2012 Chevrolet Malibu Review

Pros & Cons

  • Strong V6
  • comfortable ride
  • strong brakes
  • quiet cabin
  • simple controls.
  • Rear seat is less spacious than rivals
  • inconsistent quality of cabin materials
  • lacks some competitive features.
List Price Range
$5,342 - $12,995

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Edmunds' Expert Review

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.

Vehicle overview

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.

2012 Chevrolet Malibu models

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.

2012 Highlights

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

Performance & mpg

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.

Safety

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.

Driving

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.

Interior

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.


Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2012 Chevrolet Malibu.

5(29%)
4(25%)
3(12%)
2(16%)
1(18%)
3.3
24 reviews
Trending topics in reviews

Most helpful consumer reviews

Work Car
rlhinmi,07/16/2012
Recently my workplace replaced the 2009 Impala I had been driving with a 2012 Malibu. The exterior design looks more modern than the Impala, but the ride is much more stiff. The steering is very light, reminding me a little of the Buick my grandparents had in the 80s. The build quality seems good--solid Ka-thunk when doors close. Interior graphics for the trip computer and clock seem dated. The power adjustment for lumbar support is a nice touch. In 1500 miles of mostly highway driving the car has been getting 22.5 MPG with E85, which is required by my workplace.
In Love w/ my Malibu
fireguy841,01/26/2014
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.
Three months into ownership...
brownco4,06/05/2012
We're off to a good start. The car looks nice standing still and has a moon roof that adds to the look. It's a unique off white color outside and has a leather with suede look seat. Soon after buying this we drove 1400 miles over a weekend with four adults. Both front and back seats were comfortable. The headrests in front and the seat belts are some of the most comfortable we've ever had. Front seats also recline for naps on those trips. Acceleration is good, and this car will roll along for hours at high, interstate speeds with indifference to winds. The car is very quiet also. The large trunk is very nice as well.
Tired of fixing it....
C. Winter,06/10/2018
LT 4dr Sedan w/1LT (2.4L 4cyl 6A)
This car has 83,000 miles.... The final straw is a $1900 converter replacement.... The car has completely shut off on me while at highway speeds with no check engine lights. Therefore nobody knows why? No codes .... I’ll tell you why this car is a toilet. GM FAIL!!

Features & Specs

See all Used 2012 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 SeatNot Rated
    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 2012 Chevrolet Malibu

Used 2012 Chevrolet Malibu Overview

The Used 2012 Chevrolet Malibu is offered in the following submodels: Malibu Sedan. Available styles include LT 4dr Sedan w/1LT (2.4L 4cyl 6A), LS 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 6A), LT 4dr Sedan w/2LT (2.4L 4cyl 6A), LTZ 4dr Sedan w/2LZ (3.6L 6cyl 6A), LT 4dr Sedan w/3LT (3.6L 6cyl 6A), LTZ 4dr Sedan w/1LZ (2.4L 4cyl 6A), and LS Fleet 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 6A).

What's a good price on a Used 2012 Chevrolet Malibu?

Price comparisons for Used 2012 Chevrolet Malibu trim styles:

  • The Used 2012 Chevrolet Malibu LT is priced between $5,342 and$9,999 with odometer readings between 44325 and158621 miles.
  • The Used 2012 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ is priced between $7,995 and$12,995 with odometer readings between 87655 and115265 miles.
  • The Used 2012 Chevrolet Malibu LS is priced between $8,300 and$11,998 with odometer readings between 61853 and69993 miles.
  • The Used 2012 Chevrolet Malibu LS Fleet is priced between $9,895 and$9,895 with odometer readings between 24676 and24676 miles.

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Which used 2012 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) 2012 Chevrolet Malibu for sale near. There are currently 13 used and CPO 2012 Malibus listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $5,342 and mileage as low as 24676 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 2012 Chevrolet Malibu.

Can't find a used 2012 Chevrolet Malibus you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Chevrolet Malibu for sale - 12 great deals out of 24 listings starting at $21,324.

Find a used Chevrolet for sale - 4 great deals out of 17 listings starting at $24,156.

Find a used certified pre-owned Chevrolet Malibu for sale - 3 great deals out of 8 listings starting at $13,396.

Find a used certified pre-owned Chevrolet for sale - 3 great deals out of 21 listings starting at $9,812.

Should I lease or buy a 2012 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.

Check out Chevrolet lease specials
Check out Chevrolet Malibu lease specials