Style is a subjective thing, but it's easy to make the case that the Malibu is the best looking car in its class. It is bold but restrained, sporty but without cartoonishly aggressive cues. The long (112.3 inch) wheelbase pushes the wheels to the outer edges, while the strong arch of the roof flows smoothly from where it crests over the hood, above the passenger compartment, and down again into the trunk in a single arc. Clever details abound: There are Chevy bowties hidden in the taillights, rear side marker lights and headlights. The rear bumper has a notch for the tail pipes; one for the single pipe on the four-cylinder models, and two for V-6 models. Those tailpipes are chromed and large on LT and LTZ trims, regardless of engine choice. The hood is inset between the nose cap and fenders, a difficult execution from a fit-and-finish standpoint, and one that Chevrolet pulled off well even on our preproduction test car. There's just enough chrome, and about the only heavy-handed element is maybe the metallic grille insert on LTZ models. Even then, it’s a matter of taste; people buy the Escalade for the chrome, don’t forget.
General Motors has built sharp looking sedans before. However, the effect is too often shattered when you open the door, sit inside and are confronted by yards of cheap plastic, fabric and buttons.
Recent GM products are changing that expectation, and the Malibu’s interior makes good on the promise of its exterior. The twin-cowl design looks upscale, the gauge pod is small and stylish, and the center stack manages to look unique even though the switchgear is all standard-issue GM stuff. The gauges are another happy surprise: Turn on the car and the needles glow, sweep across their range and back again, and then the backlighting gradually fades in. Other fun touches are the blue mood lights in the front door handles and above the center console and the thin faux-wood strip in our test car, which arced from the front doors, onto the dash, and back down again to the center console. There’s no black trim to be found, and everything is textured and attractive. It’s also quiet. Chevrolet says it went to great lengths to manage sound, and its use of extra sound deadening, laminated front and side glass and engine noise management have created an exceptionally quiet cabin.