2011 Chevrolet Malibu Review

Pros & Cons

  • Strong V6, economical inline-4
  • fine ride and handling balance
  • quiet cabin: high scores in crash tests.
  • Rear seat is less than spacious
  • inconsistent quality of cabin materials
  • lacks some competitive features.
List Price Range
$4,600 - $12,599

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Edmunds' Expert Review

The 2011 Chevrolet Malibu remains a popular, well-equipped entry in the hotly contested segment of midsize family sedans. It's starting to lag behind stronger segment leaders in some respects, however, and a replacement isn't due until 2012.

Vehicle overview

The seventh-generation Chevrolet Malibu bolted smartly out of the starting gate in 2008, one of the stars of GM's product renaissance over the last several years and one of the first Chevys to feel modern rather than retro. As a result it was acknowledged as the 2009 North American Car of the Year and earned a fair amount of positive praise. Four years on, the 2011 Chevrolet Malibu continues to be a very desirable car, but the competition has caught up.

On the plus side, the Malibu features a stylish cabin with straightforward controls, nicely balanced ride and handling characteristics, and a choice of either a fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine or a strong V6. Perhaps best of all, the Malibu has an upscale look that says "premium sedan" rather than "rental car." Although we could live without its flashy chrome-clad wheels, the Malibu sports clean, classy lines with tight panel gaps, and doesn't succumb to cheap visual add-ons like spoilers, side vents or body flares.

Unfortunately, a few shortcomings nix any pretensions of class leadership. The Malibu's rear seat space is tight compared to that of some competitors, and it lacks a center armrest. Although the cabin is generally well designed, the quality and finish of the materials are inconsistent. The 2011 Chevy Malibu also comes up short in terms of features, as some desirable items like dual-zone climate control and an in-dash navigation screen aren't offered.

If Chevy addresses these nits in the next redesign, we might again have ourselves a well-rounded superstar. Until then, we'd recommend checking out other top midsize sedans like the 2011 Ford Fusion, 2011 Honda Accord, 2011 Hyundai Sonata, 2011 Kia Optima, 2011 Mazda 6 and Nissan Altima.

2011 Chevrolet Malibu models

The 2011 Chevrolet Malibu is available in four trim levels: LS, 1LT, 2LT and LTZ.

Standard equipment on the Malibu LS includes 17-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, keyless entry, cruise control, air-conditioning, full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, OnStar and a six-speaker stereo with CD player, satellite radio and auxiliary audio jack.

Next up is the 1LT that adds 17-inch alloy wheels, chrome and color-keyed body accents, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and access to various optional features. The 2LT then adds remote engine start, Bluetooth, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a power driver seat, heated front seats, premium upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

The range-topping LTZ includes 18-inch cast-aluminum wheels, heated outside mirrors, LED taillights, automatic climate control, leather upholstery, a power front passenger seat, upgraded instruments, a rear window shade, a rear 110-volt power outlet and a Bose eight-speaker stereo with MP3 playback and USB audio jack. Many of these available features are grouped into packages that can be added to the lower trim levels. In addition, a sunroof is optional for all trims except the LS.

2011 Highlights

The 2011 Chevy Malibu receives only a few minor changes that include new wheel designs and a standard six-speed automatic transmission on all models.

Performance & mpg

Every 2011 Malibu can be equipped with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine as standard equipment, which generates 169 horsepower and 160 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent through the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control. Estimated fuel economy checks in at 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-bangers in this class.

A 3.6-liter V6 is available for the Malibu LT and LTZ, and bumps output to 252 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic is again standard. 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 class.

Safety

The Chevy Malibu comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, OnStar telematics, front side airbags and head curtain airbags. In the government's new, more strenuous crash testing for 2011, 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 crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Malibu its highest rating of "Good" in its frontal-offset and side-impact testing. In brake performance testing, a V6 Malibu impressed us by stopping from 60 mph in a short, fade-free 122 feet.

