2012 Chevrolet Malibu Sedan Review | Edmunds.com

2012 Chevrolet Malibu Sedan

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Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) is a category of used car. Often late-model vehicles, they have been inspected, refurbished, if necessary, and are under warranty by the manufacturer.
Chevrolet Malibu Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 2.4 L Inline 4-cylinder
  • Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 6-speed Automatic
  • Horse Power 169 hp @ 6400 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 22/33 mpg
  • Bluetooth Yes
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats Yes

Review of the 2012 Chevrolet Malibu

  • Considering the number of superior midsize sedans on the market and the fact that an all-new Malibu is just around the corner, the 2012 Chevrolet Malibu is hard to recommend.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Strong V6; comfortable ride; strong brakes; quiet cabin; simple controls.

  • Cons

    Rear seat is less spacious than rivals; inconsistent quality of cabin materials; lacks some competitive features.

  • What's New for 2012

    With an all-new 2013 model waiting in the wings, the 2012 Chevy Malibu gets only minor changes including a few new options packages.

Full 2012 Chevrolet Malibu Review

What's New for 2012

With an all-new 2013 model waiting in the wings, the 2012 Chevy Malibu gets only minor changes including a few new options packages.


Like the fleeting careers of many celebrities who call Malibu (the place) home, the story of the 2012 Chevrolet Malibu (the car) is a lesson in just how fast things can change. It was just four years ago that this then-new seventh-generation midsize sedan took home the prestigious North American Car of the Year award. And while the Malibu is still a fine car, the landscape in the midsize sedan category has changed so dramatically in recent years that this one-time media darling no longer quite measures up to the competition.

To its credit, the Malibu still has some strengths, including attractive styling, nicely balanced ride and handling qualities and quick acceleration with the V6 engine. But these merits are overshadowed by a cramped rear seat, the use of some subpar quality interior materials and the lack of popular convenience and safety features available on competitive models.

Most of all, however, the Malibu has been bettered by an onslaught of competitor models. The sleek Hyundai Sonata and related Kia Optima offer excellent engines, attractive style and loads of value for the money. The Volkswagen Passat is now cheaper and larger than before, while the highly regarded Ford Fusion and sporty Nissan Altima are both very strong contenders. Complicating matters further is the fact that an all-new eighth-generation Malibu will debut as a 2013 model in the early months of 2012, and it looks very impressive. Put all this together and we have a hard time recommending the 2012 Chevrolet Malibu.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2012 Chevrolet Malibu is offered in three basic trim levels -- LS, LT and LTZ -- that are then broken down into several sub-models.

The standard equipment for the entry-level Malibu LS includes 17-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, cloth upholstery, a partial power driver seat, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, keyless entry, cruise control, air-conditioning, full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, OnStar and a six-speaker CD/MP3 stereo with satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack.

The next step up is the LT, which is subdivided into 1LT, 2LT and 3LT models. High points here include 17-inch alloy wheels, body-color outside mirrors and side moldings, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and a USB audio jack. The 2LT and 3LT come with all that plus upgraded upholstery, remote ignition, additional power driver seat adjustments, heated front seats, Bluetooth and a rear-seat 110-volt household-style AC power outlet.

Spring for the range-topping LTZ and you'll get 18-inch alloy wheels, foglamps, heated outside mirrors, a sunroof, LED taillights, automatic climate control, leather upholstery, upgraded instruments, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and an eight-speaker Bose audio system. Many of these features are also grouped into options packages that can be added to the lower trim levels. In addition, a sunroof is available on all models except the LS.

Powertrains and Performance

The standard engine for the 2012 Malibu is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that puts out 169 horsepower and 160 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control. Estimated fuel economy for this powertrain is 22 mpg city/33 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined. In Edmunds performance testing, a four-cylinder Malibu reached 60 mph in 9.1 seconds, which is about average for four-cylinder-powered sedans in this class.

A 3.6-liter V6 good for 252 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque is available on LT and LTZ models. The six-speed automatic is standard here as well. Fuel economy is estimated at 17/26/20 mpg. Our test of a V6-equipped Malibu resulted in a 0-60-mph sprint in just 6.7 seconds, making it one of the quicker V6 sedans in its category.


The 2012 Chevy Malibu comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front seat side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags and the OnStar telematics system.

In government crash testing the Malibu earned an overall rating of four stars out of a possible five, with four stars for overall frontal crash protection and five stars for overall side impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Malibu its highest rating of "Good" in its frontal-offset and side-impact testing. In Edmunds brake testing, a V6 Malibu impressed us by stopping from 60 mph in a short, fade-free 122 feet.

Interior Design and Special Features

While the interior of the 2012 Chevrolet Malibu looks good, the overall effect is cheapened somewhat by the use of low-quality materials in a few places. The layout of gauges and controls is refreshingly simple, however, and the use of acoustic insulation gives the space a pleasant hush.

