Potential buyers of the Chevrolet Malibu face a huge dilemma: Should they buy this year's midsize sedan or wait till the 2013 model with a major redesign and new power train rolls into showrooms shortly? We haven't test-driven the revamped Malibu but we can attest to the solid and sure-footed handling and balance of the 2012 model.
The front-wheel-drive car is equipped with a 2.4-liter inline-4 cylinder engine developing 169 horsepower @ 6400 rpm and 160 pounds-feet of torque @ 4500 rpm. Or you could opt for the more robust 3.6-liter V-6 engine pumping out 252 hp @ 6300 rpm and 251 pounds-feet of torque @ 3200 rpm. Both are mated to a smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission and a confidence-driven MacPherson strut front and multilink rear suspension. However, the 4-cylinder engine uses a variable electric power assist for gas savings; the V-6 employs a hydraulic-assisted steering.
Comfortably seating five, the Malibu touts passenger capacity of 97.7 cubic feet. We liked the simple yet graceful look of the familiar Chevy dual-cockpit, especially the noticeable blue backlit gauges and wood grain accents on dashboard and doors. Storage is abundant as bins and cubbies are scattered throughout the well-crafted cabin.
Offered in six trim levels, the sedan starts at $22,110 with the mid-level priced right at $26,300 and reaching up to $30,200 for the high-end model. Fuel mileage is laudable with the 2.4-liter earning 22 mpg city/33 highway; the bigger engine ekes 17 mpg city/26 mpg (we averaged 23.4 mpg). Best of all, the sedan uses regular gas for its 16.4-gallon tank.
If you consider performance, substantial cargo/passenger room, price and, of course, fuel savings, this Malibu is an all-rounder car. But we are sure the all-new 2013 model will be one up on its predecessor.
Wheelbase: 112.3 inches
Length: 191.8 inches
Web site: www.chevrolet.com