$5,994 - $6,705

2011 Chevrolet Malibu Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2011 Chevrolet Malibu was new.


Performance: 7.9

Though the midsize car class is more competitive than ever, reviewers tend to agree that the Chevy Malibu manages to keep up with the middle of the pack. A few have issues with inconsistent feel from the electric-assist steering, but most say the Malibu offers livelier handling than most cars in its segment. Given that the class is so competitive, however, you might be happier by checking out cars with more highly-rated performance, like the Ford Fusion and Hyundai Sonata. An added plus is that both start about $2,000 less than the Malibu.

  • "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, while down 14 horses, 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...nicely balanced ride and handling characteristics and a pair of peppy engines." -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

Reviewers like the available engines in the Malibu. The four-cylinder engine makes 169 horsepower.  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-cylinder engines. A 3.6-liter V6 making 252 horsepower is an option on 2LT and LTZ models. Several reviews say it holds up well against the Accord's V6.

EPA fuel economy estimates range from 17/26 mpg city/highway and 20 mpg combined for the six-cylinder Malibu to 22/33/26 for the four-cylinder.

  • "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
  • "The four-cylinder model can feel a bit underpowered when asked to move the heavy Malibu with any gusto. But for those concerned about fuel economy-aren't we all nowadays?-the four-cylinder Malibu boasts excellent EPA numbers of 22 mpg city and 33 mpg highway when paired with the six-speed auto." -- Car and Driver
  • "Four-cylinder models 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 2011 Chevrolet Malibu's suspension is often singled out as offering one of the most comfortable rides in the class. 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 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
  • "Four-cylinder versions use electrically assisted steering that's light at low speeds for easier maneuverability, whereas the LTZ V6's weightier hydraulic power steering and wider tires provide a sportier driving feel and better grip in fast turns." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The four- and six-cylinder models feature different steering systems (electric and hydraulic assist, respectively), meaning that the driving experience differs greatly depending on the selected engine. 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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