Up front, the seats are both comfortable and supportive, though wider folks may find the pronounced side bolsters make it hard to get settled. The rear seat is passable for a couple of adults, but it's a snug fit for three people or even a pair of larger folks compared to some other midsize sedans.

Out back, the trunk offers a healthy 15.1 cubic feet of cargo room that's made more flexible by the 60/40-split-folding rear seatbacks. That said, the space here is shallow and the opening is on the small side, making loading and unloading larger objects a bit challenging.

Driving Impressions

Behind the wheel, the 2012 Chevrolet Malibu impresses with its smooth, quiet ride and confident handling. Steering feel is generally good for a mainstream sedan, though several of our editors actually preferred the electric-assisted power steering used to help boost fuel efficiency in four-cylinder models to the more conventional hydraulic steering assist that comes with the V6 engine.

Which powertrain is right for you depends on your driving style and expectations, but most buyers should be happy with the combination of the four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission. Not surprisingly, the V6 is a better choice for those looking for stronger acceleration, provided they can live with the significantly lower fuel economy that comes with it.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

Nicest car i've ever hated

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Vehicle: 2012 Chevrolet Malibu LT 4dr Sedan w/1LT (2.4L 4cyl 6A)

I bought my 2012 Malibu LT1 4cyl new to replace my 1998 Malibu base 6cyl. I have a 66 mile one-way trip into work which includes 50 miles of open interstate driving with the last bit a drive through town on a divided 4-lane stop-and-stop traffic hwy. I went with the 4cyl because it was 19K and the 6cyl started at 30k. Convincing myself that the 34mpg would make me feel better. 6cyl I avg 26mpg, the 4cyl I avg 28mpg. second year at 60K miles the map sensor failed and needed to be replaced, not a warranted part.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

In love w/ my malibu

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Vehicle: 2012 Chevrolet Malibu LT 4dr Sedan w/1LT (2.4L 4cyl 6A)

Bought my Malibu used but it rides like a brand new car. On a scale of 1-10 I'm at a 9.75. I love the smooth ride it provides along with the great look it has. I bought the top of the line one with chrome 16 inch wheels, chrome door handles, low profile tires, leather/suede interior power everything. Love that it sits low to the ground giving you almost a sports car feel with the feels of a luxury car. Great gas mileage, not to mention it rides great in the snow. Definitely love this car. It is my 4th chevy I've owned and is my all time favorite.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful


by on
Vehicle: 2012 Chevrolet Malibu LT 4dr Sedan w/2LT (2.4L 4cyl 6A)

I introduced to my wife 2011 Malibu(Summit white) LT1 model when it was new and she bought it and loves it..So this may 2013 I went and bought my 2012(former lease) with 14000 miles for a great price(same color) but it's LT2 model and loaded with heated seats. We laugh about it. It's like driving an expensive car that we only paid $17000 each. Oh yeah! There are cars that cost $50k+ and it's all about name brand and status symbol. We can't afford those and so in our own way, this is our Mercedes or Audi lol..But less fortunate people than us only wish they could own this Malibu. So we are very happy and proud to own 2 cars with the same color and park in our driveway at our cozy home lol..

1 of 8 people found this review helpful

May be last chevy..

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Vehicle: 2012 Chevrolet Malibu LT 4dr Sedan w/1LT (2.4L 4cyl 6A)

Downsized form a 2002 Impala to this for gas mileage. Big mistake. Impala averaged 28mpg. I am lucky to hit that using cruse control full time. Car is very underpowered. Almost dangerous to pass anyone. Car has great looks , but appears to be all flash and lost its basics. Stering while stopped acts like it lacks the power to steer car. Had for three months and want to replace. Will after getting some of the deprciation. Looking at 2013, it would appear GM knew this car was very deficient.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

Good car, but some shortcomings

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Vehicle: 2012 Chevrolet Malibu LT 4dr Sedan w/1LT (2.4L 4cyl 6A)

PROS - Fun to drive (acceleration, handling, seat comfort); I like the power moon roof. Quiet ride and nice, roomy trunk. CONS - Tilt steering wheel is too low (even when it and the seats are adjusted). Mileage on my Buick LeSabre is better than this Malibu. Finally, the trunk release works, but the lifters do not lift, opening it unlike any other car I've ever had.

21 of 26 people found this review helpful

Gas mileage not as advertised

by on
Vehicle: 2012 Chevrolet Malibu LT 4dr Sedan w/1LT (2.4L 4cyl 6A)

The 2012 Malibu I purchased was stickered at 34 MPG. The best I have been able to get is 25 MPG all highway. The Malibu is a good car but one of the selling points in buying this was the MPG so I am very disappointed in the misleading advertising.

Talk About The 2012 Malibu

Gas Mileage


  • 22
  • cty
  • 33
  • highway
Calculate Yearly Fuel Costs

Identifix Reliability Ratings

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