THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2008 Chevrolet Malibu LT1 midsize sedan.
DOWN THE ROAD: Sharing its design with the Pontiac G6 and the Saturn Aura, the redesigned front-wheel-drive Malibu has a 6-inch longer wheelbase and is 3 inches longer overall than its predecessor. The drive in the stylish sedan is amazingly athletic. Handling and balance is superb, especially through tight turns and around sharp corners. It is available in four trims, so take your pick.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: A 2.4-liter V-4 engine sits under the hood of this sedan, which offers 169 horsepower at 6400 rpm and 160 pounds-feet of torque at 4500 rpm. It is mated to a flawless 4-speed automatic transmission. A four-wheel independent suspension is equipped with a MacPherson strut with L-shaped control bars in the front and four-link setup with gas shocks and coil springs in the rear. The rack-and-pinion, electric power steering system is precise, with a firm on-center feel. The assuring brake feel can be attributed to 11.65-inch ventilated front and 10.87-inch rear discs. A curb-to-curb turning circle of 40.4 feet enables the Malibu to make sharp turns or U-turns.
LOOK & FEEL: The trademark Chevy bowtie lies between the dual-port grille and sweptback headlights, giving the sedan a bold and tasteful appearance. Twin round tail lamps and the sole chrome exhaust pipe round up the rear. You quickly will notice the 17-inch, 5-spoke wheels with chrome trim as you step into the Malibu. The cabin with its two-tone trim of cocoa and cashmere conveys an upscale aura. The dual-cockpit design with a sprinkling of wood grain accents on the dash and front-door panels appears tailored. I especially liked the atmosphere created by the blue-backlit instrument panel gauges and overhead console-mounted LED floodlights, especially at night. The 3-spoke tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel is easy to grasp. Storage space is abundant, from the large center console and in-dash storage pocket atop the dashboard to the 15.1 cubic feet of trunk space.
SAFETY FIRST: Dual front and side airbags, side curtain for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes, tire pressure monitoring system, daytime running lights, stability and traction control, front safety-belt pretensioners and rear child seat latch are some of the standard features.
OUT THE DOOR: $20,305, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. The $515 power convenience package will fetch you a six-way power driver's seat, remote start and power adjustable pedals.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, 225/50R17; wheelbase, 112.3 inches; length, 191.8 inches; weight, 3,415 pounds; fuel capacity, 16.3 gallons; highway, 30 mpg; city, 22 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: GM has hit the bull's eye this time around with the much-touted all-new Malibu. The competition in the midsize car segment is fiercer than ever with this stylish and roomy sedan, which offers an incredible performance. Base priced at about $20,000 and averaging about 25 mpg in city/highway driving, the Malibu should turn things around at the world's No. 1 carmaker.