2010 Chevrolet Malibu Review and Prices

Last Updated: Aug 5, 2011

Pros

  • A world-class looker, inside and out
  • Comfortable ride; quiet and roomy
  • Shines in crash testing and in customer-satisfaction ratings

Cons

  • Not a great dance partner on curvy roads
  • Bring your own back-seat armrest
  • Fuel economy should be better

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2010 Chevrolet Malibu Buying Advice

The 2010 Chevrolet Malibu is the best car for you if want to reward an American automaker for creating a quiet, roomy midsize sedan with assertive styling.  

Overhyped? A little. Malibu was reborn for model-year 2008 as a strikingly handsome car with newfound solidity and good road manners. It’s been widely praised as a genuine alternative to the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. The more candid view: it doesn’t match the Accord for driving precision, and it isn’t as refined as a Camry. Malibu has its strengths, though, and its main one may be as a domestic-brand car that at least invites comparison with the two class benchmarks. If that’s your criteria, you owe yourself a look at the impressively revised 2010 Ford Fusion, too. Note that Chevy has dropped the Malibu Hybrid for 2010.

Should you buy a 2010 Chevrolet Malibu or wait for the 2011 Chevrolet Malibu? Buy a 2010 Malibu and you’ll be certain what you’re getting: basically a repeat of the 2009 model. Wait for the 2011 Malibu and you might get a car with freshened styling and perhaps a wonderfully advanced new hybrid-powertrain option. You might not. General Motors’ product planning is beholden to unpredictable forces these days, and the pace of change to Malibu is just one unknown.     

2010 Chevrolet Malibu Changes back to top

Styling: No 2010 Malibu styling changes of note. None needed. By any standard, Malibu – inside and out – is modern, original, and self-assured. It has a classy, distinctive grille and a confident profile unsullied by swoops or fake scoops. Malibu looks more expensive than it is. Under its skin resides a design structure with roots in GM’s European engineering studios. Code-named Epsilon, this front-wheel-drive platform also formed the foundation for the now-discontinued Saturn Aura and Pontiac G6 from GM’s dead-divisions-walking, and for the Saab 9-3 from its Swedish spin-off. GM uses elements of this platform for the redesigned 2010 Chevy Equinox compact crossover SUV, which in fact looks something like a high-roof station wagon version of the Malibu. Dimensionally, the Malibu has one of the longest wheelbases in the midsize-car class. Wheelbase is the distance between the front and rear axles and is central to how much space a car can allot to the passenger compartment. Malibu’s overall body length is about average for the class, so the effect of a long wheelbase and a medium-length body is that the wheels are situated at the far corners of the car, with only modest sheetmetal “overhangs” front and rear. That’s a central reason Malibu appears solidly planted on the road. The 2010 Malibu gets some new exterior colors: Mocha Steel Metallic is in, Golden Pewter Metallic is out, for example. And the 2010 Malibu 2LT gets a new alloy-wheel design.   

Mechanical: Slow sales doomed the Malibu Hybrid, which was saddled with retrograde technology compared to hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry. Unlike those rivals, Malibu’s “mild-hybrid” system could not propel the car on electricity alone. Its electric motor instead acted primarily as a powerful starter so its four-cylinder gas engine could shut down during stops in traffic. The 164-horsepower Hybrid had only a small fuel-economy advantage over a Malibu with the conventional gas four-cylinder, and it cost almost $4,000 more. Most 2010 Malibus will be sold with that conventional 169-horsepower 2.4-liter gas four cylinder. It’s available with a four- or six-speed automatic transmission. The six-speed is now standard on the popular 1LT version, so more Malibus will have it for 2010. The 2010 Malibu is again available with a 252-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 linked exclusively to a six-speed automatic. Malibu is one of the few cars in this class that does not offer a manual transmission, though its six-speed automatic comes with steering-wheel paddles that allow the driver to summon a downshift and hold gears longer.

