2016 Chevrolet Malibu
by John Davis
You likely have seen recent television commercials that highlight the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu in a blind encounter with consumers. The car they are shown is without badging to indicate a name or origin, and they are asked to guess what it is. Most think it is an imported mid-size sedan, with many guessing luxury brands. So, you can image their surprise when it turns out to be a good old, homegrown Chevrolet Malibu. A nameplate that dates back to 1964, but in recent years, more common in rental car fleets than suburban garages.
But, the tv spots are more than stunts. General Motors has indeed been spending a lot of time and money to make the Malibu relevant for family car buyers. We saw major improvements in the redesign that arrived in 2013, and we see even more gains in the highly revamped 2016 Malibu. Indeed, this car is a real eye-opener.
For one thing, it’s a lot bigger outside, yet it is also a lot lighter; by almost 300-lbs. Wheelbase is up over three inches.
Even more important are the user friendly changes inside.
Material quality and fit and finish have taken long strides forward. The control layout and ergonomics are excellent; as GM has done a good job of leaving proper buttons to handle basic duties, and using touchscreen controls for secondary tasks. There’s even great seat comfort, perhaps the best we’ve felt from GM in recent memory. Gauges are fine and clear, and will make convert buyers feel at ease.
Buyers should also no longer complain about tight rear seat legroom, an area where Malibu clearly trailed rivals Camry and Accord. That family measurement is up by about an inch and a half; though you’ll think it’s even more. On the minus side, all of the rearranging has caused both trunk space and fuel capacity to dip.
Malibu’s top drawer Premier trim fulfills all the luxury desires a family car buyer could have, while the available Driver Confidence packages adds the latest safety features including automatic braking.
There are 3 engine choices, with all getting some type of assistance. A 1.5-liter turbo I4 powers base models, and its 160–horsepower will probably be adequate for most. It’s attached to a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Next up, is a 2.0-liter turbo-4 with 250-horsepower and it gets a new 8-speed automatic gearbox.
Finally, a gasoline-electric hybrid model, but this time it’s a full-hybrid, based around a 1.8-liter engine rated at 47 MPG Combined! With both hard and software from the new Volt, and 182 horsepower, it is equally well sorted, and smooth.
The new Malibu is extremely quiet, with virtually all engine and wind noise eliminated. Handling is just fine too and better than most rivals. The chassis feels very solid as both suspension and body rigidity are greatly improved. GM clearly focused efforts on improving ride and handling, and it shows. Even the electric steering has decent weight.
For our exclusive test of the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu, be sure to catch MotorWeek episode #3522 that begins airing on February 5, 2016. For a complete listing of the public television stations that broadcast MotorWeek, go to motorweek.org and click the “About The Show” tab at the top. MotorWeek is also seen Tuesday evenings on the Velocity cable network.
With the growing popularity of SUVs as family mainstays, the four-door sedan segment continues to shrink. Yet, it is still hotly contested, with lots of entries, making it a true buyer’s market. The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu has now jumped into the sweet spot of that fray, and has what it takes to finally become a household winner.