Inside and out, the Malibu gets an entirely new look, with new attention to detail and increased storage. The flowing instrument panel forms a "dual cockpit" design, while LTZ models get front fog lamps and attention-getting LED rear lamps.
With its significantly longer wheelbase and wheels spaced farther out toward the corners, along with a new four-wheel independent suspension and larger wheels, the new Malibu is said to have a smoother ride and better handling response. All models include a stabilizer bar in back to provide crisp handling and good body control. Four-cylinder models have electric variable-assist steering while V6 models have hydraulic power steering.
The interior is now available in two-tone trim, and gauges now have distinctive blue backlighting. Available ambient lighting now backlights the center console and door pulls, and the overhead console in LTZ models bathes the center console area with LED light.
All Malibu models, including the base LS, come quite well equipped, with cruise control, remote keyless entry, a tilt/telescope steering wheel, and an MP3-compatible CD audio system. Top LTZ models include features such as leather seats (heated in front), steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, and a remote starter system. Major options include a power sunroof and an upgraded audio system with six-disc changer.
Head-curtain side air bags covering front and rear outboard seats are now on the standard-equipment list for all models, along with seat-mounted thorax-protecting air bags. StabiliTrak electronic stability control is standard equipment on LT and LTZ models (not available on LS), and now incorporates a panic-brake assistance feature to give full braking power in quick-response situations.
For the first time, a Hybrid model joins the Malibu lineup. With the 2.4L Ecotec four-cylinder engine plus an electric motor starter/generator system, the hybrid powertrain is rated at 164 horsepower altogether, and a sophisticated control system automatically shuts off the engine when stopped, restarting it seamlessly when taking off from a stoplight, and recaptures energy lost during coasting and braking. Hybrid models also get a unique gauge cluster that relays information about the system's operation. Hybrid models achieve EPA fuel-efficiency ratings of 24 city, 32 highway.