Thursday, February 3, 2011

Still much to like in "old" Chevy Malibu

This review originally appeared in the January edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California -- Pity the poor Chevrolet Malibu. It’s not getting a lot of love from auto reviewers who sighed and swooned over it just three short years ago.

Alas, it’s being treated like that aging Hollywood starlet whose beauty has faded with time. Next thing you know, it will doing one-night appearances at Holiday Inn lounges across the country.

Motor Trend magazine recently weighed in with “handsome sedan needs an update.”

Really? How soon we kick cars to the curb! My recent run in a 2011 Malibu LTZ -- the priciest of four trim levels, starting at $27,000 and change – was most pleasing, thank you very much. And while I was putting the Malibu through its paces, I got to thinking …

Isn’t this the car that restored General Motors’ credibility in the practical-size, moderately-priced sedan market? Isn’t this the car that saw its horizontal-split-grille design spread across other models in the Chevy lineup?

Why, yes it is!

OK, if you have the Malibu blahs, wait until later this year when yet another generation of the model is scheduled to debut. But for now, throwing the current Malibu under the bus is bad form, like telling your sweet, attractive girlfriend that you want to “see other people” six weeks after your first date.

The worst thing I can say about the current Malibu is that it does a lot well, but it does not push itself into the “excellent” category in key categories. Fine. You can say that about the equivalent products manufactured by Toyota and Honda. Ring me up if you hear somebody use the word “sexy” to describe an Accord or a Camry.

The Malibu looks pretty good, in my view. No, the 2.4-liter in-line 4 does not blow your socks off with around 170 horses to throw around, but it propels the five-passenger car quite adequately in most driving situations. Fuel mileage ratings of 22 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway are, again, good but not great.

But what do you want for your 27-grand … or your 22-grand if you looking at an entry level 2011 Malibu LS?

My LTZ tester was smooth, quiet and comfortable. Steering is easy for teens and seniors. The list of standard features in this segment was frankly impressive.

You want basic, reliable, good-looking transportation priced a notch above the discount level, you’d be hard-pressed to do better than the 2011 Malibu. Not only that, I’m guessing that dealers are prepared to deal on the current-generation Malibu with the next generation scheduled to show up before too long.

Customizers, OK, you likely face a tough task jazzing up the Malibu. Thankfully, the front end is stylish enough to provide a good starting point. From the front wheels on back to the trunk, however, that’s a canvas begging for creativity.

As for me, I’m in no hurry to push this current Malibu into the history books. I like what it has to offer now. Cheer up old girl.

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