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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
the V-6...doesn't feel quite as powerful as its numbers suggest
quicker to 60 and the quarter mile than seven...sports cars
caffeine under the hood
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.
The 2009 Chevrolet Malibu offers solid performance across the line, but it's not exactly heart-stopping.