First Drive: 2009 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

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 “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.

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  • Bryce

    I love the interior on this vehicle. It should also be factored in that the options on the hybrid make this uncomparable to the base model and should rather be compared to the model priced $2k above, making the price of the mild hybrid drive about $1.5k-$2k.

  • Boom Boom

    The Malibu hybrid hardly poses competition to the Altima and Camry hybrids if it gets the unimpressive real world mileage described above. For 1,500 bucks extra, you can get nearly 6 mpg better. It still seems like a half-hearted attempt by GM.

    It don’t really understand why, under the new EPA system, that the Toyota/Honda hybrids seem to get better than the EPA rating in real world tests, but the GM hybrids get worse.

  • Shines

    With the tax incentives and the lower price you can justify the Malibu over the Camry. Even with $4.00 gas the Malibu would win for 10 years of ownership (not including depreciation).
    However (including depreciation) after just 5 years what is the likely difference in the resale value between these 2?
    Unless the Malibu ends up being uncharacteristically much more reliable that previous versons of Chevys…
    I’d bet the Camry will be At LEAST 2K higher.
    Of course that may make the Hybrid Malibu a great used car buy…

  • steved28

    You have to ask yourself first, “Would you pay $1500 more for the base Camry vs. the base Malibu?”. If the answer is yes, there is no need to justify the cost return in gas savings. Perhaps it’s just worth that much more.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    another attempt by GM to greenwash. It will probably fly off the dealers lots just like their other greenwashed hybrid Saturn Vues and Ions have.

  • Bryce

    Vues actually get a substantial boost in fuel economy for a mild hybrid system.

    GM doesn’t make Ions anymore, and there was never a hybrid version……are you talking about the Aura???

    Coupled with the tax credit and the higher features of the hybrid model, the hybrid drivetrain is nearly free. If you are in the market for a Malibu, you might as well get the hybrid version.

    My only question is why hasn’t the 6 speed auto been put into this thing. The 6 speed ups fuel economy on the normal 4 banger by 3 mpg, so coupled with the hybrid, we could see numbers of 26/37. That would pretty much make this the best car for highway commuters, like many of us southern California people.

    If you are interested in a Camry hybrid……..just get an Altima, honestly a better and more exciting buy. : )

  • ex-EV1 driver

    . . . still yawning . . .
    yeah yeah, Ion, Aura, Vue, whatever. My last visit to a Saturn dealer was when I was forced to go there to deliver my EV1 to the crusher. Since GM killed Saturn and my EV1, I really couldn’t care less what Saturn makes. Our ’95 SL1 and ’99 EV1 were too good for GM so I guess they really showed me. That will teach me to support whatever good things they do.
    What is the mpg improvement with the Vue? If it isn’t at least 25% who really cares.

  • Bryce

    18/25 mpg to 25/32 mpg

    That’s about 35% I think.

    Not bad for only a thousand or two more when you factor in the added options.

    I would still prefer a Volt though.

  • John K.

    Since the Malibu uses the same hybrid system as the Saturn Vue, I had hoped the Malibu would get the same upgrades as the Vue: 2-Mode Hybrid in 2009, and 2-Mode Hybrid w/Li ion PHEV w/10 mile EV range in ’10.

    That would make Chevy VERY competitive w/Toyota as Chevy ramps up production of the Volt over the ’10 – ’13 time frame. Plus it would be a lot cheaper than the Volt and easier for Chevy to produce. Too bad that is why Chevy probably won’t produce it — they probably think it would undermine their Volt efforts.

    Perhaps Saturn could do this with their version of the Chevy Malibu, the Aura?

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Is this with their “2-mode” hybrid drivetrain?

  • Stran

    Myt wife’s 2008 Camry Hybrid has been AVERAGING 38.6 mpg
    over the past 15,000 miles (60% Hwy – 40% urban/city.

    The 2009 Chevy is impressive, but about 3 years behind Toyota!

  • Bill cosworth

    I rather have a quality US product and support our us industry.

