Positioned to be a competitor against the Toyotoa Camry Hybrid, the Malibu Hybrid that rolled out of Detroit last year delivered such a minimal amount of added fuel efficiency (2 mpg) that most critics who loved the standard gas burner, scratched their collective heads and said, “What’s the point?” Chevy is hoping that the new and revised 2009 Malibu Hybrid will be viewed as enough of an upgrade in gas mileage to finally be able to take on Toyota.
While not exactly jaw-dropping, the 2009 Malibu Hybrid turns out fuel efficiency of 26 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway; a 4 mpg bonus over the base-level model. To entice buyers further, Chevy has kept the difference in price the same from last year, with the traditional Malibu starting at $20,745 and the Hybrid about 4 grand more. To achieve the modest gas mileage increase, GM cites the improvement of the battery charging software to reduce strain on the engine and new larger 17 inch low resitance tires. Powered by the standard 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine and a 36-volt electric motor/generator, the Malibu Hybrid produces a respectable 164 horsepower and 159 pound-feet of torque. Tire Pressure Monitoring comes standard on the new Malibu, making sure tires are properly inflated and the highest possible level of efficiency is preserved. Even taking into account all of the upgrades for this year, the gas economy for the 2009 Malibu Hybrid is still slightly less than the Camry Hybrid’s EPA rating of 33 in the city, but at $26,150, the Camry Hybrid is also $1,500 higher than the Malibu. This doesn’t take into account an additional $1,300 tax credit Malibu buyers will receive that has been discontinued with the Camry. However, in combined city and highway driving, the Malibu trails the Camry by at least 6 mpg. Perhaps not significant, but Hybrid production is as much image as it is performance. The fact that Chevy offered a hybrid Malibu with almost zero benefit over the standard model is a striking example of an automaker trying to look the part of a socially conscious company, or at least a first attempt at entering the hybrid game. No doubt Chevy is also banking on a certain cache of driving a “hybrid” with some buyers, made even more appealing by the fact that it is made in the good ‘ole USA.