NEW FOR 2009:

– 2.4-litre standard on LTZ; V6 is optional
– Six-speed automatic transmission standard on 2LT and optional on 1LT
– Standard StabiliTrak electronic stability control with brake assist and traction control
– Standard 17-inch wheels on LS, 1LT and Hybrid
– Hybrid fuel economy improves over 2008 model
– Bluetooth connectivity available with new OnStar 8.0 system
– Exterior colours: Silver Ice Metallic, Summit White Metallic, Gold Mist Metallic, Golden Pewter Metallic and Silver Moss Metallic added

Having been completely redesigned for 2008, the Chevrolet Malibu gets some fine-tuning for 2009. The 2.4-litre is now standard equipment on all trim levels (the earliest 2008 LTZ models were V6-only), and electronic stability control is now across-the-board. The Hybrid’s fuel economy improves from 2008, when it was 8.5 L/100 km (city) and 6.2 (highway); the published figures are now 7.9 and 5.8, respectively.

Trim lines for the Malibu are the LS, 1LT, 2LT and LTZ; the Malibu Hybrid comes in a single trim line.

Malibu models use a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine, mated to a four-speed automatic in the LS and 1LT, and to a six-speed automatic in the 2LT and LTZ; the six-speed can be added as an optional to the 1LT. The 2LT and LTZ can be optioned to a 3.6-litre V6 with six-speed automatic. The Hybrid uses the 2.4-litre four-cylinder with an electric motor/generator and four-speed automatic transmission.

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

Features on the LS include 17-inch painted wheels, air conditioning, automatic headlamps, keyless entry, OnStar with Turn-by-Turn Navigation, power mirrors, variable intermittent speed-sensitive wipers, cruise control, floor mats, driver information centre, tilt and telescopic wheel, power window with driver’s auto-down, cloth seats, power driver’s height adjuster, 60/40 split-folding rear seat, CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary input, and six speakers.

The 1LT adds 17-inch chrome-finished wheels, chrome-tipped exhaust, body-colour mirrors, wheel-mounted audio controls, and stereo with speed-compensated volume control.

The 2LT adds 17-inch bright aluminum wheels, remote starter, dual rear reading lamps, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, leather-wrapped wheel, garage door opener, UltraLux Sheer Suede upholstery, and heated seats with six-way power driver’s adjustment.

The LTZ adds 18-inch bright aluminum wheels, automatic climate control, fog lights, heated mirrors with driver’s side auto-dimming, LED taillights, cargo net, premium floor mats, premium cluster appearance, trunk mat, heated leather seats with eight-way driver and six-way passenger power adjustment, six-CD/MP3 stereo and XM satellite radio.

Features on the Hybrid include 17-inch bright aluminum wheels, automatic climate control, automatic headlamps, keyless entry, chrome-tipped exhaust, body-colour power mirrors, speed-sensitive variable intermittent wipers, cruise control, floor mats, driver information centre, charge/assist gauge, "eco" light, auto stop indicator, tilt and telescopic wheel with audio controls, power windows with driver’s express-down, cloth seats with driver’s power height adjuster, 60/40 split-folding rear seat, CD/MP3 stereo, and XM satellite radio.

The Malibu’s redesign was an exceptional one, and the 2009 follows through on it, adding safety features to all models. Fit-and-finish is excellent, both engines are strong choices, and handling is sharp and accurate. The Hybrid doesn’t have all the features of a full gasoline/electric model, but it’s relatively inexpensive and the new fuel figures make it even more economical. It’s also nice that the four-cylinder is available in all trim lines of the regular Malibu, including the range-topping LTZ.

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