Long before SUVs became popular, Americans preferred large saloons. One such saloon was the Chevrolet Malibu, which arrived on the scene in the mid-1960s. It was a regal carriage which was as American as apple pie.
But the modern-day Malibu is something else. The version which made its debut in Singapore in 2013 was a successor to the Epica. And like the Epica, it was made in South Korea. It made as much impact as McPizza did in America.
The new model, which shares the Opel Insignia's platform, is a big improvement. But it is not available in right-hand-drive at the moment.
It is longer and sleeker than its predecessor. It has a bolder grille and slimmer headlamps.
Measuring 4,922mm from front to back (57mm longer than before), it is a sizeable sedan. Its wheelbase has also been stretched by 92mm to 2,829mm, giving it more decent rear room.
SPECS/ CHEVROLET MALIBU
Engine: 1,490cc 16-valve inline-4 turbocharged
Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual select
Power: 163bhp at 5,600rpm
Torque: 250Nm at 2,000-4,000rpm
0-100kmh: 8.5 seconds
Top speed: 209kmh (electronically limited)
Fuel consumption: 7.8 litres/100km
Agent: Alpine Motors
The rear bench easily accommodates three 1.8m-tall adults. It also helps that the rear floor is now nearly flat. The floor protrusion in the previous Malibu was rather high, so middle occupants must sit with their legs awkwardly apart.
The cockpit is also better. The lower dashboard improves forward visibility and the instrument cluster is more attractive than before.
Its infotainment system is more intuitive this time around and has faster-loading menus too.
The Malibu is quicker too. The test car, equipped with a turbocharged 1.5-litre four-pot that produces 163bhp and 250Nm, achieves the century sprint in a respectable 8.5 seconds.
That is 1.2 seconds faster than the older Malibu, which had a naturally aspirated 2.4-litre engine.
The new car's breezier drive is down to the 1.5-litre engine delivering 25Nm more torque and the fact that the latest model is about 136kg lighter than the old one.
On the go, the Malibu impresses with its improved ride comfort. Los Angeles' streets are not as well paved as Singapore's, but the Malibu smooths over bumps and imperfections to deliver a pliant ride.
Only on the roughest stretches of freeway does your back take a beating. Californian highways are not known for their smoothness. A lot of them actually resemble a quilt, one made with concrete and asphalt.
During my two-week stay in Los Angeles, the longest drive I took was a 289km round trip from Artesia to the Desert Hills Premium Outlets near Palm Springs.
The hilly roads leading to Palm Springs were the curviest ones I put the Malibu through. Being comfort- biased, the car displayed understeer in tighter corners.
In this respect, the previous Malibu might have done better.
The old car would have also done slightly better in terms of cargo capacity. The new model has a 447-litre boot - 13 litres smaller than its predecessor's.
I was initially apprehensive about the Malibu's 49-litre fuel tank, given the long journey. But the car was relatively efficient.
I managed 8.5 litres per 100km and still had half a tank of petrol at the end of the trip.
That compares favourably with Chevy's stated combined fuel consumption of 7.8 litres per 100km.
In total, I drove nearly 1,600km in the Malibu, visiting downtown Los Angeles and places such as Anaheim, Orange County and Newport Beach.
• The writer is with Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.