Rental Car Review: "Malibu, Baby!"
Wait…is this still in production?
That is the big question surrounding the 2022 Chevrolet Malibu. I thought this was its last year and they would make room for more SUV production at their Fairfax, Kansas assembly facility.
Nonetheless, this is General Motors’ big secret vehicle. It comes from a lineup that has been decimated at the product planning war room. The economical Spark – done for 2022. The subcompact Sonic – pulverized. The compact Cruze – forget about it. And, don’t even bring up the Impala. That’s been thrown out the door at the Renaissance Center some time ago.
All that’s left are a bunch of SUVs, crossovers, Bolt EVs, pickup trucks, Corvettes, Camaros…and the Malibu.
Before I get into why this has become GM’s mystery car, I should actually tell you about how it drives. After all, one may be waiting for you at any given rental car office across North America. This one certainly did…
There is a bit of swagger to this aging but stylish number. It screams Trinity The Tuck’s RuPaul Drag Race All Stars Season 4’s “Snatch Game” character Caitlyn Jenner’s words: “Malibu, baby!”
Keep in mind that this generation of Malibu arrived in 2015 for the 2016 model year.
The Malibu drove Chevrolet design forward – which it did. Its design elements are found across Chevrolet’s SUV/crossover lineup – even in its pickup trucks. The sleek design has stood the test of time, even though time has not been kind to the mid-size sedan segment. The lower grille is large, but it befits the Malibu just fine.
There are some design elements that sort of work. The taillights seem a bit awkward, yet the rest of the rear deck looked fine. However, the sporty 18-inch optional alloy wheels truly make a statement against the boring silver paint job.
Stepping inside the Malibu was also a mixed bag. Yes, it is contemporary on a level, but there are some bits that haven’t aged well. The shifter has been around for almost a decade and the long-throw design could throw you off. The steering wheel is a bit thin at the rim with some of GM’s switchgear that are not exactly good to the touch. Neither are the key fob’s functions.
The information screen is full of data to sort through, which is helpful. Luckily, there are two big analog dials and gauges that are readable. The back lighting needs more brightness settings. The Chevrolet infotainment System is fine, but smartphone integration was a bit spotty at times.
Seating was fine. You can get a family of five in the Malibu. The driver’s seat kept me comfortable, with plenty of support. I did not experience any fatigue from long stints behind the wheel. Rear seat room was good, even with the low roofline for folks my height to sit comfortably. There is 15.7 cubic feet of trunk space, which is sizeable and accessible through a good load height.
Power comes from a 160-horsepower 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. That figure may seem low by modern standards in its class. However, it does pack some low end torque when you need it – 184 pound-feet worth. This engine goes through a continuously variable transmission before sending power to the front wheels.
The Malibu drives just fine. A bit of harshness from the driveline, but tolerable when it is cruising along. It is evident that this driveline was developed for fuel efficiency in mind. With that said, I tuned in an average of 31.2 MPG.
The Malibu exhibits a smooth ride and offers up no drama. That is, if you get on a cloverleaf interchange or do some evasive maneuver. The roll was there, but the Malibu offers plenty of control overall.
The steering was fine. On-center feel was on the light side, and I just wished the turning radius was a tad tighter. Brake pedal feel was solid, as was the response to the wheels. Decent stops were had in normal and panic situations.
As equipped, this 2022 Chevrolet Malibu LT came in with a sticker price of $27,995. With four trim levels available, the pricing for the 2022 Malibu starts at $23,400.
Before you consider anything, here’s the rub on the 2022 Malibu. The confusion of whether this would be the final model year for Chevrolet’s mid-size sedan could be based on the trend to eliminate sedans and hatchbacks in favor of SUVs, crossovers, and battery-electric vehicles. The good news is that the Malibu will continue to be offered into 2023 in its current state. The bad news is…good luck trying to get one brand new.
GM had to run out 2022 model year production of the Malibu at Fairfax to make sure they get to their customers – mostly fleet ones. You can rent one, if the availability was there. Or, wait until they reach dealerships as part of their used car inventory. I’d suggest getting one GM’s Certified Pre-Owned vehicle program.
Nonetheless, the Chevrolet Malibu is a very nice car. It’s not great nor absolutely terrible. It is simply a mode of transportation with a bit of style thrown in. If it is your style, then your next business trip of vacation will be just fine.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle was rented by Victory & Reseda
All photos by Randy Stern