Features: GM’s OnStar assistance is standard on every Malibu and includes a year’s free service. Among other services, OnStar automatically notifies authorities if you’ve crashed and can’t respond. Live operators can provide turn-by-turn verbal directions, too, but it’s not a true substitute for an on-board navigation system, which remains conspicuous by its absence on the 2010 Malibu. Most every rival offers a nav system, and many use state-of-the-art tech with voice recognition and hard-drive data storage. Adding such a unit with its attendant screen would require more modifications to the dashboard than Chevy can likely commit to right now. Otherwise, Malibu has a competitive roster of features that includes a power rear sunshade, remote engine start, power adjustable pedals, leather upholstery, and rear-seat DVD entertainment. Bluetooth wireless phone connectivity and a USB interface for iPods and other MP3 devices also are available. Every Malibu comes with four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock control to fight lock-ups in emergency stops; traction control to aid off-the-line grip; and antiskid control, also known as electronic stability control, which automatically activates individual brakes and modulates engine power to combat sideways slides. Torso-protecting front-side airbags and head-protecting curtain side airbags for both seating rows also are standard. A tilt/telescope steering, wheel, power height-adjustable driver’s seat, remote keyless entry, and power windows, locks, and mirrors also are included in the base price of every Malibu. So are satellite radio and a mini-plug port for digital audio players. For 2010, a power-adjustable lumbar bolster replaces a manually adjusted one as standard on every Malibu model.

2010 Chevrolet Malibu Test Drive back to top

From behind the wheel:  A choice of four- and six-cylinder engines is de regle in Malibu’s competitive set, and while this Chevy’s V-6 is a gem, its four-pot is among the least powerful in the class. Since Malibu outweighs virtually every other midsize sedan, the base engine with the four-speed automatic is no recipe for scintillating performance. Lethargic but serviceable describes it best. The six-speed automatic brings Malibu’s four-cylinder powertrain up to pace on paper, but is no cure-all on the road. Like the four-speed automatic, it’s a smooth shifter. But even when it’s in the proper gear for the occasion – which isn’t all the time – it doesn’t bring the four-cylinder to life. Working its paddle shifters is of minimal help.

A Malibu 2LT with the V-6 is priced from $28,500, which is more than the least-expensive V-6 version of any of its primary competitors: the Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, and Nissan Altima. A V-6 Malibu LTZ tops $29,000, where you’re in league with similarly equipped top-end models of those cars. Every one of those rival’s has a six-cylinder engine with more horsepower than the Malibu’s, but a V-6 Malibu can hold its own with most, even if it never quite convinces you you’re driving a sport sedan.

Also blunting any suggestion you’re in a performance car is Malibu’s lack of fluidity in changes of direction. Steering, suspension, body control, all seem a beat behind your inputs. When they react, it’s with a starchy suddenness, as if the car is being goaded rather than guided into action. It’s not quite like Elaine Benes dancing, but you get the idea. Luckily, Malibu feels secure and capable once it takes a set in a turn. And it maintains a true heading even in gusty crosswinds, so Interstate trips are relaxed.

A word about the discontinued Malibu Hybrid: Other than defusing the engine if you were stopped and didn’t have too many accessories running, the Hybrid acted much like a four-cylinder, four-speed Malibu LT. That was good if you were intrigued by transparent technology, bad if you were interested in driving satisfaction. The Chevy Malibu Hybrid was priced at $26,225 for 2009.

Dashboard and controls:  Revel in a fully contemporary cabin busting with interesting shapes and thoughtful details. Just don’t go poking around for rich materials or tactile stimulation. And grow another joint on your thumbs if you wish to exploit the steering wheel’s awkwardly angled array of audio controls. At least that steering wheel is a sporty, three-spoke affair that would be at home in a Corvette; indeed, Chevy’s world-class sports car uses this very wheel.

Mailbu’s dashboard design stands comparison with the best. It’s graceful, double-cove treatment echoes -- my gracious -- the Corvette’s design. The gauges, housed in a three-pod binnacle, are easy to read though their turquoise-and-white color scheme borders on the chintzy. A symmetrical set of dashboard buttons and knobs makes up the main audio controls and those for the climate system. Nothing’s difficult to reach, though you’ll crane your neck to see the temperature and airflow adjusters.

Chevy’s use of dual-tone door and dash panels and contrasting-color leather (with color-coordinated piping) is inspired. It gives the LTZ version of this middle-American sedan couture flair. Lesser Malibus are less opulent, but share these same shapes, steering wheel, and satin-look center-stack trim. Unfortunately, every Malibu cabin also has the same lowest-bidder plastic surfaces. The shifter scrapes coarsely through its gate. And the controls have an eggshell-thin hollowness. In fairness, the same criticism can be leveled at most every other similarly priced domestic-brand car. It’s just that Malibu’s visual panache promises so much more.                 

