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Thursday, Sep 21, 2017
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Malibu is a refreshing addition to General Motors' arsenal

OK, sing this little ditty to the tune of "Here Comes Santa Claus." Here comes Chevrolet, here comes Chevrolet - right down your driveway. That, my friends, is the song all Chevrolet dealers in the country will be singing this holiday season, and no doubt the rest of the year. How do I know this? Because I just drove the all-new 2008 Malibu and without reservation can say this is the most excited I have been about a General Motors product in many years. I spent far too little time behind the wheel, but the four or five hours I did, showed the bright side to this vehicle and what we can expect from the General. It does my heart good (and I am sure many Americans) to see GM begin to show how strong they can be in the auto market in the 21st century. If first impressions are anything, the Malibu is a solid start. The exterior design is far more expressive than most of what has been seen lately and only hints at what you will see once you open the doors. From the side, the Malibu resembles a Bavarian sports sedan. From the front, the Malibu carries a strong Chevy-like grille intersected by a large crossbar.
Part of the reason for the Bavarian reference is the wheelbase has been stretched just over 6 inches, setting the large wheels closer to the corners of the car. This also greatly improves handling, along with a MacPherson strut independent front and multilink rear suspension system. As I said, the surprise will come when you open the doors. Not only does the door and handle feel solid, but the image of a finely designed interior will make you take a step back to check the badge.
Though the Malibu comes in three different models, each features an up-level interior. The basic layout is a dual cockpit design that surrounds driver and front passenger. A strong center console presents a muscular image and displays a sound system and attractive climate controls, which can be manipulated with ease. No matter if you chose the entry level LS, the middle LT model or move up to the upper tier LTZ, you get top-quality interior materials. The dash, a main attraction point of all interiors, consists of a monotone scheme. Moving up-level, you can get a combination of contrasting color material accented by wood-like trim. Not overplayed here, designers have just the right touch to highlight the contours of the interior. Like the dash, the seating surfaces are attractively covered in cloth or leather depending on the model and option package. The front buckets are comfortable yet hold you securely in place, even during aggressive cornering. Likewise, the rear seat offers comfortable seating. I have never seen a deeper recess in the back of the front seats that increases the knee room for rear passengers than on the Malibu. Though the size of the interior space is nearly the same as the previous version, this car feels roomier. Three different power trains are available, including a hybrid version that provides outstanding fuel economy. Then again, all the engine choices do well in stretching miles from each gallon of gasoline. I am excited and enthusiastic about the all-new Malibu. If the reliability remains and the gang under Ed Peper's command keeps up the quality, I can see a lot of people happily singing that earlier ditty. More important, they will be putting a Malibu in their driveway.

Ron Moorhead, a nationally syndicated automotive columnist, can be reached at ronmoorhead@hotmail.com.

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