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6/2/2006

Renting a Chevy Malibu in Oklahoma

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 1:59 pm

Last weekend I spent at least 6 1/2 hours in a Chevy Malibu rented from Hertz. Although a completely unremarkable car as far as looks are concerned – not ugly, not pretty, not designerly . . . just not much of anything, it did get me there and back without incident. But, for a rental, it’s not what’s on the outside that counts, so here goes.

I did like the power of the v6, and it seemed plenty smooth at 70 & 75 mph, the posted maximums on the rural OK 4-lanes and turnpikes. These aren’t the best surfaced highways on the planet, and the Malibu’s suspension seemed to soak up the bumps and many-times-repaired pavement plenty well, although there was a bit too much corkscrewing for my taste on the most severe surface level changes. Steering was direct and secure, just not super communicative. Brakes seemed OK, although I never had to really get on them very hard – actually I didn’t notice much about them so they are probably pretty good overall.

So it goes, rides and stops decently. What’s up? Well, although the gages themselves were well placed, look pretty cool and have good-contemporary-legible markings, the interior still feels plasticky and cheap, even though the car came well equipped with power windows and a power sunroof. The center stack laid out the radio and ac controls in an easily understood and useful manner, and the radio had XM, which kept me in touch with FoxNews all weekend. Screaming across the flatlands of northwestern Oklahoma listening to my favorite TV news shows, now that was cool. Gas mileage must have been pretty good – a rough estimate of miles driven and gas purchased puts it somewhere over 30 mpg.

Most major complaint was seating. The intrusive headrests are slanted forward slightly, and in a reverse of those on our Envoy, which are too far rearward to use as headrests, those on this Malibu cause you to have to bend your neck forward, or else recline the seat backs too far back in order to hold your head up straight. I finally had to do that and then pull the seat bottom forward one notch too far for leg comfort in order to comfortably reach the steering wheel. I would hate to have to live with that seating arrangement. After having some of the best, most comfortable seats in our ‘01 Bonneville SSEI, and decently comfortable seating in the Envoy, I was disappointed that GM let this much bad ergonomics exist in a mainstream mid-size, mid-price Chevy sedan.

Guess that’s why Toyota and Honda are still kicking the General’s butt! I give the Malibu a C+, mostly for the power of the engine and the mileage. The rest is too ugly and too uncomfortable for anything but a rental. Sad . . .

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