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June 18, 2008 > Auto Review: 2008 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

Auto Review: 2008 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

By Dick Ryan, Freelance Automotive Journalist, Member of the Western Automotive Journalists, RRYAN@FRK.COM

The 2008 Malibu Hybrid is the third hybrid I have driven. It performed more like a "regular" car than the other hybrids. Unless you were trying to find the differences, it was hard to tell that the Malibu was a hybrid.

Externally, there are no real differences between the hybrid and regular Malibus. There is a small "Hybrid" badge on the rear, but that is the only difference I could find. I could not find any differences in the interior.

First, let's talk about Chevy's new Malibu model lineup that came out late in 2007. It has won awards and praise from many corners of the automotive industry. I think it deserves all the praise it has received. It is a pleasant car to look at, drive, ride in, and live with on a day-to-day basis. The Malibu rode well and the interior was well laid out with a large trunk, easy to use controls and the back seat was comfortable for large adults.

There are 3 non-hybrid Malibu models; all use regular unleaded gas. The base LS uses GM's 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder Ecotec engine with 169 HP and 160 foot pounds of torque that gets 22 city mpg and 30 mpg in the EPA highway test. It has a 4-speed automatic transmission and a base price of $19,995.

The base LT, starting at $21,280, uses the same drive train as the LS but a 3.6-liter V-6 is available with a 6-speed automatic. The V-6 is rated at 252 HP and 251 foot pounds, and its EPA numbers are 17/26. An additional $2,060 is added to the price, but you also get 18-inch wheels with it. The LTZ model comes with the V-6 and the 6-speed automatic transmission. Starting at $27,445, it includes many upgraded features.

The Malibu Hybrid does not use any really exotic technology and, therefore, does not get a huge increase in its gas mileage numbers. Its numbers are 2 miles per gallon higher than the LS model that has the same Ecotec engine. The main change for the hybrid is a system that shuts off the engine when the Malibu stops. A second or two after the Malibu Hybrid comes to a complete stop, the engine shuts off. (It usually did not shut off for "California stops" at stop signs.) As long as you have your foot on the brake, the engine stays off, saving gas. When you take your foot off the brake, the engine starts, and you are ready to move forward. There is a slightly noticeable "klunk" when it shuts off and when it starts back up, but I'll bet passengers will not even notice.

The Malibu Hybrid also has a regenerative braking system that recaptures energy while the car is slowing down or braking. This electrical energy is stored in the battery for later use.

The other hybrid change is that the alternator is replaced by a computer controlled motor generator unit that can add power to the drive train. Due to all the electrical changes, the Malibu Hybrid has a battery pack installed in the trunk that takes up a minor amount of space.

Because the hybrid technology isn't radical, gas mileage doesn't improve too much. But then, the additional cost of the Hybrid isn't much either. In fact, at a base price of $22,790, it is one of the lowest cost hybrids in the USA.

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