Sports-car reflexes in family sedans matter less than big interior room and supportive seats, and the packaging of the 2012 Malibu acknowledges that. What you get, no matter which trim, is a very well designed interior, featuring spacious seating, high-quality materials, and a comfortable, quiet ride. Trunk space is usefully large, at 15.1 cubic feet (but surprisingly, not as large as that of the smaller Cruze).
The front seats are among the most comfortable in the mid-size sedan class, while the back bench has more legroom than most of its rivals, except for the Accord and that huge new Passat. 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. About the only thing we wish for is a bit more lateral support for the front seats; you'll be sliding around a bit in the corners.
Back when the current Malibu was introduced, five years ago, it earned plenty of kudos for the look and feel of its cabin materials. Even today they stand as impressive--especially at the more affordable end of the lineup. Upholstery, switchgear, and trims feel high-quality, and a deep center console, several smaller storage spaces, and a 110-volt rear outlet add usefulness.
Again, the 2012 Malibu delivers exactly what it promises, prioritizing refinement over sharpness and dynamics. And with a ride that's absorbent but not too firm, plus good isolation of engine and road noise thanks to specially laminated window glass, acoustic insulation, and composite liners for the wheel wells, the Malibu has one of the quieter cabins in its class. Consider that some V-6 models get lower-profile tires that might increase harshness, however.