Room, comfort, and utility:  Promise fulfilled. Malibu’s roomy. Rear-seaters in particular enjoy generous leg and toe space, good head room, and big doorways. Absence of a rear center armrest, even on the most-expensive LTZ model, though, is a spiteful omission.

Seat padding could be thicker and firmer, too. That would do more to lend the car a feeling of substance than to cushion bumps. Malibu rides quite well, especially with the 17-inch tires. With more unsprung mass, the 18s cause LTZs and 2LTs so equipped to react to bad road surfaces with some slap and judder. But this sedan’s suspension clearly aims for absorbency and a feeling of road-hugging weight. That’ll serve most of its buyers well, even if it does allow some unsettled body motions on wavy pavement. Also filtered out is virtually every unwanted noise. Except for the sound of engine induction during full-throttle acceleration, Malibu is spa-soothing.

The trunk is wide and extends well forward. Its lid has space-saving struts rather than intrusive hinges. And split/folding rear seatbacks are standard to create versatile carrying possibilities. This trunk isn’t very tall, however, and the wrap-around shape of the rear bumpers, the sloping rear glass, and the high bumper create mail slot-like access. In-cabin storage is pleasing thanks to a spacious console and glovebox and several dashboard bins, including a handy lidded one on top.

2010 Chevrolet Malibu Prices back to top

The 2010 Chevrolet Malibu returns with a four-tier lineup: the entry-level LS model, volume-selling 1LT and 2LT models, and the top-of-the-line LTZ model. (All prices listed in this review include the manufacturer’s mandated destination fee; Chevy’s destination fee for 2010 is $720.)

The 2010 Chevrolet Malibu LS prices start at $22,545, before options. The Malibu LS comes only with the four-cylinder engine and four-speed automatic.

The 2010 Chevrolet Malibu 1LT model’s base price is $23,435. The 1LT enhances the LS model by adding steering-wheel audio controls and floormats – and for 2010, the six-speed automatic transmission.

The 2010 Chevrolet Malibu 2LT base price is $26,435. It adds to the 1LT an upholstery upgrade from cloth to pseudo-suede, heated front seats, alloy wheels, and other detail amenities. You previously had to order a Malibu in the 2LT trim level to get the six-speed automatic transmission.

Top of the line is the 2010 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ, priced from $27,325. It also comes with the six-speed automatic and adds leather upholstery – in two-tone if you like – plus Bluetooth, the heated front seats, and the leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls.

A six-way power driver’s seat is optional on other Malibus, but the LTZ comes with an eight-way version, plus a power front passenger seat. It also comes with remote engine start via the keyfob and heated outside mirrors. Remote start is an option on 1LT and 2LT Malibus, but heated mirrors are an LTZ exclusive.

Malibu’s V-6 engine is a $1,795 option available only the 2LT and LTZ models. It’s accompanied by quicker-acting steering and, on the LTZ, by chrome exhaust tips.

Equipped with either engine, the LTZ has 18-inch tires on alloy wheels. A 2LT model ordered with the V-6 also gets 18-inch alloys; all other Malibus have 17-inch wheels and tires.

Among notable Malibu options is a power sunroof; it costs $850 and is available on all but the LS model. Rear DVD entertainment mounts a video screen in the back of each front headrest and is a $1,740 dealer-installed option available on all but the LS. It costs $115 to add Bluetooth to an LS, 1LT, or 2LT model and with it you get activation buttons on the steering wheel. USB linking is standard on the LTZ model and included on 2LT versions when you shell out an extra $500 to get the LTZ’s premium sound system, which consists of eight speakers and two subwoofers.

2010 Chevrolet Malibu Fuel Economy back to top

Malibu’s relatively high weight detracts from fuel efficiency. With the four-speed automatic, four-cylinder Malibus are midpack at best for fuel economy, achieving a rating of 22/30 mpg (city/highway).

Four-cylinder Malibus need the added gearing of the six-speed to be fully competitive with most four-cylinder/automatic-transmission midsize sedans. With the six-speed automatic, the four-cylinder Malibu’s highway mileage increases notably, for an overall rating of 22/33.

At 17/26, V-6 Malibus also have lower fuel-economy ratings than most rivals with similar drivetrains. The Malibu Hybrid had a rating of 26/34.