    People here are so anti american

    Obama drives a ford escape hybrid .

    Yes its an American car and quite a good car.

    Get with the program people buy american and you will see you are buying better.

    This month GM beat Honda and Toyota in sales.

    GM products are better now than the imports and the consumers are listening.

    I applaud gm at there first attempt at a mild hybrid. The 2 mode will come out next year I heard and when the volt all electric vehicle comes out GM will be in a very good position. I wont need to listen to anti american folks anymore.

    I am scared because there are so many anti american folks here I am afraid for economy if we keep buying foreign products without even looking at our own well built goods.

  • zeil carastan

    I think the safety of the GM is much better too. The Chevy is a heaver car.

    If you look at the tax rebate and the saftey factors and the lower cost to begin with

    The difference in millage makes the Chevy actually better than the Camry.

    I go for the Chevy too because now its so close and the chevy is a better built car.

  • Bryce

    This one is the regular stop start. The fuel economy numbers on the 2-mode haven’t been realeased. The stop start is for the 4 cylinder though. The 2-mode I believe will be mated to a 3.6L V6……I think it will be direct injected too….same engine as the CTS.

    My understanding at this point as to why more vehicles aren’t getting the 2-mode system is because it doesn’t fit into all their noses properly. The Tahoe and what not obviously ahve plenty of room…..I just don’t know how they managed to fit it into the Vue. lol I don’t know about you, but the new Chevy Orlando revealed today looks like a potentially better buy anyhow. It is based on the same platform as the Cruze and the Volt and will probably be mated to the same 1.4L turbo as the Cruze deliverin phenomenal fuel economy, better than the Vue hybrid. 7 seats reportedly too. : ) That is the sad thing, sometimes it seems like GM’s main competitor can be itself. : ( owel

  • Crut100

    You just said it – a Quality American Product. This most definitely not it. Cheap interior compared to the Camry, less comfortable and pathetic gas mileage. Until American car manufacturers get with the program and build a car that Americans actually want they will continue to decline. We want good gas mileage. My sister has the Camry and gets 40MPG on the highway. It’s not just about cost, it’s about using less gas and getting the Middle East’s foot off of our necks and helping the environment. Every gallon of gas we don’t use is many dollars not going to fund terrorism. I can’t think of anything more American than that!

    By the way I drive a Ford and I sold my BMW. I am waiting for a good, high mileage second car – like the one’s Chrysler announced last week or the Volt. I will vote with my wallet and the company who responds to my needs will get my money. So far, with a very few exceptions (ex – Ford Escape Hybrid), all Detroit has done is put lipstick on a pig. Who really care about an Escalade hybrid – it get 20mpg just pathetic.

    Lastly, GM outsold Toyota but had to fork over more than $2000/vehicle to get someone to buy one. I could outsell anyone if I was stapling thousands of dollars onto my products too.

  • Boom Boom

    I’m not bashing American cars. I’m bashin GM.

    A few corrections for the record (since Bryce is free and easy with his numbers.)

    4cyl Vue: 19/26 Comb 28
    Vue Hybrid: 25/32 Comb 22
    27% increase.
    Toyota Rav4 4cl: 22/28 Comb 24
    16% increase over Toyota’s non-hybrid competition.

    To compare with the Ford Escape Hybrid:
    Escape Hybrid: 34/31 Comb 32
    4cyl Escape: 20/28 Comb 23
    39% increase over comprable Escape
    14% increase over Vue Hybrid

    The overall bottom line is not about America bashing. That is just missing the point. It is about competition. If a car maker produces a quality product people will buy it. The US auto industry is tanking not because people hate America, it is because of the quality of the products. The US auto builds a quality car, it sells well. The Ford Escape Hybrid is selling more than all of GMs hybrids combined. The Ford Escape hybrid has comprable MPG improvements to Honda and Toyota (and road test show that it actually get the MPG is claims to). GM is putting out half-baked hybrids won’t compete with Toyota/Honda/Ford. The sales numbers show that. (Check the April 2008 dashboard.)

