A longer and lighter 2016 Chevy Malibu is finally ready to be taken seriously in the competitive midsize sedan segment.
After the Chevrolet Impala was completely redesigned in 2014, the current Malibu is the lone car left in Chevrolet’s lineup that was getting long in the tooth. Its dated styling, cramped interior, and porpoise weight are certainly its primary pitfalls, but the Malibu suffers from an even greater problem — negative brand perception.
Like the ninth generation Chevrolet Impala, the current Chevy Malibu isn’t a car you show off to your friends in search of compliments. The historic model name has certainly lost a lot of the respect it earned from its reign over the muscle car era. But this isn’t 1970 anymore, and the Malibu’s performance heritage has long been uprooted; more speed isn’t what the Malibu needed, even if enthusiasts hoped to relive their youth behind the wheel of a four-door sedan. If Chevrolet hoped to restore dignity to the Malibu moniker, it needed to create a new identity — a new direction.
The highly praised revisions made to the tenth generation Impala certainly showed that Chevrolet was capable of such a feat. It didn’t take engineers much thought to discover the current Malibu lacks the sporty, sophisticated styling of other domestic options in its class like the Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion and Chrysler 200.
Even the recently overhauled Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Mazda6 feel light years ahead of the Malibu in terms of build quality and overall value. Unless you’re a diehard General Motors fan, it’s hard to think of a single reason to browse through a Chevrolet dealership when shopping for a new midsize sedan. But Chevrolet is certainly hoping that will change in 2016 with the Malibu’s dramatically improved looks, technology, and fuel economy.
Stylish curves and all new sheet metal give the Malibu a luxurious look like never before. Its aggressive front fascia and profile character lines are far more reminiscent of a European sport sedan than an entry-level Chevrolet offering; LED daytime running lamps and LED tail lamps are also new.
Ventilated seats, LED lighting, and an 8-inch touch screen with Chevrolet’s integrated MyLink system and 4G LTE Wi-Fi give the Malibu’s interior a more premium feel as well. The new Malibu’s wheelbase is 3.6 inches longer than the outgoing model, and 2.3 inches longer overall. These changes also result in 1.3 additional inches of rear legroom, which is sure to help make passengers riding in the backseat a little more comfortable.
It turns out Chevrolet’s trendy new diet isn’t just for its sports cars. While the Corvette and Camaro slimmed down for performance gains, the Malibu did so with better fuel efficiency in mind. Amazingly, the larger 2016 Malibu will see a 300-pound weight reduction from the previous generation due to its high-strength steel body structure.
Fuel efficiency will also be dramatically improved, especially if you opt for the hybrid model that GM claims averages 48 miles per gallon in the city. The Malibu hybrid can travel up to 55 miles per hour on electricity alone using lithium-ion technology from the Chevrolet Volt. The 1.8 liter four-cylinder gasoline-powered engine is only needed under heavy load and at higher speeds.
It looks like Chevrolet has certainly addressed the shortcomings of the previous generation Malibu. But more importantly, they’ve helped restore its reputation. Not only is the 2016 Malibu a car you can proudly show off to your friends and family, but also one that you can drop off at valet and watch as the attendant stumbles to catch his breath.
Nice encore, Chevrolet. It looks like you’ve done it again.