2009 Chevrolet Malibu Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
July 19, 2009

The 2009 Chevrolet Malibu is a top contender in its class in almost every way.

 Editors at TheCarConnection.com have driven the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu and spent a lot of time with several of the variants, from basic to luxurious, to compile their overall impression in this Bottom Line. Then TheCarConnection.com combed the Web to gather insight and input from other driving opinions to create a review that covers all the bases.

The mid-size Chevrolet Malibu sedan was completely redesigned for 2008, and most of the changes hold over into 2009. In 2008, all the proportions and interior/exterior styling were reworked, so 2009 sports the newly upscale appearance. At the top of the Malibu line, an available 252-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 provides a lot of kick and refinement for picky drivers.

The most popular engine choice for the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu lineup is the economical 169-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, which is rated at a frugal 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway. For 2009, every Chevy Malibu gets the top-notch six-speed automatic transmission. Performance in the 2009 Malibu is good enough with the four-cylinder engine, but if you plan to haul full loads or take on mountain passes, you may prefer the V-6, which is very responsive and better suited to sporty driving.

The cabin is very well designed, with an attractive instrument panel and materials that are pleasing to the touch. Front seats were among the most comfortable in the mid-size sedan class, and the backseat is quite roomy. The 2009 Chevrolet Malibu has a very smooth, well-controlled ride and handles securely, though without much performance flair. If equipped with the four-cylinder engine, the Malibu has a fuel-saving electric power steering system, but V-6 versions come with hydraulic power steering, which provides a bit more road feel. For 2009, stability control is standard across the line.

Review continues below

Three models grace the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu lineup: the base LS, midrange LT, and luxury-laden LTZ. The LS includes power accessories, keyless entry, and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. By the time drivers make it to the top LTZ model, however, the list gets much longer. It includes features such as remote start, automatic climate control, a universal remote, and power-adjustable pedals, plus a number of appearance extras like LED tail lamps and interior ambient lighting. For 2009, the OnStar system has been revamped to include Bluetooth (features like navigation remain intact). The Malibu comes with a one-year subscription, but after that the owner must pay a fee.

Safety is a strong point for the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu. Front side thorax airbags and side curtain bags that cover front and rear occupants are standard, plus anti-lock brakes. The Malibu earns the top five-star rating in all of the federal government's crash tests, along with top "good" ratings from the insurance industry in frontal offset and side tests.

9

2009 Chevrolet Malibu

Styling

The 2009 Chevrolet Malibu looks great inside and out.

The 2009 Chevrolet Malibu is well liked in the automotive community and by some of the most finicky review sources. The 2008 redesign was sorely needed.

Edmunds notes that the 2008 styling upgrades (which continue into 2009) ensure that "the car is smoothly handsome and free of styling gimmicks, which bodes well for its long-term appeal. And it has none of the self-conscious oddness of recent Honda and Toyota designs." The Los Angeles Times contends that its "average" styling may be a good thing. Cars.com thinks that "Chevrolet finally has done its job on styling." "Unpretentious" may be another good adjective. The Washington Post applauds Chevrolet; 2009's Malibu looks good, they opine, "without trying to be something that it isn't."

Inside, Edmunds observes that "two-tone interior treatments help lift ... cabin into the premium class," and believes that "only the [Honda] Accord's interior really stands clearly above the Malibu's effort." Cars.com notes that "interior styling is much better than anything other than the Saturn Aura in General Motors' family sedan lineup." They also feel that the "two-tone gray interior...looks modern while reflecting some dash designs from the late 1950s and early '60s." Overall, the interior trim isn't quite up to Honda's gold standard, but the dual-tone interior treatments are truly novel and give buyers a real reason to choose the latest GM family sedan over the more established Japanese titans.

8

2009 Chevrolet Malibu

Performance

The 2009 Chevrolet Malibu offers solid performance across the line, but it's not exactly heart-stopping.

The 2009 Chevrolet Malibu is a pretty responsible car—but it's also fun to drive.

The most popular engine choice for the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu lineup is the economical 169-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, which is rated at a frugal 22 mpg city, 30 highway. For 2009, every Chevy Malibu gets the top-notch six-speed automatic transmission. Performance in the 2009 Malibu is good enough with the four-cylinder engine, but if you plan to haul full loads or take on mountain passes, you may prefer the V-6, which is very responsive and better suited to sporty driving.

Reviews for the Malibu's performance are mixed. ConsumerGuide notes there might as well be "caffeine under the hood" of the 2009 Malibu, as it offers energetic performance. The New York Times compares the "eagerness" of both the four-cylinder and the V-6 favorably with the Honda Accord and the Nissan Altima. Cars.com acknowledges that the V-6 is "sturdy" and produces "plenty of power," but there is some disappointment that the power is not in line with its "numbers." Road & Track says the four-cylinder Chevrolet Malibu's "loss of thrashiness" and better noise control is attributable to a redesigned intake manifold. Lower fuel-economy numbers are a gripe over at Edmunds, too; they note, "Possibly this is due in part to the Malibu's heft. At 3,649 pounds, the Malibu V-6 is the fat kid of the group."

In terms of handling, most reviews feel the Malibu is benign. Cars.com reports that "while handling is good, there's still more lean in corners than with its competitors." The reviewer does concede that the Malibu "has excellent ride qualities, certainly on a par with the Camry and Accord."

