Modern Camaro Forums banner
1 - 4 of 4 Posts

· Premium Member
5,667 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)

Role Reversal: New Malibu Is Sleek, Accord Is Bloated
January 25, 2008; Page W10, The Wall Street Journal

Which is better, a very good GM car or a mediocre one from Honda? That's the question I keep coming back to while contemplating the new Chevrolet Malibu and Honda Accord, both completely redesigned for 2008.

In a quantitative comparison the two sedans are as similar as their corporate parents aren't, with comparable prices and powertrains, features and fuel economy. But when you look beyond the specs and start analyzing the design and product planning that went into these two models, the Malibu becomes much more compelling. It represents an upward trajectory for Chevrolet, a triumph of good decision-making that stands in marked opposition to Honda's misguided new model.

But before we get into all that, let's consider what you're actually spending your money on when you drive one off the dealer lot -- other than the depreciation. Both the Malibu and Accord are marketed as midsize sedans, although the latter has actually outgrown the category. This is the first strike against the Accord, which is now considered a "large car" in the EPA classification system. Yes, right there on the same list with the big Buick Lucerne, Mercury Grand Marquis and Toyota Avalon.

While the mathematical difference between the Accord and Malibu isn't extreme, the profile they cut couldn't be more so: The taller, wider and longer Accord looks like it could swallow the Malibu whole. The design of the Honda screams for attention in the same way the first and worst Korean cars did, with a wild combination of elements including bulging headlamps, a squarish grille fit for a truck, and a crease along the car's sides that looks like the result of an accident involving a guardrail.

The Malibu, however, is rather understated. Its longer wheelbase makes the car look sleeker and lower than it really is, and by virtue of this illusion it also seems sportier than the Accord. The simple design of the Malibu is classic Chevrolet, using chamfers, smoothed edges and sparse bits of what these days passes for chrome to create a staid but attractive package.

Inside the tables are turned. The Accord plays it safe with as conventional an interior as in any car on the road. GM's designers, on the other hand, have done a bang-up job in obscuring the inferior quality of some of the Malibu's materials, primarily by using color in an optional two-tone scheme. You will realize the brilliance of GM's smoke and mirrors when you feel just how deficient the Malibu's two major touchpoints -- its steering wheel and seats -- are compared to those in the Honda.

My Malibu test car was powered by a 252-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6, while the Accord was fitted with a 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 with what Honda calls Variable Cylinder Management. This technology is designed to boost fuel economy by allowing the six-cylinder engine to run on just three or four cylinders when full power isn't needed. It works almost seamlessly, but in this case, "almost" isn't good enough. During highway driving with the cruise control on I could feel a slight vibration when the engine switched from three- to four- to six-cylinder mode, which it does often, a downright maddening behavior. That the Accord managed only 22 miles per gallon during my testing, a single mile per gallon better than the Malibu, only made this all the more annoying.

Speaking of which, the Chevy's six-speed automatic transmission isn't without its own shortcomings, principally its reluctance to downshift and the rudeness with which it finally executes. At least once you coax either engine into full acceleration you'll be treated to a more-than-adequate display of power, rendering the Honda's 16 extra horses something of a moot point. As anyone who has spent much time around high-performance cars can tell you, there are limits to how much power you want to be routing through the front wheels of a family sedan.

That said, for cars likely destined for commuter duty, both handle well. The Accord has long courted the sportier part of the midsize market, eschewing the floaty, "comfortable" ride of the Toyota Camry and its ilk. Clearly GM wants the Malibu to be similarly regarded. To that end both the Accord and Malibu have suspensions that do a nice job of controlling body roll without being harsh.

The steering on the Accord has a lighter touch that will feel familiar to Honda owners, while the Malibu has enough feedback through its wheel to make you forget the decades of numb-steering GM cars that came before it. Both the Accord and Malibu have good brakes with a firm and responsive pedal feel. Without putting the pair on a race track together there's no declaring either the true handling champ, a point which comes off as a win for Chevy. After all, who has any expectation that GM could or would actually design and build a car that's as enjoyable to drive as a Honda? Not to mention one that looks better and is competitive on price.

The Accord couldn't present a more stark contrast, serving as it does as the "bedrock of the company," as Honda puts it. The Accord is the company's best seller. Indeed, the last time Honda sold as few Accords as GM sold Malibus last year was in 1978. This makes it even more impressive that the Malibu has literally come out of nowhere to challenge the best of the competition.

But then again, Honda's reputation has been slipping lately. The company has thrust a number of ill-conceived models on the public, from the ugly Element SUV to the poor-selling Ridgeline pickup truck to the now-discontinued hybrid Accord. These products all reek of too-clever marketers backed by the distortions of focus groups. You can now add the new Accord sedan to that list.

· Registered
1,054 Posts
All I can say about that Wall Street Journal article is: YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES!!!!:patriot::party::thumbsup:
1 - 4 of 4 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.