The 2012 Chevy Malibu is the last production year for this latest generation which began with the much coveted 2007 North American Car of the Year award. While still a solid and very popular midsize sedan, the Malibu is getting a redesign for the 2013 model year. Those unwilling to wait, however, will find the 2012 Malibu still has plenty to offer, including a comfortable ride, capable handling, a strong V6 engine, good looks and a quiet interior.
Still, the midsize sedan market is extremely competitive and other worthy rivals have made improvements in recent years. Since it's always wise to check out other top choices before making a final buying decision, those perhaps worth consideration would include the Hyundai Sonata as well as its Kia Optima sibling, along with the newly revised and now less expensive Volkswagen Passat, the Ford Fusion and the Nissan Altima.
Trims, Standard Features And Options:
The 2012 Malibu is available in three trims: LS, LT and LTZ, along with several sub-models.
Standard features on the Malibu LS include power door locks, power mirrors, power windows, air-conditioning, automatic headlights, halogen headlights, cruise control, a partial power driver seat (lumbar), keyless entry, 17-inch steel wheels, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, a tire pressure monitor, an aniti-theft system, OnStar and a 6-speaker audio system with a CD player, MP3 player, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack.
Moving up to the Malibu LT includes choosing among 1LT, 2LT and 3LT sub-models. Among the features added with the 1LT are steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, 17-inch bright aluminum wheels, a USB audio jack and body-color outside mirrors and side moldings. The 2LT goes on to add remote ignition, Bluetooth, chrome wheels, more power driver seat adjustments, upgraded upholstery, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The 3LT includes all this plus 18-inch chrome-tech aluminum wheels, chrome dual exhaust tips and a rear 110-volt AC power outlet.
Standard features for the 1LZ trim of the top-of-the line Malibu LTZ include projector-beam and LED clear lens fog lamps, a silver finish front grille with chrome surround, chrome door handles, a chrome exhaust tip, 18-inch 10-spoke bright aluminum wheels, heated passenger and driver exterior mirrors, climate control, a sunroof, a power passenger seat, leather upholstery and an 8-speaker Bose Audio system. The 2LZ is equipped very much like the 1LZ but includes a more powerful V6 engine.
In terms of available options, most of these features are available in various packages for the lower trims. In addition, a sunroof is offered as a stand-alone option on the LT model.
Engines, Powertrain And Gas Mileage:
All Malibus are front-wheel drive and equipped with a 6-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control. The standard engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 169 horsepower and 160 pound-feet of torque. The fuel economy for this engine is EPA-estimated at 22 mpg city and 33 mpg on the highway. In performance tests, a four-cylinder Malibu was timed from a standstill to 60 mph in 9.1 seconds, about on par with the average four-cylinder sedan in this segment.
Under the hood of 3LT and 2LZ models is a 3.6-liter V6 that pumps out 252 horsepower and 251 pound-feet. Gas mileage for these models stands at 17 mpg city and 26 highway. Timed from 0 - 60 mph in just 6.7 seconds, its one of the quickest V6 sedans in its class.
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Standard safety features for all 2012 Malibus include traction and stability control, 4-wheel antilock disc brakes (ABS), front seat side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags and the OnStar telematics system.
In government crash tests, the 2012 Malibu received four out of five stars for overall occupant protection, consisting of four stars for frontal-impacts and five stars for side-impacts.
The Malibu's cabin is comfortable, attractive and user-friendly. If there's a downside, there are a few places where lower-quality materials are used, though not to an extent that it becomes a likely deal breaker. On the plus side, the abundant use of noise insulation makes for a very pleasant and quiet driving environment.
The seats are comfortable and supportive, both front and rear. That said, the rear quarters are on the tight side when accommodating three adults compared to some of its rivals. Trunk space, however, is a generous 15.1 cubic feet ... and more is available thanks to the 60/40-split-folding rear seatbacks. But also note that the trunk opening is somewhat small, making for some jostling of larger items when loading and unloading.
The drive of the 2012 Chevy Malibu is one of its best attributes, boasting a smooth and quiet ride while still maintaining a highly capable and confident level of handling. The steering is light yet still responsive and precise, whether its the electric-assisted power steering (increases gas mileage performance) in the four-cylinder models or the hydraulic steering assist in the V6 models.
Both engines are quite competent and the four-cylinder is likely lively enough to satisfy the needs of most drivers while being significantly more gas-friendly. That said, those who put a higher value on brisk acceleration and having power at the ready will find the V6 models are easily up to the task.
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