Batteries Included: The Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

My urban-dwelling mind approved of the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, a midsize sedan that drinks like a subcompact. My id was less sure. Let’s hear from the mind first.

The 2008 Malibu is completely redesigned, inside and out. Outside it’s cool and masculine, like something from Audi. The Onstar Service is always welcome. XM Radio plays pretty much anything you can think of. And five can ride in decent comfort.

But the real reason you’d consider this car is that hybrid logo.

At first the “eco” mode is disconcerting. Coasting along or slowing, you feel the hybrid system kick in. Whoops! It feels like you’re stalling between gears with a standard transmission. Then you remember it’s automatic; the engine leaps back to attention with a tap of the foot. Suddenly you get it! You want to ride as long as possible on the 36-volt battery and keep the eco light on (not too hard to do in our stop-and-go-and-stop-longer city traffic).

Now, from the id: Declare allegiances before making your green shift! Considering its sporty looks, the Chevy Malibu Hybrid is not powerful. And stepping hard on the gas, well doesn’t that just defeat the purpose. If you’re impatient, gas savings may not be realized.

The driving experience?

It handles really well in corners. A boneheaded minivan necessitated a severe testing of the antilock disc brakes. They performed admirably. I even off-roaded up north for a few minutes; no complaints. But with 164 HP I had to keep telling myself it’s good for the environment. The id wouldn’t budge. If only it had more power.

Still with hurricane-season gasoline prices appearing every season now, the GM Malibu Hybrid makes a lot of sense for the city. The question remains: do you purchase with your brain or your id?

Standard Price: $26,995
As driven: $28,345

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