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Hey, everyone! I've been looking to get something to replace my aging '99 Cavalier. After doing a lot of research and comparisons, the new Chevy Malibu and the Saturn Aura came out as the top two contenders. I figured they both offer a great value compared to the imports, sound dampening comes installed (I'm big on silence), and they both offer great safety features. It doesn't hurt that they look a whole lot better, too

The Aura seemed like a good buy since it was cheaper than the Malibu...but then I read all of the negative feedback about the Aura and Saturn itself. I decided to see for myself if they were right, so I set aside time last night to do a test drive comparison. I drove a 4-banger 2008 LT2, the 6-cylinder 2008 LTZ, and a "2008" Aura XE.

The Malibu LTZ was the first one I drove. The first thing I noticed, surprisingly, was how stiff and uncomfortable the leather seats were. I've found that a lot of recent cars with leather seats are like that. The 3.6L engine was so powerful that I could hardly believe it. I was racing up hills like they were nothing and zooming through traffic like a madman...and yet it was so quiet that I almost forgot about it when I was cruising along some back roads. The steering felt kind of stiff, like I wouldn't be able to turn the wheel with 1 hand like I do with my Cavalier so frequently. The exterior looked sharp and the interior's fit and finish was top notch. Overall, an excellent vehicle.

Next up was the Malibu LT2. The "leatherette" and suede seats were better than the LTZ's stiff leather seats. Not as cushy as my Cavalier's cloth seats, but good enough. The 2.4 was noisier than the 3.6 and it showed about the level of performance I'd expect for average, day to day driving. The steering felt looser and I was able to coax the engine into putting out 30+ MPG just cruising along some back roads. Very nice! The exterior looked great even without the LTZ touches and the interior was still superb. Aside from a few nagging engine complaints, not bad.

Last up was the "2008" Aura XE. Its leather seats were between the LT2 and LTZ in comfort. The 3.5 offered very good pickup compared to the 2.4 but wasn't as meaty as the 3.6. It was about as noisy as the 2.4 and the steering felt like the 2.4's. One thing that really let me down was the MPG. In the same back roads that I coaxed 30+ MPG out of the Malibu, I could barely scrape above 20 with the 3.5. The exterior dazzled me, but the interior in some places it felt...cheap. The DIC didn't display tire inflation information like the Malibu's and that was a huge letdown. On the plus side, the amber lights made me feel pretty relaxed while driving it.

The salesman at the Saturn place was an ass. He was aggressive and made several hard pitches throughout. I later learned after looking online that the "2008" XE I had driven was actually a 2007. He exaggerated the EPA gas ratings for the available engines. He tried to get me over and over to buy the car on the spot despite the fact that I told him I wasn't overly pleased with it. Before he would let me go, he demanded my contact information...so I gave him a bogus phone number. He can have fun calling that.

So yeah, I think I'm settled on the Malibu. The two Bus I test drove are way too expensive for my taste, so I looked around online and came across three contenders. Keep in mind that I'm a gas miser...I like power but hate filling up my tank constantly. I usually drive my Cavalier until I'm in danger of running out of fuel.

The first is an '09 fleet LS weighing in at 10,695 miles and $15,998. The Carfax isn't free, but it only has 3 records so it's probably clean. It has the 3.5L engine, which would be a nice balance between the 4-banger and the monster 3.6L V6. I've seen that many Aura XE 3.5 owners have reported exceeding the EPA ratings. The downside, obviously, is that it's an LS and it doesn't come with a lot unless fleet LSs come with additional gear that I'm not familiar with. I would have to pay extra to install goodies like remote start and heated seats on my own, but at least I'd be able to do it.

There's also a heavily-discounted '08 demo Hybrid (it has giant decals of GM's "hybrid" sign on the doors) weighing in at a mere 250 miles and $16,900. It's at a different dealership than the other two Bus and the guy I talked to seemed really desperate to sell it, so I may be able to negotiate something even lower. It's basically a new car (always a plus) and I'm a gas miser, so you'd think that would be a perfect match. The killer here is that those same heated seat and remote starter kits I see for the Malibu say that they're not compatible with the Hybrid. The only thing that's still up in the air, thus far, is whether or not it would accept an auto-dimming rear mirror like the upper level trims.