Editors at TheCarConnection.com think the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu has a very smooth, well-controlled ride and handles securely, though without much performance flair. If equipped with the four-cylinder engine, the Malibu has a fuel-saving electric power steering system, but V-6 versions come with hydraulic power steering that provides a bit more road feel.

9

2009 Chevrolet Malibu

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Chevrolet Malibu has a very roomy interior and good-looking materials throughout.

On the inside, reviewers note that the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu is large and comfortable. Materials quality is better than generally expected from GM.

The Chevrolet Malibu has pretty good legroom in both rows, thanks to a wheelbase lengthened by a few inches in 2008. Cars.com says "the modestly contoured cloth seats were easy to slide in and out of when entering the car. The materials also seem to be better than previous models." "Front and rear seat passengers will have little to complain about in terms of ride quality," Edmunds reports.

Inside, there are plenty of compliments for the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu. Road & Track rejoices: "Gone is the hard plastic rental-car look." The interior has plenty of storage, according to some reviews, but others claim that storage is merely passable in the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu. MotherProof is a fan, noting that the Malibu's "center console [is] large enough to store my purse."

GM has taken great pains to make the Malibu quiet and free of vibration. Special engine mounts in the Malibu go a long way toward preventing excess vibrations from affecting passenger comfort; while ConsumerGuide notices some bumps in the road, their reviewers acknowledge that the different tires used on the various models may have no small effect on the smoothness of ride. Edmunds notes that additional sound-damping measures include specially laminated window glass, acoustic insulation and composite liners for the wheel wells, and a "tighter" firewall to prevent engine noise from being heard in the passenger cabin.

TheCarConnection.com's editors conclude that overall, 2009's Malibu has a very well-designed cabin, with an attractive instrument panel and materials that are pleasing to the touch. Front seats are among the most comfortable in the mid-size sedan class, and the backseat is quite roomy.

9

2009 Chevrolet Malibu

Safety

The 2009 Chevrolet Malibu is fully loaded with safety features, and tests are all positive.

Reviewers commend the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu for safety. It hits all the right notes with features and crash-test scores.

The 2009 Chevrolet Malibu wins the top five-star rating in all of the federal government's crash tests, along with top "good" ratings from the IIHS in frontal offset and side tests. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the chance of a rollover accident is 10 percent; the overall range for all passenger cars is between 7 and 18 percent.

Car and Driver states that the 09 Malibu is "loaded-up on safety features." Edmunds confirms this, saying "there isn't a competitor that offers a better allotment of standard safety features." Front side thorax airbags and side curtain bags that cover front and rear occupants are standard, as are anti-lock brakes. Electronic stability control is also standard across the line for 2009. Other standard features include front and rear head curtain side-impact bags, front-seat-mounted thorax bags, and dual-stage front bags. The reviewer at MotherProof watches a crash test of a Chevrolet 2009 Malibu at 35 mph and confirms that all six airbags deploy as needed. During the test, "the safety cage compartment was not intruded upon."

8

2009 Chevrolet Malibu

Features

The addition of Bluetooth capability now means that the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu has everything most shoppers look for—except a screen-based nav system.

Most reviewers agree that the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu offers a pretty good selection of features at a reasonable price.

Three models grace the Malibu lineup at Chevrolet: 2009 brings the base LS, midrange LT, and luxury-laden LTZ. The LS includes power accessories, keyless entry, and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, while LTZ models get plenty of noteworthy features such as remote start, automatic climate control, a universal remote, and power-adjustable pedals, plus a number of appearance extras like LED tail lamps and interior ambient lighting. For 2009, Bluetooth is newly offered as part of the revamped OnStar system. A premium audio package gives you access to a six-CD changer and an auxiliary MP3 jack.

Speaking of the OnStar system, its navigation features brings mixed reviews. Edmunds believes that GM made a mistake by not offering an actual navigation system. Their drivers report that the OnStar feature would not even function at first; eventually, it did, but the drivers are not impressed with the turn-by-turn navigation, which is a poor substitute for the map-based systems on most of today's vehicles. The Malibu includes a one-year subscription to OnStar, but after that the owner must pay a fee for the service.

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December 27, 2016
For 2009 Chevrolet Malibu

Car was not made to last.

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With only 34,340 miles on car that was well taken care of the transmission went. The brake pads don't last long. The car door electric locks don't work the way they should . I bought this car new and had to... + More »
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November 4, 2016
For 2009 Chevrolet Malibu

One of the worst mistakes in car choices

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Over the years, it's one thing after another. From trim falling off to sensors failing (After warranty) to turn signal switch fail (when have you heard of this failing?). It is nightmare of a vehicle but it's... + More »
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September 4, 2015
2009 Chevrolet Malibu 4-Door Sedan LS w/1LS

So far, so good

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This vehicle looks great for a 2009. For a base 4-cylinder engine, I'm surprised how well it performs. This car has done me well for around 70k miles, and I assume it will continue to do so for years to come... + More »
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May 17, 2015
For 2009 Chevrolet Malibu

The front end suspension is very poor

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This is my second Malibu , a 2005 and now a 2009 . Both have suppension issues . I was hoping it would have improved .
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