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Another convention, another rental. Hertz was trying to slip me a Kia Optima, but I was going to have nothing to do with a refrigerator on a 350mi trip to Anaheim. Instead, they gave me a 2018 Chevrolet Malibu LT. I had previously rented a Malibu a few years back from the previous generation. I wasn't impressed back then. Horrible seats, ungainly looks and a lethargic transmission made my trip from Phoenix to Tucson seem like an eternity. However, with the recent redesign I have heard mostly good things so I decided to give it a spin. I can safely say 2 out of the three items I hated about the previous gen Malibu have been fixed.

In the looks department, Chevy has gone leaps and bounds over the previous model. Gone is the bulbous rear end and chintzy looking front end. The Malibu now follows the same design language as the Cruze and the Impala... and it works. The interior is pretty well laid out, with a good sized infotainment system and controls that are on the whole well laid out. Too bad most of the material used in the interior is low rent. Hard plastic is abound in this thing. On top of that, the accents are just bizarre in nature. Eco-fabric on the dash and vinyl padding on the transmission tunnel? Weird

The infotainment system works pretty well. The touchscreen responded quickly to the touch. The screen is another matter. It easily washes out in sunlight. It might have something to do with the angle that it's molded into. Strangely enough, I also had some slight issues with the SiriusXM signal clipping at random. It could be clear as a bell with no obstructions and I would still get an occasional burp of the signal. At least the sound quality coming out was above average, with a good native EQ. The HVAC controls are very basic but functional.

The seats were surprisingly comfortable for a basic midsize. It was equipped with 8 way power seats, including power lumbar adjustment. It took only a couple of tries to find a good setting and I never felt fatigued after a long haul. The rump support is a bit flat, but overall the seats are good for the long haul. Handling was middling. It held the road well and had decent (if not numb) on-center feel. On the flipside, it didn't like handling undulations. The ride could get a little choppy when the pavement wasn't smooth as glass.

Now, for the remaining issue with the Malibu: The transmission. The LT has the 6-spd auto with a manu-matic mode. It's not in the form of paddles behind the steering wheel. Instead, that real estate is reserved for station tuning and volume control buttons. The "paddle" is actually mounted on top of the shift knob. However, it doesn't matter if you use the manual or automatic setting. The transmission is still lethargic. That's a shame, because once the transmission reports to the engine, the engine is ready and willing to get you up to speed. Having said that, perhaps the lack of urgency on the transmission's part is some of the reason I returned such good fuel economy numbers. Driving from Stockton to Anaheim (including the 3500ft climb over the Grapevine) netted me about 38.6MPH at a solid 70MPH. That puts it right up there with the likes of the Nissan Altima.

The Chevrolet Malibu has made good strides over its predecessor. It's a good looking piece of sheetmetal with a peppy engine and decent seats. However, the cheap interior materials and slow witted transmission would grate on me if I actually owned it. Good for a rental at any rate.
 

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In all likelihood this would be the last Chevy Malibu. After Ford, its GM's turn to kill the sedans. And with Camry/Accord/Mazda6/Sonata all struggling for sales in this age of SUV craze, i think in 10 years time we'll be left with less than half the options we have today with econobox sedans.
 

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In all likelihood this would be the last Chevy Malibu. After Ford, its GM's turn to kill the sedans. And with Camry/Accord/Mazda6/Sonata all struggling for sales in this age of SUV craze, i think in 10 years time we'll be left with less than half the options we have today with econobox sedans.



What about the new Nissan Altima? It's copied the looks of the 6 and AWD, something that the 6 should have offered especially with the turbo.



https://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/2019-nissan-altima-mid-size-sedan-awd-drive
 

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Awd with 188hp.Awd is not available with the turbo.

In all likelihood this would be the last Chevy Malibu. After Ford, its GM's turn to kill the sedans. And with Camry/Accord/Mazda6/Sonata all struggling for sales in this age of SUV craze, i think in 10 years time we'll be left with less than half the options we have today with econobox sedans.



What about the new Nissan Altima? It's copied the looks of the 6 and AWD, something that the 6 should have offered especially with the turbo.



https://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/2019-nissan-altima-mid-size-sedan-awd-drive
 

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What about the new Nissan Altima? It's copied the looks of the 6 and AWD, something that the 6 should have offered especially with the turbo.



https://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/2019-nissan-altima-mid-size-sedan-awd-drive
The new Altima looks good atleast to my eyes. Clean lines, not over styled like the Camry and Accord, i see it aging well. I did not see any lines from the mazda6 in the refreshed Altima, if you are talking about the interiors, then the 3rd gen Mazda6 interior was hardly original. Mazda picked up straight out of BMW, hardly a new practice in the auto industry.

Yes, not offering AWD in the new Mazda6 was a bit of an oversight by Mazda, but i doubt if it would have changed the sales fortune, as i doubt if Altima will pick up sales solely because of AWD option. Sedans from all makes including mazda are struggling. I dont see this trend changing anytime soon, not even if gas prices go above $3.50. The small suvs today are just as economical as their sedan counterparts, so the average consumer has no incentive buying a sedan over a compact SUV.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I don't see everyone jumping the sedan bandwagon like Ford did. Sure, the SUV and CUV craze is in full swing. However, there are still folks (like myself) who still crave something with a trunk that is still fun to drive. I don't see GM eschewing its car lineup in the near future. I give it about 3yrs. By then, the next recession will be in full swing and both the Japanese and Koreans will be benefitting from their small car offerings while FCA and Ford will be stuck in the mud.
 
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