And last, but certainly not least, there's an '08 LTZ at the same place as the LS weighing in at 15,759 miles and $16,998. It doesn't come with a free Carfax, but it says that it has 3 records so it's probably a clean fleet vehicle like the LS. It's beige...and I hate beige. I realize that that's probably a good price for an LTZ, but keep in mind that I'm a gas miser. I don't like the idea of getting 17 city/26 highway. I also didn't like the stiff leather seats in the LTZ I test drove. It does come with a LOT of goodies, but paying up the nose for gas isn't something I'd look forward to. I'm guessing gas prices will go up before too long and I'd hate to be stuck in a gas guzzler.

So what do you think? Sorry for the long post, but hopefully I've set the stage for some good answers :)
 

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Don't forget if you go with the hybrid, you'll get Federal tax credits for driving/buying one.

Don't go with the LTZ that colour is horrid LOL... but the seats do get comfortable once it's used to your ass.

I have the 2LT (Although with the 3.6L engine) and I'm very pleased with it. The only thing I miss is the fog lamps and LED tail lamps.

Saturns are gross and I understand GM is reviewing that brand.. you don't want to buy something that MAY be discontinued, do you?

Fleets generally have FEWER options than base consumer vehicles.. keep that in mind..

My overall recommendation based on what you wrote: The 2008 Malibu Hybrid. (All Hybrids have that huge Hybrid thing on the doors and trunk you'll fit in with the others).
 

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The 3.5 option maybe a good one. It fits right in the middle between I4 and 3.6 V6 power and gas mileage wise plus it's a well tested drivetrain. Hybrid is a good idea too.
It really depends on your priorities/likes. I personally went for a 3.6 because of the power. I was willing to pay extra for gas for the 3.6 experience :)
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
"Don't get the 6-speed"? You mean the LTZ? Why do you think I should avoid the 6-speed?

Ahh, the tax credit...I had forgotten about that. The $1300 federal tax credit would bring the effective price down to $15,600 and that's a damn good deal for a "new" Malibu.

EDIT: I just did a Google and it looks like there's a $500 Pennsylvania hybrid tax credit, bringing it down to $15,100. This is looking like an awfully good deal...

I didn't know that fleet vehicles come with less features in general! That in lieu of the Hybrid tax credit (and absence of side blinkers) make me a little hesistant to go with the LS.

So if I got the Hybrid and wanted to add some stuff to it, like maybe the universal garage door opener or the auto-dimming mirror, where would I be able to find out if I could do that? I've scrubbed the boards here looking for an answer but have come up empty-handed.
 

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"Don't get the 6-speed"? You mean the LTZ? Why do you think I should avoid the 6-speed?

Ahh, the tax credit...I had forgotten about that. The $1300 tax credit would bring the effective price down to $15,600 and that's a damn good deal for a "new" Malibu.

I didn't know that fleet vehicles come with less features in general! That in lieu of the Hybrid tax credit (and absence of side blinkers) make me a little hesistant to go with the LS.

So if I got the Hybrid and wanted to add some stuff to it, like maybe the universal garage door opener or the auto-dimming mirror, where would I be able to find out if I could do that? I've scrubbed the boards here looking for an answer but have come up empty-handed.

Best to ask the dealer about these questions on the garage door opener and the auto dimming mirror. What you could check is the window sticker to see all the options that are on the car you're looking at, it will give you everything that was installed from the factory. Most dealer now are doing whatever they can to make a sale and GM is allowing deep discounts on certain models due to the economy being in such bad shape. Now is more of a buyers market when it comes to new cars on these lots and you might be able to drive away in a car loaded with the options you're looking for and at a price you'll like.
 

