Archive for December 15, 2010

It was just a couple weeks ago that I was cursing my rental Chevrolet Malibu because it’s hind quarters was too high for me to see the car I was backing into trying to parallel park. Since you rarely parallel park on a test drive, this is one of those nasty unexpected annoyances that pop up during your ownership of any given car. I was also profoundly annoyed by the blind spot created by the large B pillar every time I tried to check my left blind spot.

The Malibu's rear looks "normal" but it's too high when you look backwards.

It’s really hard to review an appliance like the 2010 Malibu LS. The styling is anonymous – neither exciting nor displeasing. It starts right up (as any car should) and stops with some level of assurance. The steering wheel is connected to the rack with a strand of al dente spaghetti, although in slow-speed parking tangos, the steering feel is more like freshly-poured cement. Only when pressed does the Malibu exhibit torque steer.

The anonymous styling of the 2010 Chevrolet Malibu. Better than the past, but that bar is so low almost anything would have been an improvement.

The Malibu has plenty of room for four passengers. It will be very tight with five adults. The picture makes it look even more like a rental car. Thanks, Chevrolet!

Most people would be hard-pressed to identify this as a Chevrolet Malibu, particularly if you get rid of the Chevy Bow Tie in the front.

The ‘Bu (an internal GM nickname, so the story goes) was an adequate rental appliance for our four days touring Richmond, Virginia and Washington DC. The trunk swallowed all the luggage with plenty of room to spare. The driver’s seat was relatively comfortable for the slog from Richmond to DC.

The base Malibu interior is well-designed and fairly straight forward. It didn't take long to find and master all the controls.

(Richmond is a lovely city, but I’m not sure they’ve been informed that the Civil War, uh I mean War for Southern Independence or War of Northern Aggression, ended 145 years ago.)

For most of the trip, the 6-speed automatic shifted unobtrusively, with a tendency to upshift to save fuel. When prodded, the silicon chips think for a moment, the transmission kicks down and the standard 2.4 liter, 169 hp Ecotec I-4 engine wails in misery. When I had to do some fast shifting from reverse to drive shoehorning the Malibu into rare and illusive DC parking spaces, the transmission actually clunked a couple times between gears.

The upgraded interior with leather in the top-of-the-line Malibu LTZ shows off the double dash design and is much more pleasing to the eyes.

As a daily transportation appliance, the Malibu rates a C+ or B-. It’s a solid effort from the “old GM” and in 2008, it was the best Chevrolet passenger car (damning with faint praise, I’m afraid). The switchgear, steering column stalks and center console displays are familiar parts bin stuff. The turn signal click clack is so annoying that anything longer than a couple seconds causes migraines.

On the plus side, we got an around 26 mpg during the trip, which is above average for this segment.