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The Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid (along with its mechanical twin, the Saturn Aura Hybrid) was GM's first foray into the midsize hybrid sedan segment. It was powered by a gas engine augmented by a small electric motor. Like other vehicles in its class, the Malibu Hybrid promised improved fuel economy along with passable performance and the typical virtues one would expect from a family sedan.
However, potential buyers should know that the Malibu is not a "Full" hybrid in the sense that it can utilize its electric motor solely to propel itself at city speeds (meaning up to 25 or 30 mph). The latter feature is what allows full hybrids to get such phenomenal fuel mileage in the city and in stop-and-go traffic. That said, the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid didn't demand the initial price premium of a full hybrid either.
Though we think fairly highly of the Malibu itself, we honestly didn't see the point in this half-baked hybrid and would advise those who are looking for a used hybrid midsize sedan to consider the "real" versions offered by the Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry lineups.
Most Recent Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid Models
The Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid was produced from 2008-'10 essentially unchanged throughout its short model run. The Malibu Hybrid came in one well-equipped trim level with standard features that included alloy wheels, full power features, keyless entry, automatic climate control and a CD stereo with MP3 playback, an auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio. The few options included a power driver seat and a sunroof.
Under the hood, the Malibu Hybrid featured a four-cylinder gas engine coupled with a tiny electric motor. Unlike cutting-edge, full-hybrid competitors, the Malibu relied on its gas engine to do almost all of the work. The gas mill was a 2.4-liter unit rated at 164 horsepower and 159 pound-feet of torque; the electric motor added a maximum of 5 hp for a total of 169.
The electric motor could only propel the Malibu Hybrid by itself at speeds of up to 3 mph, and came into play to assist the gas engine under hard acceleration. However, its main task was to restart the gas engine, which automatically shut off during a full stop to minimize fuel consumption. At 24 mpg city/32 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined, the Malibu Hybrid's EPA-rated fuel economy was just 2 mpg higher than the non-hybrid four-cylinder Malibu. And the hybrid's acceleration was leisurely at best, with the benchmark 0-60-mph sprint requiring about 11 seconds.
Measured against other contemporary midsize hybrid sedans, our editors agreed that the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid fell short. Competing models offered far more impressive gains in fuel economy relative to their non-hybrid four-cylinder brethren -- the Ford Fusion Hybrid rated 36 mpg city/41 mpg highway, the Altima Hybrid 35/33 and the Camry Hybrid 33/34. This is largely because the electric motors in these models were far more powerful than the one in the Malibu, which allowed them to operate solely on electric power at city speeds. The extra electric power also enabled these sedans to accelerate with more authority. The Malibu did boast a considerable price advantage over those more sophisticated hybrids, but its modest fuel economy advantage over the base four-cylinder Malibu made it a questionable economic choice.
On the upside, the Malibu offered the same refined ride and attractive interior design as the non-hybrid Malibu. Ergonomics were first-rate, road and wind noise were muted and the front seats nicely shaped for long hauls. Rear-seat legroom was excellent, although the rakish rear roof line could limit headroom for taller passengers and there was no center armrest. And one notable advantage of the Malibu's relatively puny electric motor system is that the trunk wasn't filled with space-eating battery packs.