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The tax credits are for the first time buyer of the hybrids , so if the hybrid has been titled you wont be able to claim the credit , kipper
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
I've already seen everything that it comes with. I was just wondering about those two components in particular because they aren't offered on the Hybrid trim at all...but I would think that at least the garage door opener could be tacked on safely without conflicting with the Hybrid functioning.

But yeah, I'll just make some printouts, bring them with me, and ask the dealer. You're right; I may be able to negotiate a good deal. They've already offered to touch up the huge "Hybrid" decals on the doors (not the standard Hybrid badges, I'm talking giant versions that cover the entire front doors). I'm also going to look to keep looking at these hybrid incentives...it looks like there's a lot of them.

EDIT: Tax credits for first-time buyers only? Damn.

EDIT #2: I just checked on the Malibus and it looks like the 2009 LS is no longer available. That thing was barely on the lot for a week and it already got sold!

EDIT #3: I just called the LTZ place and it turns out it's a lease car.
 

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......Just dont get the 6-speed and you'll be alright.
Correct, check out the post in the Dealer Problems. Many of us are having trouble with the 6-speed at lower RPM's (4 or 6 cylinder) - vibration/shudder/shake especially in 5th and 6th gear.

Make sure you test drive the vehicle for a lengthy period. If it's a 6-speed, really look out for a drivetrain shake/vibration/wobble at around 1,400 - 2,000 RPM's - you'll feel it in the front floorboards, the gas peddle and maybe a little in the shifter or steering wheel.

Best Wishes!
 

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Thanks for pointing that out - I might have really gotten myself in a pickle otherwise. I saw by looking at the Dealer Problems thread and GMInsideNews that this, apparently, is not just some isolated issue. That LTZ is about a two-hour drive from here and there are a variety of 4-bangers & hybrids around here, so I think I'm going to stay around here and look for one of those. The gas miser in me is very happy.

I may even investigate getting a brand-new 2008 or 2009 Hybrid. Both are available locally. I'm sitting on a potential mountain of discounts...$1800 in tax rebates plus my college graduate discount. That's on top of any other negotiations, discounts, or concessions that may be available. I'll bet they'd be eager to get a new '08 Hybrid off the lot.
 

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Thanks for pointing that out - I might have really gotten myself in a pickle otherwise. I saw by looking at the Dealer Problems thread and GMInsideNews that this, apparently, is not just some isolated issue. That LTZ is about a two-hour drive from here and there are a variety of 4-bangers & hybrids around here, so I think I'm going to stay around here and look for one of those. The gas miser in me is very happy.

I may even investigate getting a brand-new 2008 or 2009 Hybrid. Both are available locally. I'm sitting on a potential mountain of discounts...$1800 in tax rebates plus my college graduate discount. That's on top of any other negotiations, discounts, or concessions that may be available. I'll bet they'd be eager to get a new '08 Hybrid off the lot.

I'd go for the '08 Hybrid with the 4-speed!
 

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What is everyone's beef with the 6-speed? I'm in love with the thing and hated my 4-speed on my Cobalt it was poopy
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Well, I went out today and didn't get anything. I test drove a bunch of different Malibus at two different locations, but the only thing I ended up with was an offer of $17,701.50 after all taxes and everything for a new 09 Malibu LS. That's pretty good for a brand new car, but there are a few other listings I want to look at around here.

I've started reconsidering looking for an Aura because the 3.5L V6 engine is looking more and more like the best engine and it's damn hard to find one on the Bu in my price range. The hybrid I test drove today was an absolute snail...my Cavalier is much faster. The 4-cylinder, after a fresh test drive today, seems a little weak. alivingMalibu's warning about what to look for in the 6-speed came in handy today when I test drove an '08 LTZ and noticed the vibration he was talking about. Besides, the big v6 is quite the gas guzzler.
 

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Don't go to the Saturn cars they're butt ugly!!!!!! And what if GM gets rid of the brand??!?!

Try searching for eBay listings too.. you can get great deals on cars there and most sellers (dealerships included) have no problem helping you with transporting the car to your home (Usually around $700 which isn't much at all compared to you flying out, paying for gas, hotel stops, etc.)
 
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