    If some US car companies can’t build quality cars, then they deserve to be buried by car companies that can. What is more “American” than buying the best product at the best price?

  • Bryce

    I don’t think the Vue is really meant to compete with the Escape as far as I can tell. If you look at their MSRPs, that becomes pretty obvious.

    Vue hybrid: $25k

    Escape hybrid: $29k

    The battery packs aren’t even the same size, the escapes is way huger. The Vue isn’t meant to get 40 mpg or whatever because that would add tons to the cost. That’s why there are going to be options with both the mild and the 2-mode system next to eachother in the upcoming Vue lineup at the end of this year. Then you can have your amazing fuel economy.

  • Boom Boom

    Obvious? How is that obvious? The Vue isn’t meant to compete with the Escape?? So what is the Vue competing with? Other small SUVs that start with the letter “V”? Other cars from nameplates named after planets? They’re both small hybrid SUVs! They’re the only ones on the market! Of course they’re competing.

    And you gotta stop twisting the numbers, pal. You used 2008 Vue prices against 2009 Escape prices.
    2009 Vue Hybrid MSRP: $26,955
    2009 Escape Hybrid MSRP: $29,305
    $2,310 difference.
    And the twin Mazda Tribute: $28,175
    $1,180 difference.

    Yes, the Escape has “huger” batteries, but isn’t that the point? The car is a hybrid! You can’t say they don’t compare because the batteries aren’t the same size. All that says is GM was too stupid to put an adequate battery in their hybrid… and that is because they’re making half-baked hybrids.

    When GM actually makes a hybrid with “amazing” fuel economy, I’ll stop bashing them. (At this point, it doesn’t even need to be amazing. Just on par with the competition.) You keep on dreaming of your Hybrid Malibu with the 6 spd and fabricated MPGs or GM Vaporware Volts, but until I can test drive it at my dealership and see reviews with real results, it is all just talk.

  • hybridman2

    Yawn. This is the nonsense that angers me that these guys convinced their good buddy to slip an extra 25 Billion dollars into this 700 Billion Dollar Bail out, when the best they can do is add a measly 4 MPG with their hybrid? So a 13.3% increase in gas mileage (partly because of adding bigger diameter tires- high tech stuff there), and all this for only $4000 extra. Do you realize how long it would take to break even? What is the point here…

    I don’t mean to harp, but there are cheaper ways to get better mileage and cleaner footprints. And you don’t have to wait for another 10 years, and you don’t have to spend $35,000 for the privilege of waiting inline to get one.

  • bill wellington

    I looked it up they said the interior of the Malibu is actually better quality than the camery and the car is more reliable.

    So I will go with the Malibu

    I drove both the camery had a much cheaper interior. The new Chevy is quite nice I recommend you go out and buy one.

  • kurtdaniel

    Isn’t there a power difference between the two car parts? One would think the Hybrid had similar power to the V6.

  • Boom Boom

    None of the hybrid sedans or SUVs out are comprable to the V6 versions of the same car (with the exception of the Accord Hybrid, R.I.P. and possibly the Yukon Hybrid). In terms of acceleration, passing power, etc. they’re not going to have the power of a V6. But, as Honda found out with the Accord, that isn’t really the point. You can make a “performance hybrid” but if it doesn’t save gas, no one will buy it.

    And Bill, I’m not sure who “they” are, but the basic fact is that the Malibu is a half-hybrid. If the interior of a car is that important to you, you may want to stick with the GM. If actual MPG savings are your concern, the GM hybrids fall short.

  • Bryce

    true, that is my complaint with Toyota as of late….they are falling behind Honda and GM in that, and haven’t really released anything new in the hybrid department in a while.

    As for horsepower and acceleration and all that, The hybrid models aren’t exactly compareably to the V6s offered on those cars, but they are similarly powered to a small V6. If you compared it to a V6 from say 10 years ago, it would definetly have been compareable. Particulary the Altima hybrid performs better in acceleration, horsepower, and even fuel economy. The Camry focused more on refinement….which I kind of think is B.S. A car is supposed to be a car, not a boring refrigerator. Props to Nissan!

