2011 Chevrolet Malibu Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
December 21, 2010

The 2011 Chevrolet Malibu isn't edgy or high-performance, but it has everything that most mid-size sedan shoppers seek.

The current-generation Chevrolet Malibu has changed very little since its 2008 introduction, and it hasn't needed to. After a couple of decades of mediocre mid-size sedans that ceded the market to the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, GM finally put full effort into designing an affordable, high-quality, and very refined entry.

The potent 252-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 remains an option, providing a lot of kick and refinement for more demanding drivers. It's better suited for full loads or mountain passes, but it doesn't feel overtly sporty and fuel economy is unimpressive. The four-cylinder, however, remains the most popular option, developing a healthy 169 horsepower while returning a fuel economy of 22 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway, and it's quick enough for most uses. In either model, the driving experience isn't exciting, but the Malibu is smooth and refined as it goes about its business.

Just as the exterior is attractive, so is the cabin, which is very well designed and features materials with a quality feel to them. The front seats are among the most comfortable in the mid-size sedan class, while the back offers more legroom than most rivals.

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Safety is another of the 2011 Chevrolet Malibu's strong suits. The list of standard features include anti-lock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, and side curtain airbags. OnStar emergency telematics is also included. Crash-test ratings have been impressive, too, and the Malibu is an IIHS Top Safety Pick.

The 2011 Chevrolet Malibu lineup consists of three models: the base LS, midrange LT, and luxury-packed LTZ. The LS comes with enough goodies to suit most drivers, including power accessories, keyless entry, and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls all fitted as standard. Splurge a little extra for the range-topping LTZ and you get a whole assortment of extra features such as remote start, automatic climate control, and a universal remote, plus a number of appearance extras like LED tail lamps and interior ambient lighting.

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2011 Chevrolet Malibu

Styling

The 2011 Chevrolet Malibu isn’t daring, but it’s handsome inside and out.

The design of the Chevrolet Malibu has now gone several years with no major changes (the current car was introduced for 2008), but it's still one of the best-looking cars in its segment.

That said, it's definitely conservative. Handsome and clean-cut is a good way to describe the exterior; the blunt-nose, dual-grille front-end look and clean, smooth look along the side are a refreshing change from some overwrought designs on the market, while its proportions look nice from a distance.

Inside, GM really set a new direction for itself with respect to interior design and appointments, and the two-tone themes and a high-quality look to the materials and trims help this model stand aside in the crowded cohort of mid-size sedans.

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2011 Chevrolet Malibu

Performance

The 2011 Chevrolet Malibu clearly favors practicality and refinement, but that doesn’t completely preclude driving enjoyment.

The 2011 Chevrolet Malibu gives a first impression of poise and maturity, yet families probably won't be disappointed with the Malibu's performance, especially if they choose the V-6.

The standard four-cylinder engine in the Malibu makes 169 horsepower and is one of the more refined base engines when combined with the now-standard six-speed automatic transmission, though it's not at all fast. The potent 252-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 remains an option, providing a lot of kick and refinement for more demanding drivers. It's better suited for full loads or mountain passes, but it doesn't feel overtly sporty either.

Four-cylinder Malibus have a fuel-saving electric power steering system, but V-6 versions come with a hydraulic power steering that provides much better feedback, with a secure feel and reasonably good capability, even if the suspension is tuned more for comfort than performance.

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2011 Chevrolet Malibu

Comfort & Quality

The spacious 2011 Chevrolet Malibu has a level of comfort and refinement that’s hard to beat in this class.

The 2011 Chevrolet Malibu has a very well designed interior, featuring spacious seating, high-quality materials, and a comfortable, quiet ride.

The Malibu's front seats are among the most comfortable in the mid-size sedan class, while the back offers more legroom than most rivals. In back, you can pack three bigger-framed adults for shorter trips—something that's not true for all mid-size sedans—and contouring is also adult-sized.

There are plenty of compliments for the look and feel of the materials used in the cabin of the 2011 Chevrolet Malibu. Upholstery and trims feel like they could be used in a more expensive vehicle, and switchgear leaves a high-quality impression. A deep center console, several smaller storage spaces, and a 110-volt rear outlet add utility.

With respect to ride quality and interior noise, the 2011 Malibu is one of the most refined vehicles in its class. Both engines are well isolated, and ride quality ranges from firm but well-damped for some of the V-6 models with lower-profile tires to cushy for base four-cylinder models. Additional sound-damping measures include specially laminated window glass, acoustic insulation, and composite liners for the wheel wells.

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2011 Chevrolet Malibu

Safety

The 2011 Chevrolet Malibu has a full list of safety features and one of the best sets of crash-test ratings among mid-size sedans.

Safety is yet another reason the 2011 Chevrolet Malibu fits families well. The list of standard features include all that's expected: anti-lock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, and side curtain airbags. The OnStar emergency telematics is also standard and has for 2011 been upgraded to version 9.0. .

The 2011 Malibu retains top 'good' ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in every category, including frontal offset, side, and seat-based rear impact tests, along with the new roof strength (rollover) test. The federal government's tests have been redesigned this year, with a stricter ratings system, too, but the Malibu rates quite well, with four stars overall and a great five-star score in side impact.

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2011 Chevrolet Malibu

Features

The 2011 Chevrolet Malibu offers a decent range of features at a good price, but it lacks a few of the options—such as a screen-based nav system—that rival mid-size sedans offer.

While the Malibu includes a pretty strong set of standard features in all of its trim levels, it lacks a few of the high-end options that are now available in some rival mid-size models.

The Malibu lineup consists of three models: the base LS, midrange LT, and luxury-packed LTZ. The LS comes with enough goodies to suit most drivers, including power accessories, keyless entry, and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls all fitted as standard. Splurge a little extra for the range-topping LTZ and you get a whole assortment of extra features such as remote start, automatic climate control, and a universal remote, plus a number of appearance extras like LED tail lamps and interior ambient lighting.

LT models get new wheels for 2011—17-inch bright-finish alloys in the 1LT and Chrome Tech alloys with the 2LT.

In 2011, the Malibu's OnStar telematics system has also been upgraded to include version 9.0 hardware and now includes six months of Directions and Connections service plus standard Turn-by-Turn navigation.

But when it comes to tech and connectivity, the Malibu, as other GM products, does it a little differently. Bluetooth is still part of the OnStar system (or optional, separately), but you have to move up to the top LTZ to get a USB port. Likewise, there's no screen-based, map-based nav system other than the OnStar one.

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2011 Chevrolet Malibu

Fuel Economy

While the four-cylinder Malibu is quite fuel-efficient and green—especially considering its interior space—the V-6 model isn’t as much of a standout.

The 2011 Chevrolet Malibu comes in four-cylinder and V-6 variants, and while the V-6 Malibu, at 17 mpg city, 26 highway, isn't particularly green, the four-cylinder model is quite good at 22/33—thanks, in part to the six-speed automatic, which has a tall top gear and is now standard across the line.

Those who want to dodge foreign fossil fuels might be interested to learn that the four-cylinder Malibu is one of many that's E85 compatible; however as such it's only rated at 15/23.

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September 17, 2015
2011 Chevrolet Malibu 4-Door Sedan LTZ

This is the most reliable car I've owned and I've owned several.

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This car gets more compliments then I ever imagined. It is the 265hp V6 and is very quick when you need it. It has the 6 speed tranny, and you can barely feel it shift up or down under normal driving... + More »
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Styling 8.0
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