Chevy Malibu tested

By JAY WONG | 12 March 2015

There's a certain presence about the Chevrolet Malibu LTZ, which simply and silently states: “I have arrived”.

It may seem chunky in appearance, but to some degree - it’s arguably stately as well, but while the male audience may find the Malibu manly enough to own, it also possesses a touch of grace for the ladies.

Our Malibu (priced on the road with insurance at RM158,888) came draped in Olympic White with distinctive creases on the hood (that seems more form than function) – only to be downplayed by its curvaceous mid-section.

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Some of its styling cues have even been inherited from its more sporty stable mate – the Camaro, in order to suggest potency in terms of performance – most notably the LED tail lights and instrument cluster.

In terms of sporty appeal, the hood seems to speak the loudest, followed by the dual exhaust tips fitted at each corner and the Camaro-like rear light clusters – all of which suggesting it’ll be providing some proverbial ‘dust’ for the competition.

In this respect, this completely built-up (CBU) unit from South Korea possesses multiple-personalities for its contention in the D-Segment market with the likes of the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and the Mazda6 – based on price point of course.

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To match its bulk, the Malibu rides on 18-inch wheels with 245/45 series tyres that do well to ‘fit’ into its flared wheel arches, but then we noticed the external mirrors with integrated turn signals, they automatically look overwhelmed - much like a tyrannosaurus-rex and its arms.

As overwhelmed as they may seem, we can only suspect that the bow-tie brand made it in such a way so as to allow it to cut through the air more effectively and silently - and so they did.

Although some cars have keyless entry and push-start function, the Malibu goes one-up against the rest with its auto-start function.

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On a hot day, and within remote control’s range, simply pressing and holding one of the buttons on the key fob for a few seconds starts the engine up and gets the air conditioning going - simply splendid.

There’s plenty of perceived space within the cabin that’s attributable to its play of dark colours, and to set the mood is the ice-blue ambient lighting (especially at night) that runs the course of the entire dashboard.

An approach to help liven-up the interior with a youthful touch no doubt, but for the more mature audience the ambient lighting may seem more ostentatious than grand.

Behind the wheel is the Camaro-inspired speedometer and tachometer that stares back with a coloured multi-information display separating them for some added sporty inheritance.

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Overall, it may seem rather simplistic inside, but once seated, the use of soft leather and materials help deliver an undoubtedly comfortable impression with a symmetrical dashboard layout.

We like how Chevrolet managed to stealthily integrate the side air conditioning vents at the front into the dashboard and the hidden compartment behind the seven-inch full-colour touchscreen display that helps bring to mind a plethora of small items that could be stowed away from prying eyes.

Talking about stowage, this particular D-segment contender left us perplexed with 462 litres of boot space.

Though it seemed that it could hold a lot more from the exterior, there was a generous amount of width and depth, but alas, the height left us wanting.

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Starting up the Malibu leaves a very premium feeling with noise, vibration and harshness kept to a minimum.

It’s wondrous how this executive sedan is able to suddenly bring the perceived value up to a new high in this respect.

The 2.4-litre EcoTec (Emission Control Optimisation Technology) engine under the hood was impressively smooth with its 163bhp and 225Nm of torque.

The electric steering performed admirably in our opinion in translating back as much road feel as it could when at speed, but slow it down and it seemed to teeter on the edge of sedate.

The 245/45 series tyres offer much grip when the Malibu is pushed around the bends, but even with those set of tyres and a somewhat firm-yet-comfortable suspension setup, it was simply enjoyment.

Flying through corners, there was a sudden realisation that a pair of paddle shifters would be most useful in this instance over the peculiar left-right rocker switch at the top of the gear shifter knob that requires much getting used to.

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Besides that, the ergonomics of the shifter’s throw from ‘P’ (for Park) to ‘D’ (for Drive) needs a re-look, because its a long travel that results in our elbows feeling awkwardly placed while our upper arm was pushed against the left bolster of the driver seat’s backrest.

Chevrolet needs to re-examine this particular aspect because it just undermines the comfort levels intended for the driver.

Aside from that, the Malibu still remains rather attractive thanks to its looks and driving dynamics.

Venturing beyond the tyre’s grip limits will bring on the onset of progressive understeer, but stay within the limits and it rewards those spirited drives with plenty of smiles thanks to its chassis and suspension combination that lends it that sure-footedness about it.

The Malibu soaked up the bumps, sans the bruises of course - but there is a limit to this one, because occupants within will feel the wrath of excessive shocks.

There’s plenty of room for rear-seated passengers, and although we mentioned that the suspension was firm, comfort was still predominant in this area.

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The engine’s an obvious runner with plenty of grunt from the get-go, even dawdling around in heavy traffic won’t pre-maturely bring out that disgruntled side of some, and the six speed automatic gearbox simply performs like a smooth operator.

Even under full-load, the Ecotec engine is a willing giver.

With the Malibu’s calmness on the highways and road holding abilities around the bends, it still faces a rather steep up-hill battle against its more popular Japanese rivals who continually seek to retain their ‘honour’.

Considering the Malibu’s offerings and its modern take on exterior and interior design, it’s definitely a venerable contender with its performance and handling characteristics to give its rivals a good run for the money.

Additionally, it’s driving impression is a hard one to ignore, but for some its short-comings may be the same - but look past the negatives and there’s that promise of driving pleasure that comes with an appealing statuesque look that will turn heads to take note.

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Engine: 2,384cc, 4-cylinder engine with Double Continuous Variable Cam Phasing (DCVCP)

Maximum power: 163bhp at 5,800rpm

Maximum torque: 225Nm at 4,600rpm

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Suspension: MacPherson struts (front) with multi-link (rear)

Features: Four airbags, 4-wheel anti-lock braking system with brake assist, electronic stability control, variable effort electric power steering, remote keyless entry with push-start button and remote start function, HID lights with automatic levelling and tunnel detection, reverse camera, 8-way power adjustable driver and passenger seats, 6-speaker sound system with Bluetooth, USB and AUX ports, 7-inch colour touchscreen and 18-inch wheel with 245/75 tryes.

Price: RM158,888 (On-The-Road with Insurance)




CarSifu's Rating: 7.3