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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.
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.
- Handsome styling inside and out
- Smooth, isolated powertrains
- Good fuel economy (four-cylinder)
- Refined ride
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- No DVD-based navigation
- Doesn't feel sporty, even with the V-6