The Malibu is one of Chevrolet's success stories, and the 2010 has been tweaked to keep it on par with the top sedans in its segment such as the Ford Taurus, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
The front-wheel-drive Malibu, built in GM's Fairfax plant in Kansas City, Kan., comes in three trim levels, and the standard engine is a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder with 169 horsepower. A 3.6-liter V-6 with 252 horsepower is optional. Prices begin at $21,825 for the LS and top out at $26,955 for the LTZ. The test car was a V-6-powered LTZ with a sticker price of $29,370.
Standard equipment for 2010 includes side-curtain air bags and front-seat thorax air bags, along with anti-lock brakes, traction control and tire-pressure monitoring. Remote starting is an option that is very handy in cold weather.
The Malibu's grille reflects the global face of Chevrolet, while the rest of the body's styling is clean and uncluttered, with elegantly simple lines and tight panel gaps. The profile is especially nice with the LTZ's 18-inch alloy wheels.
The 112.3-inch wheelbase results in a large cabin and room for five people.
The standard engine is a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder with 169 horsepower. A 3.6-liter V-6 with 252 horsepower is optional. Each has a six-speed automatic transmission.
The 3.6-liter is the best choice for power and smoothness. The four-cylinder is best for ultimate fuel economy because it is rated at 32 mpg on the highway.
The Malibu looks, feels and drives solidly. The overall ride quality is smooth and tight without being harsh. The lack of noise can be attributed to the use of spray-on sound deadener, laminated steel, composite wheel liners and laminated "quiet glass."
The LTZ also has buttons on the steering wheel for operating the cruise control and audio system. Sound quality is nice, and the radio has a jack for an MP3 player.
The Malibu's interior reflects attention to detail and upgraded materials. The front seats were covered in a handsome combination of two-tone leather.
The instrument panel has a dual-cockpit design. Three gauges, trimmed with chrome, sit in a large pod. Blue backlighting is easy on the eyes at night, and tiny blue LEDs shine on the center console and light up the door handles at night.
A storage compartment atop the dash is good for sunglasses or maps, while the center console is deep enough to hold large items.
The LTZ test car had a strip of thin wood-grain trim that ran across the doors, onto the dash and around the top of the center stack. While it didn't look like real wood, it was a handsome accent that was cleverly executed.
An available rear power center provides a household-style 110-volt AC power outlet.
The back of the split-folding seat is covered with a hard surface for wear protection. The opening between the trunk and cabin is not overly generous, but it is still wide enough for many large objects. The trunk has a lot of space.
2010 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ
Engine: 3.6-liter, 252-hp V-6
Curb weight: 3,649 lbs.
Base price: $26,955
As driven: $29,370
MPG rating: 17 city, 26 hwy.
Tom Strongman's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.