My latest rental car was the 2018 Chevy Malibu. It is probably the best rental car I’ve had for a couple of years, but that is not really saying much. The Malibu is the latest in a line of cheap ‘full size’ cars that used to be the mainstay of the big 3. With buyer preferences moving to SUVs and raised hatchbacks, cars like the Malibu are a dying breed. The Malibu shares a platform with a few other FWD GM cars such as the Buick Regal, Opel Insigna and Holden Commodore. Both Hertz and I refer to the Malibu as a full size car, but from GM’s point of view it is an intermediate and The Impala is actually the full size model. Still, this ‘intermediate’ is basically the same size as a W126 Mercedes.
I normally rent smaller cars, but Hertz were out of them. I was first offered a Minivan, then an Escalade, but declined both. Many will think me nuts for declining the Escalade, but I had not desire to pilot that leviathan around Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky.
The best thing about the 2018 Chevy Malibu I rented was the colour. It was a lovely deep red – so much better than the shades of monochrome most new cars are sporting. The Malibu has a fastback style but is actually a regular sedan. It’s not bad looking, but a bit boring at the same time. The styling does have some unfortunately drawbacks however – the visibility is quite poor. The rear window is so raked that when it rains it is pretty much impossible to see out, and the A pillars also obscure traffic when pulling out into traffic. I also had to put the seat into its lowest setting so I could see out of the front and even then visibility was not great.
The driving experience isn’t too bad, but is let down by the 1.5 liter turbo four cylinder. The car has no torque to speak of down low and when pushed the powerplant is rather coarse in its operation. Keeping the car in boost meant the performance was quite reasonable, but at the expense of poor fuel mileage. This really is a car crying out for a V6! The suspension and steering are not too bad, and it has a proper transmission rather than a horrible CVT. The engine is also equipped with a start/stop feature but there is no button on the dash to disable it. I found this rather annoying. I even looked through all the menus available from the steering wheel buttons.
The interior suffers from acres of cheap plastics. The seats are reasonably comfortable and at least the car I drove came equipped with XM radio. On the dash are the usual idiot lights, but buried in the menu you can find readouts for temperature, oil pressure and the like. I was the only person riding in the car, but it did appear I could have easily carried another three adults, or even four at a pinch. The boot is quite big, but the opening is quite small owing to the design of the rear end of the car. I also found the positioning of the USB port for charging cumbersome, as it was tucked up under the center console.
Overall the 2018 Chevy Malibu is a much better option than many of the SUVs on the market today in the same price range. Its not a car anyone is going to fall in love with, but it does the job well enough. It really does need a V6 to be a car that anyone would want to own vs rent for a couple of days. The Buick and the Holden based on the same platform both have a V6 option and I suspect they are much better.
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