I just bought my first Malibu about a week ago and I am quite impressed at this vehicle. I really like the design of this car. I was never impressed with the older Malibu style but GM did a nice job on this body style. I must say that it has a "big car" ride and the 2.4 litre 4 cyl. engine puts out a fair amount power. I am over six feet tall and I have ample headroom.
What a mistake this piece of junk is. There are countless recalls and they are all on insignificant things. Do yourself a favor and google "2011 Chevy Malibu Engine Power Decreased" and read the reviews about this POS. There is no recall for a problem that costs not only $2,000 TO FIX, but can be deadly. Long story short, there is a faulty sensor that goes out somewhere between 50,000-120,000 miles (roll of the dice) that is going to without warning make your car shake and reduce your engine power. There are stories about people on the freeway that had this happen while driving and their car dropped to 25 miles per hour. Go in to get it fixed, $2,000 to replace the damage this stupid sensor has caused. Don't buy this car. Ever. For any reason. Until there is a full recall don't touch it.
Love. This. Car. We had an '05 and traded up this year (2012) for a '11. We got the baseline model for a really good price and then added a few features at Bestbuy for much cheaper than the dealer could do. I haven't had any problems with the gas mileage (getting about 28 combined). The only aspect that I'm not a fan of is the top of the dashboard. When the sun is directly overhead or in front of you, the reflection of the dashboard shines back into the windshield. It's can be distracting. Should have test driven during the evening... I've gotten used to it, but it can be a problem when you first get the car. The trunk is very deep, another plus.
I bought my 2011 Malibu LT2 back at the beginning of 2015 and have been using it for nearly 8 months. I opted for a V6 because it was such an excellent price that I figured "why not?". That engine has some pull to it (roughly 250hp) and sounds pretty smooth. The only problem is the advertised fuel efficiency numbers aren't quite right. In the city of Seattle, I get around 15-17mpg and on the freeway, if I am on cruise control between 60-65, I get sneak up to 29-31mpg (with a level road surface). Any incline will drop the hwy mileage to around 24-25mpg. Stop and starts with the V6 are what really murder your fuel efficiency here. The seats are almost fine, but my back will hurt after long drives because the seats force your shoulders in a bit and my upper back is forced back - almost like a mild squeeze. Smaller bodies probably won't notice this as much (I'm 6'2 and have a wider build that the average person), but it's an annoyance. The quality of the Malibu LT2 is inconsistent. I have some kind of leather/suede-fabric hybrid that makes cleaning a bit tougher than it should be. The dashboard and door panels are composed of a cheap plastic material that scratches easily. The instrumentation and radio/temp controls are fine. Nothing fancy but nothing to complain about. The 6-speaker system is adequate for most people. You can get reasonable volumes without distortion in the audio but the system is built to cap everything off in that department before you hit those higher volumes that would degrade your listening experience. I've heard a 2013 Malibu's 2LT/LTZ stereo which uses a Bose system (I think) and it's a step up (though still doesn't quite compete with some higher-grade car stereos out there). As for reliability: I've had my car in a couple times this year - once for a piston replacement (fortunately under warranty, but just barely) and the other for simple coil and spark plug replacements, which are actually easy to replace, I just hadn't learned how to do it yet (a YouTube video can literally save you $500 in parts and labor for replacing one or multiple coils that sit atop your engine). All in all the Malibu for this year is decent. It has a solid look to it and offers decent options, depending on what trim you end up with. The LT2 or LTZ vehicles are the best available so if you do buy one, try and look for those trims. But from what I've been hearing about the newer Malibus - you're better off buying used 2014 and beyond because the 4cyl is closer to the Nissan Altima fuel efficiency ratings and the quality of the cabin materials has drastically improved. UPDATE: I got rid of my Malibu because the V6 engine kept having issues. I had a fuel pump issue, cylinder head issues, and more within 6 months. Had it in the shop 3 times. Jiffy Lube eventually destroyed the engine when they didn't put the oil filter all the way onto my engine after an oil change. The car was okay, if a bit cheap with cabin materials, but I've since driven a 2014 Malibu and they did a MUCH better job all around with that vehicle. Don't buy the 2008-2012 models if you can because your value is so much better in the newer ones (and the fuel efficiency is great).
All around good car. I do about 80% highway driving and get an avg 31 mpg. People have to realize that this car is not a powerhouse; if you drive it like a high school-er you will be disappointed in your gas mileage. Treating your car nice goes a long way- tires-brakes-suspension-etc. Anyways, there's something about this car that makes me miss driving it when I'm in another vehicle. Especially my wife's dodge dart turbo..... Man that thing is a piece of crap.