Inside Story: 2008 Chevrolet Malibu inside story chevrolet
2008 Chevrolet Malibu. Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Michael Clark

Photo Gallery:
2008 Chevrolet Malibu

I think I just saw a Camry flinch.

It’s hard to believe that such a reaction could be had out of this car model, which has held a stranglehold on the mid-size car market for more than two decades. There’s a little bit of sweat forming on the headlamp brows of the new Accord, a longtime contender in the segment. The nail-biting centres around a certain Chevy, with a namebadge that first bowed some 44 years back. Malibu? That’s right, campers. In a life span that has seen Powerglides and electric power steering, the most recent examples of this Bowtie have been beyond forgettable. I had the pleasure of getting retina scarring from the flashbulbs at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show unveil.

Inside Story: 2008 Chevrolet Malibu inside story chevrolet
Inside Story: 2008 Chevrolet Malibu inside story chevrolet
2008 Chevrolet Malibu. Click image to enlarge

The Oh-Eight Malibu direction mimics the impressive quality and design improvements for GM, as seen on the award-winning Saturn Aura, and the General’s full-size truck line. As expected, the ‘Bu on the turntable was the full-jazz LTZ. Would the base LS possess all the love of a rental fleet curb-stomper? This week, the Flying Fickle Finger of Interior Debate pokes at the innards of one such LS-trimmed Malibu, with a base MSRP of $22,995.


Cabin

Controls: This base is ace in the realm of Ergonomica. The three-spoker wheel gets manual tilt and telescoping, as well as standard steering wheel-mounted cruise control keys. Wipers get the expected intermittency, while headlamps have the set-it-and-forget-it Auto setting. The driver’s side door glass gets an Express Down feature, with a power trunk release push-button within easy reach on the door panel. Exterior mirrors are power-positioned, with the actuator up high and sensible on the inner ‘A’ pillar.

The console-mount automatic shift gets LED-bright indicator lamps on the gear selector quadrant. The gauge pod has impressive clarity, bordering on Toyota’s Optitron system. In addition to the obvious RPM, coolant temperature and fuel readings, the ‘Bu is also equipped with the Driver Information Centre. Manual A/C and HVAC controls are easy to understand, and initiate. The standard Traction Control on/off button is found below the HVAC controls.

Inside Story: 2008 Chevrolet Malibu inside story chevrolet
Inside Story: 2008 Chevrolet Malibu inside story chevrolet
2008 Chevrolet Malibu. Click image to enlarge

Convenience: Meet your new cubby buddy. The top dash-mount void gets a substantial removable rubber tray for easy cleaning. A flip-up door below the HVAC controls reveals a decent cell phone/wallet cavity, with 12-volt DC powerpoint. The second powerpoint is found on the rear of the centre console, with another removable rubber tray. This is also the location for the rear cupholders, with a tip-out floor level tray, with no cinchers. The glove compartment seems rather small, until you realize that the centre console is the void of choice.

There’s a roll-top cover that conceals the cupholder pod, which is best sized for take-out Timmy’s. (No cinchers.) The pod can be removed for cleaning, or perhaps as the spot for the Mondo Bucket cup from your neighbourhood convenience conglomerate. There’s a removable plasti-slab between the cupholder area and the main console cavity. The top of the console door has a secondary tray, which gets the same removable mat material as the larger console cavity. The only omission of note with the system is the lack of a third 12-volt powerpoint, which can easily be forgiven on a base model.

Front door pockets get bottle-sized holders, while rear doors get smaller pockets, and see-through mesh cargo netting on the seatbacks. To the left of the driver is a curious drop-down cubby, with what appears to be a formed ‘pillow’ of sorts to angle a cell phone.

Inside Story: 2008 Chevrolet Malibu inside story chevrolet
Inside Story: 2008 Chevrolet Malibu inside story chevrolet
Inside Story: 2008 Chevrolet Malibu inside story chevrolet
2008 Chevrolet Malibu. Click image to enlarge

I had no idea my Blackberry was so uncomfortable. Front visors get unlit vanities, with Slide-O-Matic positioning. All ‘Bu’s receive a one year subscription to the OnStar Safe and Sound plan, as well as the Directions and Connections plan with Turn-by-Turn navigation.

Seats: Colour is back! The days of two-tone seat treatment have returned, even in the Land of Base. The front driver’s seat gets a little bit of power, with height adjustment only, to complement the manual fore/aft/recline, and the manual lumbar support. The rear seat gets 60/40 flip-down, with a high-impact ribbed material on the seat backing for less cargo stress.

Fit and finish: If you thought the Aura was good, the Malibu is literally out of the park. Soft-feel plastics show up where you like them, and the two-tone treatment is tasteful, without feeling gaudy. Fitment of materials is Toyota-tight.

Safety: The ‘Bu’s got bags, as in dual frontal, front seat-mounted side’s, and full curtain airbag protection as standard equipment. The Oh-Eight Malibu has just received the top frontal score of ‘Good’, from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Inside Story: 2008 Chevrolet Malibu inside story chevrolet
2008 Chevrolet Malibu. Click image to enlarge


Spare/trunk/cargo

Not only is the Malibu LS trunk ample, it’s finished! The underside of the decklid gets a tasteful treatment, with a handy assist strap for closure composure. Tether points exist for future cargo netting. The emergency spare gets a batch of deadening material underfoot. GM’s Roadside Assistance will change it for you, for the first three years or 60,000 kilometres.


Engine

The LS gets its entry-level mobility from the corporate 2.4-litre VVT Ecotec four, tuned for 169 horsepower. GM is still dispensing with the oversized plastic engine covers, though major parts accessibility shouldn’t be an issue in the long term.

Inside Story: 2008 Chevrolet Malibu inside story chevrolet
Inside Story: 2008 Chevrolet Malibu inside story chevrolet
2008 Chevrolet Malibu. Click image to enlarge

Day-to-day fluid checks are easily performed. Of particular note is the location of the coolant fill, now found mounted to the firewall. Headlamp bulb replacement appears to require pod removal, HAL.


Clarkey Rating

The obvious question that’s getting bandied about the ‘Bu is this; “Is a Malibu as good as a (insert import name here)?” One can only venture a guess on the mechanicals, though my ’95 Beretta Back-UpMobile just turned 290,000 kms. I’m confident that by saying Yes, the Malibu limb is more tree trunk than twig in nature. GM knows what the ‘Bu could mean, and it has to be beyond good. It is; five stars.

Next week: 2008 Dodge Avenger




About Paul Williams

Paul Williams is an Ottawa-based freelance automotive writer and senior writer for Autos. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).