For the last several years, the Chevrolet Malibu hasn’t been a bad car. Its redesign for 2008 was a huge improvement over the previous generation, and the current generation, released in 2013, kept the Malibu moving in the right direction. It then received a refresh 18 months later to update the interior and tweak the exterior to make it more attractive. Unfortunately, while the Malibu has continually gotten better, the rest of the midsize sedan segment has gotten much better, much faster. The current Chevy Malibu is simply not competitive against the latest Accord, Camry, and Sonata. General Motors knows this, and that makes the 2016 Malibu a very important car for Chevrolet. To bring the Malibu back and make it more competitive, Chevrolet made sure to give it a less generic design. It still carries elements of the previous generation Malibu’s design, but with a shape that’s much less anonymous. The new Malibu is also bigger, growing 2.3 inches overall and stretching an additional 3.6 inches between the wheels, but it also dropped weight. Use of high strength steel led to a weight loss of over 300 pounds, which not only increases fuel economy but also improves handling.
New engines also contribute to improved fuel efficiency. A 1.5 liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine leads the charge, making 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque while returning 27 miles per gallon in the city and 37 miles per gallon on the highway. For drivers looking for a little more power out of their family sedans, the 2.0 liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine from the previous generation is still available, making 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque while returning a slightly improved 22 miles per gallon in the city and 32 miles per gallon on the highway. The big story on the new Malibu is that it comes with a hybrid option. Pure electric driving is available up to 55 miles per hour, and Chevrolet expects at least 45 miles per gallon overall. With motors adapted from the Volt and a 1.8 liter, four-cylinder engine, the hybrid makes a total of 182 horsepower and is actually faster than the base engine. It won’t be quite as fuel efficient as the Volt, but it should be more enjoyable to drive.
With the interior, Chevrolet focused on giving the Malibu a more premium feel, with higher quality materials and a new, technology-focused center stack. Features like Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, wireless charging, and ventilated seats are available, as well as a number of advanced safety features. Front pedestrian alert, lane keep assist, blind spot alert, forward collision alert, rear cross traffic alert, front and rear park assist, intelligent headlights, adaptive cruise control, front automatic braking, and automatic parking assist are all available. It’s kind of crazy how quickly features that were previously only available in high end luxury sedans are making their way into regular vehicles. But progress moves quickly, and the new Malibu is an incredibly important car for Chevrolet. In 2014, the Malibu slipped to sixth in midsize car sales, losing out not just to the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Nissan Altima, but also to the Ford Fusion and Hyundai Sonata. The Kia Optima was hot on its heels despite its aging design, and a successful launch of the 2016 Optima could see the Malibu slip even further down the list. It’s not like Chevrolet doesn’t know how to build a sedan anymore. The Impala has been praised across the board as an excellent vehicle. The sales reflect it, too, as the Impala was the top selling large car in the U.S. last year. Not only did it beat out the Dodge Charger and the Chrysler 300, it beat out the Toyota Avalon, the Ford Taurus, and Nissan Maxima as well. If Chevrolet can recapture some of that Impala magic with the new Malibu, then the rest of the midsize segment better watch out.
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