Strengths and weaknesses:
- fuel economy
- head room
Malibu shows its sensitive side
Contrary to what the newest ‘Terminator’ movie may have told you, it is possible for man and machine to work together peacefully toward a common goal. The Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid is proof of that ... though it’s not nearly as cool as a sentient killing machine with glowing red eyes hell-bent on wiping out the entire human race.
The Malibu Hybrid, like all gas-electric vehicles, is all about reducing vehicular impact on the environment. And like any hybrid - or any vehicle for that matter - all that’s needed to truly capitalize on its potential is a patient human being behind the wheel.
The Malibu Hybrid employs a powerful electric motor that doesn’t spew any harmful emissions into the atmosphere. When the car is stopped at a red light, the gasoline engine shuts off, preventing exhaust fumes from smoggifying the atmosphere. Take your foot off the brake when the light turns green, and the engine instantly starts back up, with the electric motor still prepped to assist acceleration thanks to torque numbers that are about as good as the entire output of a typical subcompact car.
Besides all that eco-friendly stuff, there’s something else that this hybrid really has going for it - the powertrain is fitted inside one of the most competitive midsize sedans on the market right now. Malibu’s win as 2008 North American Car of the Year may seem like it happened ages ago, but it really is just as good in 2009, with zero signs of aging.
Like so many GM sedans, there is an abundance of room inside for up to five passengers. Our only complaint is that the low-slung profile that makes Malibu so attractive also makes for less-than-stellar head room. Also very GM-like, the trunk is larger than that of its competitors. Typically, hybrid sedans have noticeably less trunk space than their non-hybrid counterparts, but there’s a generous 13.5 cubic feet of space thanks to the battery pack being located at the front of the trunk.
Something else that stands out in the Malibu Hybrid is just how startlingly quiet the interior is. The engine may always be running is this thing when it’s moving, but you’ll barely notice that - or any type of road or wind noise - while it’s in motion. If you can’t stand the blaring horns and music of fellow drivers, this is the vehicle for you.
One area in which the Malibu Hybrid is less than its competitors is price, and you won’t have to worry about shelling out more cash because a lousy list of standard features forces you to purchase a bunch of options. This car is well-equipped right out of the package with six airbags, power windows and mirrors, tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio and cruise control, power remote trunk release, interior accent lighting (looks awesome!) and a lot more.
Of course, fuel economy comparisons are unavoidable when talking hybrids, and with Malibu’s not having a ‘full hybrid’ system (one that can run on electric power alone), its city economy suffers. It also has the smallest fuel tank among it, the Toyota Camry Hybrid and the Nissan Altima Hybrid. Malibu is by no means a gas guzzler, even on its worst days, but for the driver who wants the absolute most out of a hybrid, you’ll likely be able to go longer on a tank with the Japanese rivals.
As competitive as the midsize sedan segment is, the midsize hybrid sedan segment is equally so. The Malibu definitely brings its ‘A’ game to the table. It’s a winner all-around - provided it never becomes sentient!