2005 Chevrolet Malibu Maxx LS 4dr Hatchback (3.5L 6cyl 4A)
Boy-- two months ago, I didn't know I'd be driving one of these. First test drive seemed a bit too large (I was coming off an Elantra), plus I generally prefer a 5-speed. However, the overall balance of the car, plus its tremendous flexibility means that it's a pleasure so far. Car and Driver and Edmunds both knock the engine for being an OHV throwback to earlier times, but the engine seems very responsive-- if not overly smooth, and gets great gas mileage for a 3.5 liter-- within a mile or two of my Elantra. The electric steering has also received knocks, but I find the feedback and overall road feel very good for a car of this size. Maybe GM is getting better with the '05's.
Driver center has lots of functions, movable pedals, power everything, funny little sunroof. With the exception of side airbags, a lighted ignition key area, and a sunglass holder this car's got everything the E. had and lots more-- in the base car. Lots of flexibility-- high MPG.
Base upholstery a bit plain jane, think microfiber could be brought to base car with leather on high end models. Black control center and instruments could stand pseudo metal. Side airbags wouldn't hurt. Lighting OK but more of a monochromatic (white) look would be classier.