  • HLD

    The reason I am looking at the malibu hybrid is that:

    a) I would like a hybrid
    b) I need a car where my 6’4″ son can comfortably drive with his
    5′ 7″ mother sitting in the back seat behind him. I am 5’11” and our daughter is 5′ 7″ – so this is the best configuration we can do. We tested the Hybrid Mazda 6 and also sat in the 3 – neither was even close to a fit.

    Anyone have suggestions about a hybrid which fits the bill?

  • Boom Boom

    I’d like to know where you drove a Hybrid Mazda 6, because as far as I know, they don’t exist…

    I would recommend a look at a Alitma Hybrid or a Camry Hybrid. It sounds like you want the extra space. The Malibu Hybrid is the same size and a few 1,000 cheaper, but doesn’t get nearly the MPG of the Altima/Camry. The Malibu also is hard to get. GM isn’t making many of them.

    And Bryce,
    I’m not sure what you’ve got against Toyota’s. (I, personally, have a Honda.) Were you hit by a Toyota as a child? Did anyone tell you that the Altima Hybrid is all Toyota Hybrid technology under the hood? I can understand liking the styling or the dashboard of the Altima, but the underpinings of the hybrid part of the car are all Toyota. And the Altima gets 35/33 vs. the Camry’s 33/34 MPG. I don’ think that can really be called better fuel economy. The hair has been split.

  • Bryce

    Nissan Co. worked on the software and made it so instead of a ridiculously smooth (it is like you are detached from the road) ride, you actually can feel if, say you hit a small child…lol. They also gave it better acceleration I believe, but don’t quote me on that one. And don’t forget, styling is basically the first factor that will get a consumer on the lot, if it doesn’t have that, then there will, in all likelihood, not be a sale.

    O, and Toyota pisses me off cuz I see a bunch of silly people online singing their praises when they really haven’t produced industry leading metal as of late. Every edmunds test or kelley blue book test shows it is surpased in quality, durability, and style in nearly every entry. I guess I am younger, so didn’t experience the crap of the 70’s and 80’s, but in my time, I have have had Toyotas and Chevys, and one definetly outshined the other. (I also have a friend with a love for Honda’s, and he is always happy with their work, and I can see why) I was in a brand new Camry a few months ago, and the interior was no better my moms 99′ Suburban. I would expect to see something a little better than a 10 year old vehicle right. Then I sit in the Malibu, and really, it is gorgeous. And….surprise surprise, the non-hybrid versions get better fuel economy. In fact, all of Chevies entries get better fuel economy than Toyota’s. (Honda, again, also beats Toyota out on this.) The tundra…a joke…..the seqouia…..ha…..Corolla…lol, why does a 1.8L get worse fuel economy than a 2.2L with better HP and acceleration, I don’t know ask those fools at Toyota.

    So yea, I have alittle disdain for a company running their operations on rumors, and the sooner people realize this the better they will be off. (they can actually enjoy their car instead of just using it as a utility for transportation, like a bus)

  • jesse c manassa

    It is hilarious to me how people go shopping at Walmart for Chinese goods, driving a Japanese car, buy their produce from Mexico and Canada, and then are surprised that America’s international economic trading deficit is such a distaster.

  • sammy J

    The looks on the chevy alone and the nicer interior would be the decisive decision for me.

    Toyota is very cheap looking and the interior suck. Hard plastic instead of soft materials like the chevy has. Also, toyota is getting a backlash of makeing things on the cheap currently. They deserve everything they get.

  • ben

    i am dutch and really don t get it. you americans – not al of you, fortunately! – tend to degrade your own cars. In Holland we simply LOVE american cars! Ford builds fantastic cars …. this Malibu again looks like a nice, really nice car… driving has to be FUN as well! I personally drove a chrysler 300M, the 3.5 l 6 cilinder, what a car, never let me down, for years … impala SS 95-96 my favourite … and then the history of the american car … you should be proud of what you have established!