Honestly, the Chevrolet Malibu has not traditionally been our best choice among midsize family sedans. More rental car necessity than suburban favorite. But the last gen Malibu took major steps to compete more directly with Camry, Accord and others. Now it appears the all-new 2016 Malibu has turned those steps into leaps. So, let’s see if this Chevy stalwart is finally a true family car contender.
Yes the Malibu has struggled, and maybe even been consistently underrated, in the midsize sedan segment. That’s why the 2016 redesign is such an eye opener.
For one thing, it’s a lot bigger, yet still lighter by almost 300-lbs. Wheelbase is now 111.4-inches, up 3½; while overall length increases by about 2-inches.
More importantly, substantial changes are afoot inside. In fact, if you were able to hide the Chevrolet badges, it would be hard to figure out what brand of car it is. It doesn’t look American, none of the switchgear is stock GM; and it certainly doesn’t look Japanese… appears a bit too showy for European… Korean perhaps?
Well that’s a good comparison, as Hyundai and Kia have done a lot over the past few years to step this class up, and it looks like GM is up to the task too.
Materials improve by a long stride; there are more soft ones, even if it’s still not a consistent feel throughout, there are different surfaces in high wear areas. It’s a good idea, but it could be executed a little better.
And while it may still not match a Honda-level of refinement, the layout and ergonomics are excellent; as they’ve done a good job of leaving proper buttons for the basics, and using touchscreen controls for secondary functions.
There’s even great seat comfort, perhaps the best we’ve felt from GM in recent memory. And they should no longer hear complaints about rear seat legroom, as with all of the additional wheelbase, it’s up by about an inch and a half; though it feels like even more.
On the minus side, all of the rearranging has caused both trunk space and fuel capacity to suffer.
Top drawer Premier trim fulfills all the luxury feature wants you could have in a family car; while available Driver Confidence packages add the latest safety features including automatic braking.
Gauges are fine and clear, and will make convert buyers feel at ease.
There are 3 engine choices, with all getting some type of assist. A 1.5-liter turbo I4 powers base models, and its 160–horsepower and 184 lb-ft. of torque will probably be adequate for most. It’s attached is a 6-speed automatic.
Next up, is a 2.0-liter turbo-4 with 250-horsepower and 258 lb-ft. of torque; and it gets a new 8-speed automatic.
Finally, a hybrid returns to the lineup but this time it’s a full-hybrid, based around a 1.8-liter I4 rated at 47 MPG Combined! With both hard and software from the new Volt, and 182 horsepower, it is equally well sorted, and smooth.
We spent most of our time in the 2.0T, and it’s a heck of an engine. Plenty of guts off the line, sharp throttle response, and great torque range for a 4. Transmission shifts are seamless, with programming among the best we’ve driven in an 8-speed yet.
Altogether, the new Malibu is extremely quiet, with virtually all engine and wind noise eliminated; the only real intrusion at this point is a bit too much tire noise on concrete.
Handling is just fine, better than most, as the chassis feels very solid; both suspension and body rigidity are greatly improved, and we found it more responsive than expected.
GM clearly focused efforts on improving ride and handling, and it shows; even the electric steering has decent weight, although also the typical numb feel.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are up across the board; with the 2.0-liter’s coming in at 22-City, 33-Highway, and 26-Combined……for a good Energy Impact Score of 12.7-barrels of oil consumption and 5.6 tons of CO2 emissions yearly.
As for the all-important pricing, Malibus start at a modest $22,500, with Premier trim coming in at $31,795.
With the growing popularity of SUVs as family mainstays, the four-door sedan market continues to shrink. Yet, it is still large, and 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. The turbo-4 gives it a sportier feel over a traditional V6, and comfort is top notch. Plus, the Hybrid gives the most fuel conscience a serious new choice. While no car design is perfect, overall, this Malibu makeover has us very impressed.
Engine: 2.0 liter
Torque: 258 lb-ft.
EPA: 22 mpg city/ 33 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 12.7 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 5.6 tons/yr