First drive: Chevrolet Malibu 2010 in UAE
The all-new Chevrolet Malibu has been on sale in the U.S. for a while now. The midsize sedan had finally become an equal competitor to its Japanese rivals in the States, but the GCC line-up was making do with a lopsided range consisting of the Korean Epica and the Australian Lumina, neither of which has a 4-cylinder engine that could compare with those in the Camry, the Accord and the Altima. So General Motors decided to bring the Malibu here again, after a gap of nearly a decade.
There isn’t much to get excited about over the GCC-spec 2010 Malibu. It is simply another car for the masses, with a 169 hp 2.4-litre inline-4 or a 252 hp 3.6-litre V6, both mated to a 6-speed automatic with paddle-shifters. In fact, my co-driving magazine buddy didn’t even want to drive it. But there are some features that deserve a mention.
Starting off from Dubai, the cross-country press drive led us through regions of the UAE that we’ve never come across, going half-way to Fujairah and ending up in Ras Al Khaimah for a free lunch.
We drove the 3.6-litre V6 first. The V6 is identifiable by their dual exhaust tips and bumper fog-lights. It came with 18-inch alloy wheels, which is apparently standard on even the basic 2.4-litre models. The Malibu does have a premium look to it, with its chrome trimmings and upright nose. But since interior quality was the main hype surrounding this reborn midsizer, we took a closer look in there.
The design is very classy, with the two-tone materials and grey highlights. Soft-touch surfaces cover the dashboard and the door panels, so the trim is more premium than even the expensive Camaro. However, some of the plastics appear unfinished at the edges, and the cabin door panels are so thin that they can be pushed in with one finger.
The 3.6-litre V6 is down on power by almost 20 hp when compared to the usual Japanese makes, but I didn’t feel any deficiency in power. The smooth engine-gearbox combo felt excellent. So was the suspension, that soaked up bumps and never felt floaty at all. Body roll wasn’t excessive either, in the handful of corners I encountered, and grip was reasonable. I even hit 200 kph before hitting the limiter, and the car felt perfectly stable all the way. And to top it all, it was probably the quietest midsize sedan I’ve ever driven.
On the way back from the free 5-star lunch, we hopped into a 2.4-litre 4-cylinder, and drove along the beaches of Umm Al Quwain, then deep inland through rag-tag towns in Ajman and Sharjah, and back into Dubai. Unfortunately I wasn’t as impressed. The grey cabin looked dull, although my co-driver buddy liked it better than the reddish one, so I guess there is a market for it. But more importantly, the engine felt weak and seemed to struggle, made worse with delayed responses to pedal inputs. Looking up the specs, the base Malibu is quite a heavy car with all that sound-deadening material, so it wasn’t much fun jumping into junctions and roundabouts.
The 2010 Malibu will be in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and other Emirates by October this year. Pricing promises to be competitive, but with the increasing greed of Japanese-brand dealers and the constant Dirham-Dollar peg, that shouldn’t be too hard.