Driving

The 2011 Chevrolet Malibu strikes an excellent balance between ride and handling, exemplified by confident cornering and a smooth, quiet ride over varying types of pavement.

The four-cylinder engine achieves its frugal efficiency in part due to the use of an electric steering system. As these systems go, this is a good one, and several of our editors preferred the four-cylinder and its electric-assist steering to the optional V6 with its conventional hydraulic steering assist. Mated to the now-standard six-speed automatic, even the fuel-efficient four-cylinder Malibu should deliver enough power and response for most buyers. The V6 is much stronger of course, and is likely a better fit for those who place a premium on quickness.

Interior

The 2011 Chevrolet Malibu features a curvaceous dual-cowl dash design up front, emphasized strikingly by a couple of available two-tone interior color options. However, the sedan's quality doesn't always keep up with its overall design promise, as fit and finish is compromised by a few cheap pieces here and there. Control layout is simple and straightforward, and plenty of insulation and the use of acoustically laminated glass contribute to a serene driving experience.

The front seats are comfortable and pleasantly supportive, though some editors found the car's pedal placement somewhat awkward. Additionally, the sedan's seat bolsters may prove to be somewhat intrusive for wider passengers. Passengers of average size should be fine in back, though larger folks will notice tight quarters compared to other midsize sedans. And although the rear seat is fine for two passengers, it's a tight squeeze for three. The lack of a center armrest and grab handles also compromises the experience for second-row travelers. The trunk offers 15.1 cubic feet of capacity, but the opening is narrow and the space is shallow.


Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2011 Chevrolet Malibu.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

Almost an excellent vehicle
Chris S,08/09/2015
LT2 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 6A)
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).
A sweet ride
duffer65,04/18/2011
A very comfortable car with good handling, decent power, and excellent economy. Have about 6000 miles on the odometer and have gotten up to 37 mpg (at 5 mph over freeway speeds) using a light throttle and cruise control. Very good in ice and snow here in the Northeast.
Don't buy
Mel,01/02/2017
LTZ 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 6A)
Two days after buying it I had to put it in the shop a bunch of recalls feel unsafe to drive and transport my kids in
If you have it, sell it, and don't ever purchase
Kyle Phernetton,01/27/2016
LS 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 6A)
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.

Features & Specs

See all Used 2011 Chevrolet Malibu features & specs

Safety

NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    Overall4 / 5
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger3 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    Overall5 / 5
  • Side Barrier Rating
    Overall4 / 5
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front Seat4 / 5
    Back Seat5 / 5
  • Rollover
    Rollover4 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of Rollover18.5%
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Good
  • Roof Strength Test
    Good
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Good
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test
    Good

More about the 2011 Chevrolet Malibu

Used 2011 Chevrolet Malibu Overview

The Used 2011 Chevrolet Malibu is offered in the following submodels: Malibu Sedan. Available styles include LT1 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 6A), LT2 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 6A), LTZ 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 6A), LS 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 6A), and LS Fleet 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 6A).

What's a good price on a Used 2011 Chevrolet Malibu?

Price comparisons for Used 2011 Chevrolet Malibu trim styles:

  • The Used 2011 Chevrolet Malibu LS is priced between $4,600 and$12,599 with odometer readings between 31986 and113858 miles.
  • The Used 2011 Chevrolet Malibu LT1 is priced between $5,499 and$9,700 with odometer readings between 32301 and129411 miles.
  • The Used 2011 Chevrolet Malibu LT2 is priced between $6,000 and$12,598 with odometer readings between 40090 and153437 miles.
  • The Used 2011 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ is priced between $6,850 and$11,998 with odometer readings between 75700 and119404 miles.

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Which used 2011 Chevrolet Malibus are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2011 Chevrolet Malibu for sale near. There are currently 15 used and CPO 2011 Malibus listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $4,600 and mileage as low as 31986 miles. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2011 Chevrolet Malibu.

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Find a used Chevrolet for sale - 12 great deals out of 14 listings starting at $8,118.

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Should I lease or buy a 2011 Chevrolet Malibu?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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