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#5

in 2012 Affordable Midsize Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $13,326 - $17,246
Original MSRP: $22,110 - $30,200
MPG: 22 City / 33 Hwy
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2012 Chevrolet Malibu Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

Though the affordable midsize car class is more competitive than ever, reviewers tend to agree that the Malibu runs in the middle of the pack. A few have issues with inconsistent feel from the electric-assist steering, but most say the Malibu offers livelier handling than most cars in its segment. Given that the class is so competitive, however, you might be happier by checking out cars with more highly rated performance, like the Ford Fusion and Hyundai Sonata.

  • "We especially like the smooth, quiet 4-cylinder engine. We're less enamored with the behavior of this car's automatic transmission and the LTZ models' overly firm ride." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Behind the wheel, the 2012 Chevrolet Malibu impresses with its smooth, quiet ride and confident handling." -- Edmunds
  • (measured against the Honda Accord) "On a curvy road, the Chevy heightens the fun factor, providing superior ride composure, the ability to perform fingertip shifts, and communicative, albeit slightly heavy, steering that carves tighter, crisper lines. Hop on the highway, and the Malibu continues to separate itself, delivering a softer, quieter ride and power that, while down 14 horses, seems to pull more strongly and naturally." -- Motor Trend
  • "We found the Malibu to be a smooth, comfortable sedan with plenty of power and responsiveness. It strikes a nice balance between well-controlled handling and a smooth ride. Overall, the new Malibu feels smooth and refined and pleasant to drive." -- New Car Test Drive

Acceleration and Power

Reviewers like the V6 engine in the 2012 Chevy Malibu, but think the base four-cylinder engine is underpowered. The four-cylinder engine makes 169 horsepower. Several publications have found that the Malibu can reach 60 miles per hour in less than 10 seconds with the small engine - bettering what many of its peers can do with their four-bangers. A 3.6-liter V6 making 252 horsepower is standard on 3LT and 2LZ models. Several reviews say it holds up well against the Accord's V6.

The EPA estimates the Malibu’s fuel economy at 22/33 mpg city/highway for the four-cylinder engine and 17/26 mpg city/highway for the six-cylinder.

  • "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." -- Edmunds
  • "The 6-speed automatic is smooth, but it can occasionally get caught in the wrong gear for best response, requiring a firm stab of the gas pedal in order to coax a downshift." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The four-cylinder model can feel a bit underpowered when asked to move the heavy Malibu with any gusto. But for those concerned about fuel economy - aren't we all nowadays? - the four-cylinder Malibu boasts excellent EPA numbers of 22 mpg city and 33 mpg highway when paired with the six-speed auto." -- Car and Driver

Handling and Braking

The 2012 Chevrolet Malibu's suspension is often singled out as one of the most comfortable rides in the class. It absorbs bumps with confidence, and adds some sport to the car's handling in corners. The four-cylinder Malibu comes with Chevy's electric assist steering, which divides reviewers; some love it, while others say it kicks in at odd moments. Six-cylinder models come with hydraulic-assist steering, which elicits fewer comments.

  • "Body lean is well controlled in all models." -- Consumer Guide
  • "In Edmunds brake testing, a V6 Malibu impressed us by stopping from 60 mph in a short, fade-free 122 feet." -- Edmunds
  • " The suspension soaked up rough Mississippi cotton-farm roads with aplomb, and kept the car straight and flat without a lot of pitching and body roll. The steering was reasonably quick and precise, but without much real road feel, although better than previous models of this same car." -- New Car Test Drive
  • "I'm not a fan of the 18-inch wheels - they look nice, but they compromise both the steering radius and ride quality." -- Automobile Magazine

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