Fuel-sipper Malibu hybrid is dependable, spacious
THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2009 Chevrolet Malibu hybrid midsize sedan. DOWN THE ROAD: A carryover from 2008, the hybrid version of this front-wheel-drive system sits on a body-frame integral structure. There's no need to plug in the car overnight to charge its battery and the electric motor/generator work in tandem for a smooth, comfortable ride. TECH & PERFORMANCE: A 2.4-liter Ecotec inline four-cylinder engine develops 164 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 159 pounds-feet of torque at 5000 rpm. It's mated to an electric motor/generator, which turns the engine off at a stop, ensuring fuel savings. The vehicle also consumes less fuel during a slowdown that can result in regenerative braking to charge the nickel-metal hydride battery. Front suspension is handled adeptly by a MacPherson strut with aluminum L-shaped control arms while the rear gets a four-link independent suspension with twin-tube gas shocks and coil springs. The standard four-speed automatic transmission gets the job done. LOOK & FEEL: The fresh Chevy look comes into play with the centered and familiar bowtie emblem on the dual-split grille. As your eyes glance over at the front body sides and trunk door, you notice the hybrid badges. Step inside the cozy cabin and the three-pod instrument panel with blue backlit gauges affirms the hybrid appearance. An Auto Stop indicator in the tachometer, an Eco (economy) display light and the assist-charge gauge keep track of the car's fuel-efficiency features. The three-spoke, tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel has a robust feel. Automatic climate control, driver information center, remote keyless entry, rear fold-down seat, power door locks, windows and trunk release, are standard. The plentiful storage bins and trays, especially atop the dashboard and center console, will come in handy.SAFETY FIRST: Standard features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes, stability and traction control, antiskid system, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights. OUT THE DOOR: $24,695, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, P215/55R17 touring; wheelbase, 112.3 inches; length, 191.8 inches; weight, 3,415 pounds; fuel capacity, 16.3 gallons; highway, 34 mpg; city, 26 mpg. WHY DIG IT: Fuel savings in a dependable and spacious ride. Yes, that's a no-brainer but it's always nice to save more money as gasoline prices hover around $1.80 a gallon. Helping to seal the incredible deal is a five-year, 100,000-mile power train limited warranty and an extended eight-year/100,000-mile hybrid component warranty.
Nitish S. Rele is an advertising staff writer for The Tampa Tribune.