2010 Chevrolet Malibu Safety and Reliability back to top

The Chevrolet Malibu shines in government crash-test ratings that award a maximum five stars for occupant protection in frontal and side collisions (www.safecar.gov). The Malibu scores five stars in every test category, including driver and passenger protection in both frontal and side impacts. Only about 30 percent of midsize cars tested by the government scored the full five stars in each of these categories.

In customer surveys of initial vehicle quality, the Chevrolet brand is ranked about average by J.D. Power and Associates, the leading automotive consumer survey firm (jdpower.com).

J.D. Power surveys also rate the Chevrolet Malibu among the top three midsize cars for overall initial quality. Malibu scored highest possible marks for the design of it features and accessories, and below average in only one category: interior quality. The Malibu was rated average for overall dependability in J.D. Power studies that measure problems experienced by original owners of three-year-old vehicles.

2010 Chevrolet Malibu Release Date back to top

The 2010 Malibu went on sale in summer 2009.

What's next for the 2010 Chevrolet Malibu back to top

Projecting a normal five-year life cycle, industry observers had the current-generation Malibu on track for a model-year 2012 redesign. There even was some speculation about minor styling alterations as part of a mid-cycle facelift for model-year 2010. Little is normal in the car business these days, especially at General Motors. So Malibu’s future is difficult to chart. 

A full redesign appears to have been pushed back to model-year 2013, when the next-generation Malibu is likely to share the Epsilon 2 platform that underpins the recently redesigned and critically praised Vectra midsize sedan from GM’s European Opel arm. Malibu’s current styling seems strong enough to stay fresh until then with minimal tweaking. In any event, many prognosticators say the next Malibu will need to lose weight, and possibly size, to meet ever-more-stringent fuel-economy standards.

Meantime, there’s conjecture that GM may be considering another run at a hybrid sometime later in the current-generation Malibu life-cycle. This time it would use a V-6 in harness with electric power. This would be the corporation’s advanced “2 Mode” system, a version of which is used in GM’s big V-8 pickups and SUVs. The 2 Mode can propel the car on battery power alone and would likely be rated around 250 net horsepower in a V-6 application. GM claims an estimated 50-percent increase in fuel economy with the 2 Mode system over a vehicle equipped only with the gas V-6.

2010 Chevrolet Malibu Competition back to top

2010 Honda Accord: Arguably the best all-rounder in the midsize class. It’s highly efficient with the four-cylinder engine and surprisingly fast with the V-6. Accord comes as a sedan and coupe, both with strong customer-satisfaction ratings and rock-solid resale values. The sedan isn’t universally admired for its styling, but is impressively roomy and very comfortable. Accord four-cylinder sedans start around $21,500 and are rated 21/30 mpg with automatic transmission. Accord V-6 sedans are priced from about $27,200 and rate 22/32. Coupes are priced slightly higher. Accord’s next full redesign is slated for model-year 2012 or 2013.

2010 Ford Fusion: A major refresh for model-year 2010 makes this sedan the new darling of the domestic-brand set. The headliner is the Fusion Hybrid, a fully advanced gas/electric with a lively 191 combined horsepower and an eye-opening rating of 41/36. It’s pricey, however, starting around $28,000. The conventional four-cylinder Fusion holds its own with 175 horsepower, a best of 23/34, and a starting price around $20,000. Two V-6s – 240 and 263 horsepower – are offered, as well. They start around $24,000 and rate a top 18/27. Fusion’s roomy and capable on the road. And it’s the only car in Malibu’s immediate circle to augment front-wheel drive with available all-wheel drive; the AWD Fusion has a V-6 and that starts just over $28,000. Fusion’s next full redesign likely comes for model-year 2013. 

2010 Toyota Camry: Best in class at isolating occupants from road, wind, and mechanical ruckus. The payback is languid handling and sluggish steering. Camry also vies with the Accord for top resale value in the class. It comes only as a sedan but offers four-cylinder (169 and 179 horsepower), a 268-horsepower V-6, and a 187-horsepower gas-electric hybrid. Base price range is $19,900-$29,500. Fuel economy is 22/33 with the four-cylinder, 19/28 with the V-6, and 33/34 with the Hybrid. The 2010 Camry gets its first styling tweaks since this generation debuted for 2007. Its next full redesign is expected for the 2012 model year.