84,000 miles. All GM CPO vehicles are less than 5 years old and have less than 75,000 miles on them. They also come with a 3-day/150-mile money-back or exchange guarantee (varies by state).

Other Cars to Consider

Honda Accord -- The Accord is still the benchmark in this class, offering superior resale and reliability ratings. The Accord's styling is more reserved. Although it offers a bigger back seat, it isn't as stylish as the Malibu, nor does it have as nice of an interior layout.

Toyota Camry -- Like the Accord, the Camry holds superior resale and repair ratings, but it's rather bland, not much fun to drive and has less front-seat legroom than the Malibu. The Camry Hybrid, however, delivers superior fuel economy.

Ford Fusion -- The Fusion feels sportier than the Malibu, and while its resale values are on par with the Chevy, the Ford has a much better recall and repair history. The Fusion also offers a manual transmission, a hybrid option and all-wheel drive, not to mention that it has a larger trunk.

AutoTrader's Advice

The best choice is the Malibu LT trim, namely because it offers the best range of features and options without breaking the bank. We think that the 4-cylinder cars should perform on par with their Japanese counterparts and be satisfactory for most people's driving needs.

Find a Chevrolet Malibu for sale

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Joe Tralongo started in the industry writing competitive comparison books for a number of manufacturers, before moving on in 2000 to become a freelance automotive journalist. He's well regarded for his keen eye for detail, as well as his ability to communicate complex mechanical terminology into user-friendly explanations.

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