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2009 Chevrolet Malibu Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu was new.


Performance: 7.9

Reviewers find the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu a competent rival to imported sedans that traditionally bring a little enthusiasm to the family-hauling class. A few have issues with inconsistent feel from the Malibu's steering, but most say the Malibu offers livelier handling than most cars in its segment. Its V6 is competitive with the Honda Accord's smooth engine, but the four-cylinder Malibu receives particular praise.

  • "On a curvy road, the Chevy heightens the fun factor, providing superior ride composure, the ability to perform fingertip shifts, and communicative, albeit slightly heavy, steering that carves tighter, crisper lines. Hop on the highway, and the Malibu continues to separate itself, delivering a softer, quieter ride and power that ... seems to pull more strongly and naturally." - Motor Trend
  • "We found the Malibu to be a smooth, comfortable sedan with plenty of power and responsiveness. It strikes a nice balance between well-controlled handling and a smooth ride. Overall, the new Malibu feels smooth and refined and pleasant to drive." - New Car Test Drive
  • "What hasn't changed are the Malibu's many likable qualities, such as a ... nicely balanced ride and handling characteristics and a pair of peppy engines" -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

For 2009, Chevrolet has assumed that most buyers will be interested in four-cylinder Malibus. As a result, all trim levels come with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine as standard equipment. It produces 169 horsepower, and several publications have found that the Malibu can reach 60 miles per hour in less than 10 seconds with the small engine - bettering what many of its peers can do with their four-bangers. A 3.6-liter V6 making 252 hp is an option on LT and LTZ models. Several reviews say it holds up well against the Accord's V6, which is considered the benchmark in this class.

EPA fuel economy estimates range from 17/26 mpg city/highway for the six-cylinder Malibu to 22/32 mpg for the four-cylinder/six-speed automatic powertrain, which is the most efficient combination.

  • "In terms of power, the relatively fuel-efficient four-cylinder should prove sufficient for most buyers, especially when matched to the six-speed automatic. The V6 provides considerably more gusto." -- Edmunds
  • "Transmissions with more gears for handling the power transfer generally are considered more efficient than those with fewer. ... The 2009 Malibu LTZ with the 2.4-liter, 169-horsepower, in-line, four-cylinder engine mated to a modern six-speed automatic transmission proves GM has learned that important lesson." - Washington Post
  • "The four-cylinder model can feel a bit underpowered when asked to move the heavy Malibu with any gusto." - Car and Driver
  • "Four-cylinder models (regular and Hybrid) don't jump from a stop but build speed reasonably quickly. ... V6 versions are strong off the line and spirited at any speed." - Consumer Guide

Handling and Braking

The 2009 Chevrolet Malibu's suspension is often singled out for its comfortable ride. It absorbs bumps with confidence, and adds some sport to the car's handling in corners. The four-cylinder Malibu comes with Chevy's electric assist steering, which divides reviewers - some love it, others say it kicks in at odd moments. Six-cylinder models come with hydraulic-assist steering, which elicits fewer comments.

  • "The 2009 Chevrolet Malibu's long wheelbase, wide stance and stiff structure combine for a pleasing balance of ride and handling that's not at all common in this class, particularly for a domestic brand." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The suspension soaked up rough Mississippi cotton-farm roads with aplomb, and kept the car straight and flat without a lot of pitching and body roll. The steering was reasonably quick and precise, but without much real road feel, although better than previous models of this same car." - New Car Test Drive
  • "We usually dislike the overly artificial feel of electric power steering systems, but in the Malibu's case, several of our editors actually prefer the four-cylinder car." -- Edmunds
  • "I'm not a fan of the 18-inch wheels - they look nice, but they compromise both the steering radius and ride quality." -- Automobile Magazine

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