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2008 Chevy Malibu

The 2008 Chevy Malibu is back with a sleek new skin

By Denise McCluggage

Blame it on the Chevrolet Malibu’s captivating appearance. This is not just another lump of a car, passably attractive within the design budget for a midsize sedan. This new Malibu has pleasant little subtleties, shapes and lines the eye enjoys following. But never mind the eye; here I stand beside the Malibu imagining I am a rain drop enjoying the slide down the back window, over an interesting little bevel, a flipped up edge on the trunk. And then, hey, not a simple straight fall to the bumper, but a slight swell then a slighter concavity. I say, blame in on the Malibu.

2008 Chevy Malibu - Front View
2008 Chevy Malibu - Front View

My inane rain-drop fantasy aside, this Chevy is special in the attention devoted to appearance. Never obvious or cliché, the exterior design is a result of careful esthetic judgment and commitment.

What’s more — and even rarer for a traditional General Motors product — the interior not only fits with the message of the exterior, it is also as esthetically pleasing, tactilely as well as visually. That’s where true richness of a vehicle is tested, in the feel of things.

Immediately the senses add at least $10,000 to the price of the car. The Malibu starts at $19,995 for the basic LS model.

A lot of good ideas comes standard with this including six airbags, traction control, OnStar, XM radio and remote keyless entry. The LS provides a 2.4 liter, four-cylinder, uping the Malibu’s horsepower to 169. However, now standard in the all-new sedan is a six-speed, which matches the V6 modelsl arising later this spring.

A $1,000 step up the ladder is the 1LT model with Stabilitrak — an electronic safety system that assists the driver in maintaining directional stability. The wheels also grow an inch to 17 inches. The 2LT adds about $1,650 to the bottom line and provides goodies including a remote engine starter and heated seats.

With the LTZ, starting at $26,995, a 3.5-liter, 252-horsepower V6 engine comes standard, working smoothly with the six-speed automatic transmission (paddle-shifters for the manually inclined). And now, too, we meet the two-tone leather seating. Zing! Choose a brick-red with black or a chocolate with cashmere.

2008 Chevy Malibu - Interior
2008 Chevy Malibu - Interior

The instrument cluster is up-graded as is the Malibu’s sound system. The outside mirrors get heated, the trunk gets a cargo net, the wheels grow to 18 inches and everything seems more near-luxury all under $30,000. And, for me, the steering system (hydraulic rather than the four-cylinder’s electric system) would be worth the extra bucks. It has more the feel I like with keener turn-in and greater on-center precision. But steering, along with brake feel, are subjective matters. It’s up to the driver to choose.

The Malibu will have a hybrid model later this year, offering a four-cylinder engine and four-speed automatic gearbox. However, will it save you a tanker truck full of gas? Over the years, possibly. But then, it won’t cost you the high premium of “real” hybrids. This Malibu in the industry parlance is a mild hybrid. The engine turns off when the car stops at a light or in heavy traffic, starting up again with an electric motor. For the additional $1,800 that this hybrid technology costs, plan to get two extra miles per gallon — 24 city/32 highway mpg.

The finances look better when you consider that a real hybrid like the Toyota Camry draws down a $6,000 premium with mileage of 40 city/38 hwy mpg. However, even the Malibu’s mild hybrid qualifies for a government tax break leaving a Malibu buyer paying, in effect, only $500 extra for bragging rights.

GM has for a while now been sending its products into the world with a chassis admirably more rigid. This all-of-a-piece feel makes for better road awareness for the driver and better control in the twists and turns. The Malibu has that nice, tight feel.

2008 Chevy Malibu - Profile View
2008 Chevy Malibu - Profile

The driving experience is generally one of comfort (the seats not only look good, they feel good.) The 2008 Malibu has a wheelbase 6 inches longer than the 2007 model. That means a smoother over-the-highway ride. The car is much quieter than it used to be — that near-luxury feel again. And drivers will find this family sedan fun to drive. Good steering (particularly in the V6), good brakes, good outward vision and a satisfying surround. GM climate control has always been tops.

Good design deals not only with appearance but with use and the Malibu designers are a practical thoughtful clan. They’ve included a slew of tucking places for the things people take with them into cars: purses, sunglasses, bottled water, coffee containers, iPods, cell phones, coins for tolls, shopping lists. You’ll find a place for all of that without strewing clutter about.

Many American car buyers, long time owners of the “Cam-Cords” from Toyota and Honda, keep saying they’d like to buy American but nothing can compete with their Camry and Accord. Note — this Malibu can most certainly compete, and it might prove to be even more entertaining. Stop by a Chevy store and see for yourself.

2008 Chevrolet Malibu

Description: Four-door, five-passenger sedan

Model options: LS, 1LT, 2LT, LTZ, Hybrid
Wheelbase: 112.3 inches
Overall length: 119.8 inches
Engine size: ECOTEC 2.4L DOHC four cylinder, ECOTEC 2.4L DOHC four cylinder Hybrid, 3.6L V6 DOHC
Transmissions/speeds: Hydra-Matic 4T45, Hydra-Matic 4T45 Hybrid, Hydra-Matic 6T70
Rear/front drive: Front-wheel drive
Steering: Electric Power Steering (EPS) assist, Hydraulic Power Steering (HPS) assist
Braking: Front ventiliated disc/11.65", Rear solid disc/10.86"
EPA Mileage: LS 1LS, LT 1LT, LT 2LT – 22/30 mpg; Hybrid – 24/32; LTZ 1LZ – 17/26
MSRP: LS 1LS - $19,900; LT 1LT - $21,200; LT 2LT - $23,100; Hybrid – $22,200; LTZ 1LZ - $27,400

Read about 2008 Chevrolet Malibu’s honorable mention at the
2008 International Car of the Year (ICOTY) Awards

Read about all 2008 Chevrolet Models in RTM's Model Guide.

Learn more about the 2008 Chevrolet Malibu.