I know I’m a bit late to the party but I thought I’d chime in here with my opinions FWIW. I came out of an ’03 Intrepid that served me well over 231,000 miles and needed a replacement. I was hoping to find another lightweight, full size car but they don’t make them like that anymore.
So it was off to the midsize segment.
First of all I’m not a brand-name fanboi… and Korean cars are completely out of the question (for now at least). So I test drove an Avenger, 200, Camry, Altima, Fusion, Impala and Malibu, all ’11 or ’12 models. Anyway the worst one was the Avenger/200, though the interior was pretty nice the driving position was uncomfortable and the car just didn’t carry its weight well. Almost as bad was the Impala, but it did have a great engine. The Camry was completely boring in every way and uncomfortable, and the Altima’s weird CVT and ‘femme’ styling were deal-breakers.
So that left the Fusion and Malibu, both of which were pretty good but I gave the edge to the Malibu. Both had comfortable driving positions, equal options and an equal amount of room overall, but the Malibu was quieter and had better ride/handling feel, probably because it has the longest wheelbase of all the cars I tested. It was also a little cheaper, a little cheaper inside than the Fusion but it fit the profile I needed... so I began my search for the color and options (to have and to avoid).
I was looking for a 1 yr old car with low miles. Instead I found dozens and dozens of white or gold ’11 fleet LS’s with 30k-ish miles. Eventually I found a dark blue ’11 1LT with 9,400 miles… a repo that was likely sitting for several months because it felt like it had to go through a 2nd break-in. It was clean except the original owner obviously hotboxed in it with cigarettes (and “incense”
). I’ve had it about a month now and after one professional shampooing, removing some interior parts & hand-scrubbing, some Ozium, Zep, 409 and Lysol… the odor is about 90% gone and a slight new car smell is starting to fade in. If it were any older, I’d pass on a smoky car but being 1 yr old it was new enough to clean up.
So after about 1 month now- so far so good, no troubles at all! I’ve put 3,000 miles on it already and can say this is a well-balanced, comfortable and solid commuter and highway car. The seats are firm but comfortable for long trips. Gas mileage with the 4 cylinder has been about 26 mpg overall. I like the stereo features with XM, Aux, USB, BT and it works perfect with my Sony phone, but the rear speakers kinda stink. The electric steering feels strange at first but I got used to it pretty fast. The engine is smooth and quiet for a 4 cyl, gives adequate acceleration. The transmission shifts fine, but seems a little slow to downshift from 6-4 or 2-1 when you want to punch it, but I got used to it. I don’t have any serious complaints about this car but I don’t have anything to rave about either. Sensible transportation appliance.
Unless you have something against Chevy or GM, I don’t think you can go wrong with the Malibu. My suggestion is to pick one up with a few miles to save money from depreciation. Get a dark blue or red one to keep from looking like every other car on the road, too. I usually keep my cars about 8-9 years and wear them out, clean it up and sell on the street, repeat. Hopefully this one will go the distance relatively trouble-free.