Interior Comfort and Ergonomics:
The drivers seat had a good range of adjustments. I was able to get the seat into a comfortable position with a minimum amount of messing about. Visibility is good as well. I had no issues with blind spots and the mirrors were very sufficient in that I could see wherever I needed to. Also, some of the compartments were well-thought out. I was a big fan of the little hidden compartment on the dashboard, and my cell phone fit snugly into a small compartment at the bottom of the center stack. It fit so well that I didn’t notice it on several occasions and left it in the car! I have to say that the instrument panel was really easy to read, and quite visible. It’s very simple, which is the best way to have it. Less to worry about, just show the necessary items. The Malibu did this very well.
Space. While the car looks roomy from the outside, it is anything BUT inside. It felt really small when I first got in. I was barely able to fit my bike in the back seat. I thought if I folded the seat down that I could make that work, but I found that the battery took up a considerable amount of space, height-wise, in the trunk area, only leaving a gap of maybe 10 inches between the top of the battery, and the top of the opening. You could stick skis through it, or a snowboard, or some 2×4′s. Maybe some golf clubs. The trunk space was pretty small, but you could make it work. While I got a bike, my spare wheels, a small cooler and a backpack in it, I was unable to carpool to a race, as I couldn’t fit much else in the car! Big bummer with the gas prices.
With the sun-visor down, it obscured a significant portion of the rear-view mirror. Not only is this ugly, but it’s dangerous. The visor should be re-designed to allow for this due to the small size of the cabin. The other “ugly” point, albeit not dangerous, is the lack of room for personal items in the cabin. For instance, there is a small bottle holder in the door pocket. Yet, I couldn’t get a bottle to stay IN the holder (the space was too short, and the holder lip too small). Nor was the pocket wide enough for me to put my CD case in. So I tried to put it in the center console. It wouldn’t fit, not even when I put it in at an angle. Only when I pushed down HARD, did it latch (probably not the best thing to do). There was no other place in the car I could store my CD case, unless it would fit under the seat. To me, the lack of thought into the standard conveniences that a lot of other car manufacturers build in, is a huge oversight. It wouldn’t cost Chevrolet more to make the door pocket a bit wider. Or the center console a bit deeper, or slightly taller. Sure, you could expand the size of the center console, but it was rather flimsy at best, and even then it only expanded the size lengthwise, not depth-wise, where you really needed the expansion.
I’m not sure if “performance” and “hybrid” really should go together in the same sentence. Honestly, I didn’t have high expectations for the performance of this car, and it didn’t let me down… I will give it high marks for accelerating while AT SPEED, as this seemed to be easy for the car. Acceleration from 0 to 40 is not so great. Steep hills presented a special challenge, as one would expect. Even with the gas pedal floored, I was losing steam pretty rapidly on a nasty grade, but a quick pop into the low gear got me up the hill. If one was interested in performance in a Malibu package, it seems that the Malibu LTZ would be what you wanted. But again, most hybrid purchasers realize that performance is going to take a back seat when considering fuel economy.
When the car switches from gas engine to battery power, it’s pretty rough. The first few times this happened to me, I honestly thought that the engine had died. The entire car actually shuddered. The same thing happened when the gas engine kicked back in. It may have done it while I was driving, but the times I noticed it was when I stopped. As soon as my foot hit the brake, the whole car shuddered and the battery engine kicked in. As soon as I took my foot off the brake at a stop sign or traffic light, same thing. While I couldn’t prevent it from being so rough at the times I stopped, I learned to let my foot off the brake gently as I anticipated having to go again, then when I’d put my foot on the accelerator, it was a significantly smoother start. Chevrolet needs to work on this transition, making it seamless, because it’s anything but!
Most of the “dinging” in the performance section is coming from the switch from battery to gas mode. I cannot, in good faith, fault the car for not having a lot of power.
(Continued on page 3 – Styling | Value | Conclusion and Ratings )