2008 Chevrolet Malibu
The new 2008 Chevrolet Malibu
has had more than a minor facelift - it’s had an extreme makeover. An all-new design, more refined cabin and tighter performance have sparked life into this previously lackluster car. A good-looking, chrome-accented cabin and a bolder exterior design demonstrate just how much the Malibu has stepped it up. The ‘Bu is now available in its first ever hybrid option. As a “mild” hybrid, it now has battery-operated capabilities like regenerative braking and an engine-off function at idle – giving you a (very) small boost in fuel economy: just 2 mpg more than its non-hybrid sibling. There is still room for improvement in its hybrid motor, but we think this newly polished sedan will surely be hard to resist.
What's to Like
The Malibu’s aggressive exterior design is striking, and the roomy interior feels pricier than its $22,140 starting price. Its cavernous trunk, even with the hybrid battery back there, could easily fit luggage for five.
What's Not to Like
The A-pillar mounted side mirror controls are nearly out of reach when settled in the driver’s seat. The squarish steering wheel feels cheap to the touch and is awkward to grip. Large gaps between some of the interior body panels make some areas of the car look fragmentary.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
Driving a mild hybrid for the first time can take some getting used to. While the Malibu fires up and handles exactly like a regular car, little things like the engine’s auto-off at a stop feature reminds you that you’re in a different breed of automobile. Regenerative braking, which reverses the electric motor, turning it into a generator to create electricity, gently helps slow down the car while you’re gliding to a stop - and produces a weird, phantom driver feeling. However, the Malibu’s agile and responsive handling will make any driving distance an easy commute; and though you’ll find it sluggish ramping up to 60 mph compared to others in its class, once the Malibu gets a head of steam going, it can be quite energetic.
Engine and Drivetrain
This front-wheel drive mild hybrid has an Ecotec 2.4-liter inline-4 DOHC engine that produces 164 horsepower and 159 ft-lb of torque. It’s available only with a four-speed automatic. A 36-volt battery powers the hybrid electric system.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
When you can’t have something, it inevitably becomes more attractive to you. This is the case with leather seats, bigger wheels and an upgraded stereo – options you’ll be missing on the hybrid. Thankfully, bare bones it is not. The audio system, with a six-disc CD changer and auxiliary input jack, also has standard XM satellite radio. Underneath the glowing, chrome-rimmed gauges is a driver information center that tells you everything from the current mpg to the tire pressure. Steering wheel controls can browse through the driver information or adjust the audio volume.
Key Technology Evaluation
Five-star crash ratings and a myriad of safety features in the Malibu, including side impact airbags and traction control, will help put your mind at ease. OnStar is now standard for all Malibu models, making turn-by-turn navigation available, along with roadside assistance and the system’s other helpful amenities. Its hybrid technology, though an advance compared to where we were ten years ago, is still not comparable to other, more efficient systems out there – like those from Toyota.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
The Malibu’s battery enables engine off at idle and regenerative braking, among other fuel-saving measures. The one difference between it and the “full” hybrids is its inability to accelerate from a stop using only the battery; it must rely on the fuel engine. Because of this, the Malibu - at 24 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway – saves only 2 mpg more than the non-hybrid version. Its LEV-II emissions rating, isn’t doing it any favors either, leaving you wondering why you’d buy the hybrid over the identically rated base model in the first place.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
The Malibu’s affordable pricing belies the superior quality of the interior – which has been elevated beyond what we expect from Chevy. Yes, some of its hard plastics appear to be more suited for a Chevrolet Silverado
than this four-door sedan, but the optional two-toned seats are plush and the instrument panel is actually quite stunning.
Its split front grill and pointed headlights update the Malibu’s look considerably. A more squared-off, linear look is completed by a smoothly arched roofline. The styling feels a little subpar in the back though, with the tail lights looking bug-eyed, but we love the sliver of a brake light on the rear side panels.
Market Segment and Pricing
With the Malibu Hybrid, what you see is what you get. Starting at $22,140, there are currently no packages available, except for an optional engine heater. More expensive hybrid rivals, like the Toyota Camry Hybrid
and Nissan Altima
Hybrid, present pricey options that will increase the bottom line significantly.
What We Think
Even though the hybrid's miniscule reduction in fuel consumption doesn’t warrant much praise, a revamp has worked wonders for this economical sedan. Crisp lines and a restructured interior have positioned the Malibu strongly against rivals, and its competitive price will entice the budget-savvy consumer. Think of the 2008 model as Malibu 2.0.