2016 Chevrolet MalibuPosted on March 11th, 2016
Redesigned midsize sedan has sex appeal and a whole lot more
By Nina Russin
Chevrolet has completely redesigned its midsize sedan for 2016 with some very important changes, beginning with the exterior. Gone is the plain vanilla wrapper, replaced by a sleek aerodynamic design with undeniable road presence.
The new Malibu’s beauty is more than skin deep. An available two-liter engine on the upscale 2LT test car provides a surprising punch off the line thanks to 258 pound-feet of peak torque available from 1700 rpm. An eight-speed automatic transmission- a first for General Motors on a front-wheel drive platform- extends the sedan’s highway fuel economy to 33 miles-per-gallon.
Pricing for the test car begins at $28,620 excluding the $875 delivery charge. The 2LT comes fully loaded with active safety and convenience features including remote start, Chevrolet MyLink infotainment, OnStar with navigation, Bluetooth streaming audio, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, blind spot monitoring, low-speed mitigation braking, rearview camera and cross traffic alert. Special white pearl coat exterior finish adds $995, bringing the final MSRP to $30,490.
Test drive in Phoenix
This week I drove the new Malibu around Phoenix, Scottsdale and Chandler, Arizona. March is spring training month in the valley of the sun, so traffic reaches a fevered pitch. Weaving through hordes of other vehicles, many driven by out-of-towners, I was happy to have the above-mentioned active safety features to protect me.
The two-liter turbocharged engine’s power didn’t hurt either. Because turbochargers develop peak power at low engine speeds, they offer excellent power off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging into high-speed traffic. On several occasions, I found myself needing to make quick lane changes to avoid distracted drivers trying to navigate through unfamiliar waters. The 250-horsepower engine was a good choice for the job.
General Motors has the reputation of engineering exceptionally good automatic transmissions. The eight-speed unit on the Malibu lives up to this, providing smooth, linear shifting throughout the power band with no noticeable shift shock.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and multi-link setup in the back. Stabilizer bars on both axles keep the chassis flat while cornering. Eighteen-inch rims- standard on the 2LT, provide a nice fat footprint for high-speed performance.
Engineers tuned the electric power steering system for excellent low speed assist. A 37-foot turning circle is good enough for making the occasional U-turn on wider surface roads. On-center response at higher speeds is soft but not unpleasant.
Brakes consist of ventilated discs in front and solid rotors in the rear, providing firm, linear stopping power.
Visibility around the perimeter is good. The car’s rather thick B-pillars limit the driver’s view over the shoulder but standard blind spot monitoring does a good job of compensating. A standard tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel enables smaller drivers to maintain a clear forward view and safe distance from the front airbag.
A following distance indicator illuminates a symbol in the gauge cluster when the sedan approaches the vehicle in front. I found it to be a useful feature in areas where freeways converged: these being places where drivers have a habit of stopping without warning. Low speed mitigation braking automatically applies the brakes if the driver fails to slow down when it approaches a stopped car.
Parents with young drivers in the family will appreciate new teen driving technology that enables them to limit the car’s top speed and review driving reports.
Engineers did an excellent job with NVH, minimizing engine, wind and road noise intrusion to the interior. Both rows of occupants can converse with ease on the highway or enjoy the sedan’s premium audio system.
Adding almost four inches to the Malibu’s wheelbase added much-needed legroom to the sedan’s second row. Rear seats also fold flat to extend the cargo floor.
Keyless entry and start makes it easier to get in and out of the car at night. A sentinel lighting system keeps headlamps and tail lamps on for a few minutes after the driver shuts off the ignition.
While fit and finish throughout the interior is quite good, I found its appearance to be rather bland. Designers did such a great job on the exterior, I had hoped that they would have made similar changes inside the car.
The cloth upholstery is good quality and dries quickly: something I was relieved to discover after some prolonged workouts at the gym. But it isn’t very attractive. Seat bottom cushions are on the soft side which some buyers might prefer, but I found them mushy. An adjustable lower lumbar on the driver’s seatback made a big difference on drives lasting over an hour.
The sedan’s standard rearview camera makes it easier to back out of parking slots in crowded lots. A cross traffic alert sends an audible chime as well as visual indicator on the center stack screen when other vehicles pass across the back.
Both the gauge cluster and center stack screen are easy to read in bright sunlight and after dark. Infotainment features are intuitive to program, with controls easy to reach from either from seating position.
The standard Wi-Fi hotspot is a lifesaver in areas where cell phone coverage is poor. This is the case through sections of the Gila River Indian Community south of town where cell phone towers are limited to one provider- unfortunately not mine.
A spacious trunk has plenty of room for luggage, groceries and smaller camping equipment. The fold-flat rear seats extend the cargo floor for longer items such as skis and snowboards. While the Malibu isn’t bicycle friendly, it would be possible to shoe a road bike with the wheels removed in back in a pinch.
The Chevrolet Malibu comes with eight airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, tire pressure monitoring and daytime running lamps. Standard OnStar automatically notifies police and emergency medical personnel in the event of a serious collision.
Chevrolet’s factory warranty includes two scheduled maintenance visits and roadside assistance for five years: up to 60,000 miles.
Chevrolet builds the Malibu in its Kansas City, Kansas assembly plant.
Like: A versatile midsize sedan with attractive exterior, excellent power and fuel economy.
Dislike: Unimaginative interior design
Model: Malibu 2LT
Base price: $28,620
As tested: $30,490
Horsepower: 250 Hp @ 5300 rpm
Torque: 258 lbs.-ft. @ 1700 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 22/33 mpg city/highway
Comment: The manufacturer recommends but does not require premium unleaded gasoline for the two-liter turbocharged engine.