NEW FOR 2008:

– Completely redesigned model

For 2008, the Chevrolet Malibu is completely redesigned from the ground up. It is available only as a four-door sedan; the Malibu Maxx hatchback has been discontinued, along with the Malibu SS.

Using midsize architecture shared with the Saturn Aura, the Malibu is available with a choice of two conventional gasoline engines or as a mild hybrid. All trim lines come standard with a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine, while the mid-range LT and top-level LTZ can be optioned to a 3.6-litre V6. The Hybrid uses the 2.4-litre with an electric motor/generator. The four-cylinder engines are mated to a four-speed automatic, the V6 to a six-speed automatic with manual shift mode; later in the model year, all engines will switch to the six-speed auto.

The Hybrid, which comes in a single trim line, is a "mild" hybrid: it can’t run solely on its battery, but the electric motor boosts the gasoline engine on acceleration, it shuts off fuel during deceleration, and it has an auto-stop mode that switches the engine off during idle. The battery system, which contains three cells that can be individually replaced, is recharged through regenerative braking.

Features on the LS include 16-inch steel wheels, air conditioning, power mirrors, speed-sensitive variable intermittent wipers, cruise control, floor mats, driver information centre, tire pressure monitoring system, tilt and telescopic column, power windows, power driver’s seat height adjustment, 60/40 split-folding rear seat, CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary jack, electric power steering, automatic headlamps, power locks with keyless entry, and OnStar with Turn by Turn Navigation function.

The 1LT adds 17-inch chrome-finish wheels, wheel-mounted audio controls, upgraded stereo, chrome exhaust tip, and StabiliTrak stability control.

The 2LT adds 17-inch bright aluminum wheels, dual rear reading lamps, auto-dimming mirror with compass, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, illuminated vanity mirrors, garage door opener, heated seats with UltraLux Sheer Suede inserts, six-way power driver’s seat, remote vehicle starter and power-adjustable pedals.

The LTZ adds 18-inch aluminum wheels, heated two-tone leather seats with eight-way driver and six-way passenger power adjustment, fog lamps, heated mirrors with driver’s side auto-dimming, LED taillights, automatic climate control, cargo net, premium floor mats, trunk mat, six-CD/MP3 stereo, XM Satellite Radio, and hydraulic power steering.

Features on the Hybrid include 16-inch aluminum wheels, automatic air conditioning with power saver mode, power mirrors, speed-sensitive variable intermittent wipers, cruise control, floor mats, hybrid instrumentation, driver information centre, tire pressure monitoring system, tilt and telescopic wheel with audio controls, power windows, power locks with keyless entry, cloth seats with power driver’s height adjustment, 60/40 split folding rear seat, CD/MP3 stereo with XM Satellite Radio, StabiliTrak stability control, electric power steering, automatic headlamps and OnStar with Turn by Turn Navigation function.

The Malibu has undergone a complete transformation, and not just its appearance: the new model features attractive styling, two excellent engine choices, exceptional fit and finish, very sharp and accurate steering and handling, and a new relatively low-cost hybrid version. It’s nice that the economical four-cylinder engine is available in all trim lines, so that buyers can load up on extras without automatically having to switch to the V6 engine. While Toyota Camry and Honda Accord have traditionally dominated this segment of the marketplace, General Motors now has a vehicle that can viably compete head-to-head with them in every aspect.

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