In June 2009, General Motors announced that it will stop making mild hybrid versions of the Chevrolet Malibu. The elimination of its current mild hybrid technology is one more sign that the company is cutting back on programs and technologies that are expensive and unsuccessful—in the same way that it’s reducing unprofitable brands and dealerships.
If you’re thinking about buying a Chevy Malibu Hybrid, you might also consider a Saturn Aura Hybrid or a Toyota Camry Hybrid. Compare these vehicles.
General Motors cited poor sales of the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid as the reason for cutting the car. Company officials said inventory of the Malibu Hybrid is backing up on dealership lots. When the Malibu Hybrid debuted at the 2008 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, Chevrolet General Manager Ed Peper said, “The Malibu Hybrid‘s winning package of uncompromising design and fuel economy will help us assert leadership in the midsize sedan segment and meet the needs of Chevy customers.”
The Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid entered the market in 2008 as direct competition to the Toyota Camry Hybrid. The Malibu Hybrid is a stylish five-door mid-size sedan—but as a mild hybrid, the fuel economy compared with the gas-powered Malibu was a very modest 2-mpg jump to 24 in the city and 32 on the highway.
For 2009, the Malibu Hybrid is rated at 26 city and 34 highway—meaning a much healthier 4-mpg boost over the base-level Malibu. The difference in the lowest end MSRP between the two vehicles remains the same. The conventional Malibu starts at $20,745, while the Chevy Malibu Hybrid starts at $24,695. In other words, the cost per mpg improvement was cut in half.
“The hybrid improvement is primarily the result of new battery charging control software that reduces load on the engine, and the hybrid also uses new 17-inch low rolling resistance tires,” GM spokesperson, Nancy Libby, told Hybridcars.com. “They were 16-inch tires in 2008.”
The 2009 Malibu Hybrid continues to fall short of the Camry Hybrid’s EPA rating of 33 in the city, but now matches the Camry’s 34 mpg on the highway. The base level MSRP for the Toyota Camry Hybrid is $26,150—$1,500 higher than the Malibu Hybrid.
Based on GM’s long-wheel based Epsilon platform, the 2009 Malibu Hybrid’s powertrain is defined by a 2.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder engine and a 36-volt electric starter-motor-generator tied to a nickel metal hydride battery pack. Output stands at 164 horsepower, plenty for a car of its size and weight. Energy is channeled through a smooth-shifting four-speed transmission.
The 2009 Chevrolet Malibu In the Real World
We took the 2009 Malibu Hybrid on a 156-mile loop from Strasburg, Penn., to Washington, DC, and then back north to Towson, Md. The route was comprised of approximately 60 percent highway driving, 25 percent country road, and 15 percent in-town or urban traffic. To inform the driver of how the hybrid system is operating, the Malibu Hybrid offers a simple gauge with an “Eco” indicator and a “power assist” needle.
Our combined fuel economy on this mixed test was 29.8 miles per gallon. For comparison, our mixed driving test of the Toyota Camry Hybrid earlier this month resulted in fuel economy of 35.2 miles per gallon. Based on this cycle, Toyota’s full hybrid had a clear advantage.
The 2009 Malibu Hybrid, like its conventional variant, handles well. It maneuvers nimbly in traffic and responds quickly to driver inputs—even better than the Camry. The Malibu Hybrid’s longer wheelbase lends itself to a comfortable ride, making it a competent car for longer daily commutes. The overall driving comfort of the Camry is hard to beat though.
Consumers might also want to consider that the Malibu Hybrid offers a $1,300 tax credit, which Toyota hybrids no longer carry.
Malibu Hybrid Exterior
The Malibu Hybrid takes on a much sportier and refined look than the previous generation Malibu. There’s a decidedly European influence here.
This four-door has a taut and sophisticated shape and uplevel design cues that rival both the Camry and the Altima. It is not as conservative looking as the Camry, and not as performance-oriented as the Altima. It seems to fall in the middle, but leans to the sporting side. For example, the Malibu’s short rear-deck profile and round taillights loosely echo the iconic Chevrolet Corvette.
Upfront, GM’s new two-tiered grille is flanked by large jeweled headlamps. Its entire front fascia very much resembles that of the Saturn Aura.
Brightwork around the side windows grants the Malibu a premium look that is often seen on more luxurious vehicles. The Malibu rides atop either 16-, 17- or 18-inch aluminum wheels.
Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid Interior
The Malibu’s cabin has been drastically revised from the previous generation. It now features a two-tone, twin-cockpit theme, with sweeping lines that move across the dash. The interior space is very dramatic and expressive. Consumers may be impressed with the car’s outward show, but will be absolutely floored when they get behind the wheel.
With regards to materials and attention to detail, the Malibu actually comes close to the Camry’s fit and finish. And it far surpasses the Altima, which has a bland interior design and noticeably cheaper materials.
Laminated, sound-deadening “quiet glass” not only keeps exterior noise out of the cabin, but allow for interior sounds to resonate. This means conversations between the front and back seats are much more audible and clear than in most mid-level automobiles. Furthermore, this feature allows occupants to better enjoy the 210-watt sound system.
Seats are comfortable with room enough for five and a 60/40 split folding rear seat which expands trunk space. Premium standards include voice-activated Onstar, and a barrage of six airbags.
“Has certainly earned the ‘Most Improved’ award…”
“The Malibu’s bold, attractive sheetmetal and stylish interior touches are backed by confident handling, a quiet ride and an overall level of refinement competitive with the category’s best.”
Kelley Blue Book
“This slight increase in efficiency just doesn’t warrant the extra cost…”