Today I visited my local dealer for a small get together. They have two of the new Malibus sitting out front, one white with chrome trim and the other a charcoal color. The later is ugly, the former is wonderful looking. The chrome trim around the windows really sets the car off and gives it a good look. All in all the car look elegant although I'd have to say I'm not 100% sold on the nose, which rumors say the Cobalt will get in a few years. blah! So after chatting with people about it the owner of the dealership says "take it for a spin". Well I'm not going to pass that up.
I choose the white one, it has the 3.6l V6 which I'm familiar with as my father's old Malibu has it and so does my Grandfather's Impala. So I hop in the car and my first impression is that the interior is quite nice. A pleasant surprise for me.
So I sit down in a the seat which is black and tan leather. The seat is comfortable and as I close the door I get the feeling of being surrounded and enclosed by leather. The cockpit sort of wraps around you. Of course the lower parts of the dash, under the steering wheel and the glove box are typical GM plastic. The upper parts however are leather, smooth plastic, and other nicer materials. All in all it's a nice place to sit. For you SS owners the steering wheel should feel familiar. It's wrapped in the same leather. In fact I'm pretty sure Chevy is using the same wheel on every car they make now. lol The controls for the stereo are the same as the newer cobalts as well, with the exception being the climate controls. They are new with a digital read out in the middle. It's nifty but the knobs are large and bulky almost to the point of feeling cheap.
The next thing I notices was the gauges. BEAUTIFUL! Each gauge is in it's own sunken pod with a chrome ring surround. The cluster itself has a black background, white numbers, white needle, and a mesh looking middle graphic. They light up a blue color that gives them a very modern, very European feel. IMO this is the best gauge cluster to come out of America yet. And you get a tach! Which has been deleted off many American family sedans.
On the road the Malibu is well mannered. The steering is very light almost to fault on the highway. I got the feeling I was wondering around in my lane a bit because little inputs make a rather large difference. This also provides very little input through the steering wheel which limits the fun. I wouldn't want to drive this car close to the edge, but then again that's not what this car is made for. Pedal feel is good, brake feel is touchy but the learning curve is quick. The ride is very nice, it's much less harsh then the previous malibu, but it can be a tad noisy. The tires do transmit a fair deal of road noise through the car although it's nothing like the previous malibu's head pounding round noise. Much like the previous malibu though I feel it would benefit greatly from some newer quieter tires.
My testor came with the "paddle shifters" on the steering wheel. Let's get this straight right away, they are garbage. The shift is jerky and slow, the placement is horrible, and the system feels like other car companies systems 10 years ago. I like that GM is trying this on cars but honestly they've failed miserably. It is so far behind BMW, Mercedes, Audi, and even Mitsubishis system it's kind of embarrassing. Now before someone says this car isn't a Luxury car I disagree. At the 28k dollar sticker price this car has to be on par with the 1 series, entry level 3 series, the C class, and the entry Audis. It's so close in every way but the transmission. I'd be all for GM scrapping the paddle shifters in this car. The placement of the paddle shifters is also horrid. They are a push button type rather then a squeeze type that is industry standard. This means that when you try and upshift you often hit the volume for the radio controls which are located right under the upshift button.
So in conclusion, this car is a home run for Chevy. Fit and finish is excellent! Ride quality is good enough, and over all it's a pleasent car. The 28k for the V6 is a tad high and dangerously close to the price of the 3 series and C class base models. I don't think it's on that level, but the base model Malibu starts around 20k and a hybrid will be around 23k. This car at 28k is better then the Japanese offerings. I think this is the car that knocks the camary off the top for that mid sized sedan title. All in all Chevy has taken HUGE steps in the right direction with the new malibu and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a mid sized sedan in the under 30k dollar segment.