I’m not sure this is getting to be a trend that I’m running across vehicles that I generally overlook only to find they are bordering on magnificence. But once again I was more than pleasantly surprised by a vehicle which I had access to for a couple of weeks.
Maybe it’s the fact that I’m getting older and some of the things that excited me as a young guy aren’t (quite) as important anymore. Who knows? But there’s something about the old standards that remind me that summer days are sometimes meant for cruising not bruising.
This time I had access to a 2020 Chevrolet Malibu LT.
I’ve always liked the looks of the new model, but had always trended towards more luxurious or expensive models or brands. This Malibu was purely a slice of middle-America, middle-class, moderately priced example of Americana.
I mean this model was moderately equipped with everything I needed. I’ll place the emphasis on “needed”. There were no fancy things like heated steering wheels, garage door openers, inside trunk releases (at least I couldn’t find it in the two weeks I had it), leather, or other things I felt I couldn’t do without. What it did have was one of the most comfortable driving experiences I’ve enjoyed in a long while.
The Chevrolet Malibu is the mid-sized brother to the Chevy Impala which is soon to go away we hear. I guess to be honest this Malibu had more than enough room both front and rear. Pricing of this LT model is below $30K but you can get into Malibu trims in the low 20’s. That’s insane for what you get! Truthfully, this model had me reassessing my lead-pipe lock that I MUST have a higher end luxury vehicle.
Okay, so what better place to enjoy “See the USA, in your Chevrolet” than in the American West. So we did, including some Arizona portions of Historic Route 66.
About the car. I loved the visual appeal of the Malibu. True for my tastes, I’d like to put a slight tint to the windows and maybe delete some chrome, but that’s me. I lean toward sportiness in a vehicle. But for what it is, it’s great. Nothing splashy, but definitely clean and efficient. Modern looking as well.
The interior was outfitted with a cloth blend that was great. I’ve had leather in the majority of my vehicles and I agree with the current trend towards more sustainable materials and textiles. I’m sure manufacturers will at some point create modern textiles that retain or elevate the sensory demands we have that only fine leather can meet. In the meanwhile, I enjoy a good cloth seat.
Instrumentation was more than adequate in this mid-range Malibu, LT trim. It includes an infotainment cluster that has an 8-inch touch screen that included Android Auto and Apple Car Play. These days there really is no need to spring for the manufacturers navigation system when we have better alternatives such as with Android and Apple. Where a manufacturer’s navigation system is out of date almost the next month you drive off the lot, the mobile based systems continuously update with maps, travel and road conditions.
Okay, so aside from the fact that this Malibu was a good looking “standard” vehicle, not harmed by the fact that you see them everywhere if you look, the thing I most appreciated and fell in love with on this car was the ease and comfort of it.
This 2020 Chevrolet Malibu seemed to be the EASIEST vehicle to drive. There was good steering feedback and input, but not too much or too little. It had a very compliant ride, but not too cushy nor to sporty. The driving “size” was great. It wasn’t too big at all, but easily fit everything or everybody we would want to carry without being wasteful.
I realized this car had the 1.5L Turbo engine with the CVT transmission. This was a surprise as this Malibu was “swift”. If you pushed it you realized it wasn’t fast by any stretch. It wasn’t even “quick”. But it was actually really “swift” if that makes any sense. Nailing the throttle didn’t do much, but squeezing it yielded surprisingly swift responses.
I’ve driven CVTs before and they seemed fine albeit a little delayed or so. This CVT Malibu would jump into action from any speed from that same little squeeze of the throttle. There was no need to downshift for added torque, it just swiftly jumped ahead. In all honesty, this is one of the more surprising drivability benefits I found. Be it on the streets, away from a light or on the interstate executing a pass, “squeezing” the throttle gave immediate and good response. Surprisingly so. At no time did I want for more power if I let it do what it does best…again, in the mid-range of requests.
The fuel economy was right where they quote and maybe a bit better. I averaged in the upper 30mpg range. This was for a lot of interstate, but still with lots of city driving in Vegas. There were times on the flat roadway at speed we greatly exceeded 39mpg. But that of course was with ideal conditions, etc. Overall, I was not disappointed with mileage. I even like the cap-less fuel filler.
For a low to mid-priced vehicle I really enjoyed it. True there were a couple of trim issues that were not really noticeable but were there if you looked, but you had to look for them.
The start-stop system also did its job and didn’t interfere with the experience like it does on some vehicles.
I guess what I’m getting at is this vehicle had just the right amount of everything even though I would have thought I needed more. I really didn’t. Once I got to appreciate how less CAN be enough, or even more if done correctly. This Malibu did it correctly.
In summary, this Malibu was more than a pleasant surprise. So much so that I’ve been looking into securing one as my daily get-about. I actually enjoyed it that much. Its good to see American manufacturers still making good sedans like this and the Ford Fusion. I know there is a trend toward everything being a crossover SUV. I have one. But until I got into this Malibu, I forgot how comfortable and usable a true, good, mid-sized sedan can be.