Inside Story: 2009 Chevrolet Malibu LT 4 cylinder inside story chevrolet
2009 Chevrolet Malibu LT four-cylinder. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Michael Clark

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2009 Chevrolet Malibu

Inside Story is a review of interior comfort features, cabin controls, storage options, trunk space and under-hood accessibility based on a seven-day evaluation.

As long as there has been a front-drive Malibu, there have been periods of both four-cylinder embrace and indifference. “Base engine equals base model” has been the rule, with such notable exceptions as the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord. The last place you would expect to find an economical four-cylinder engine would be in the engine bay of a well-equipped Malibu.

Inside Story: 2009 Chevrolet Malibu LT 4 cylinder inside story chevrolet
Inside Story: 2009 Chevrolet Malibu LT 4 cylinder inside story chevrolet
Inside Story: 2009 Chevrolet Malibu LT 4 cylinder inside story chevrolet
2009 Chevrolet Malibu LT four-cylinder. Click image to enlarge

But now that GM’s Ecotec 2.4-litre four-cylinder engines offer respectable performance, and an NVH level that doesn’t rattle the floorboards, things have changed. Throw in a global economic meltdown, and you end up with the 2009 Malibu LT, equipped with a full suite of luxury trimmings and a 169-horsepower 2.4-litre Ecotec twin-cam four bent on thrift. Numerous accolades accompanied the launch of the new Malibu in 2008. The question put to Inside Story this week is whether or not this $29,590 example (The 2LT designation, for those keeping score) should be on a short list for your mid-size Loonie. (Prices shown do not include freight, taxes, regional or promotional incentives.)

The Cockpit/Centre Stack

The corporate GM three-spoke tilt/telescoping wheel continues to be a fave, especially with the integrated tabs for cruise control, audio, and a phone connectivity solution that is most welcome on the three o’clock spoke; Bluetooth is only an additional $150 on the option checklist, and appears to be a piggyback system that uses part of the OnStar components. Voice quality, according to those communicated with during testing, is best described as good, though set-up requires an immediate trip to the owner’s manual for first-time users. Up to five Bluetooth phones can be paired. The OnStar calling system is still available to use, and equip with separate calling plans.

Most curious is the inclusion of manu-matic shift controls on the wheel, to help wring the most out of the four-cylinder/six-speed automatic combo. The shift tabs are still too ‘plasticky’ for my liking, and practically a carbon copy of the paddles I didn’t like on the 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix. Minimal lag time presented itself during up or downshifts.

Auto headlamps are included, on the turn signal stalk, while wipers receive variable speed-sensitive intermittency. Instrumentation includes a proper coolant temperature sweep, with additional driver information items located in the central display, such as fuel economy readouts, outside temperature, and tire pressure monitoring. (Note: The TPMS is a $65 extra-cost option.)