The Chevrolet Malibu has been the brand’s bread-and-butter family sedan for decades. After spending most of the ‘80s dormant, General Motors resuscitated the nameplate for the 1997 model year on a sedan intended to rival the best-selling Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Since then the Malibu has undergone four revisions, now sporting some of the best technology GM has to offer mainstream sedan buyers.
2016 to Present: Chevrolet Malibu
The Malibu has been redesigned for 2016. GM says it lost 300 pounds when compared with the outgoing model, in a bid to improve performance and fuel economy. The redesign brought in styling that is inspired by the larger Chevrolet Impala full-size sedan. A new turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine is the mainstream pick for engines, with 160 horsepower and stop-start technology. A turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 259-horsepower also carries over. The Malibu comes only with a six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive.
New, however, is a hybrid model with a system derived from the Chevrolet Volt. It has a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and a pair of electric motors that have a combined output of 182 horsepower. This powertrain delivers an estimated 47 mpg combined. Other features include a standard backup camera and available forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, pedestrian detection and Apple CarPlay.
Earlier Chevrolet Malibu Models
The Malibu was significantly redesigned for 2004. Using a thoroughly modern platform shared with the Saab 9-3 and Opel Vectra, GM pitched the new Malibu right at the heart of the midsize sedan market. A new variant, the longer, Malibu Maxx hatchback, joined the lineup as an alternative to a wagon.
A base model, with steel wheels and some power accessories, was powered by a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine with 144 horsepower and a four-speed automatic transmission. Better-equipped LS and LT models got a 3.5-liter V6 with 200 horsepower. All Malibu Maxx models had the V6. Features like leather upholstery, a sunroof and even a rear entertainment system were available.
The Malibu was largely unchanged for 2005, but got a noticeable facelift for 2006. A new SS trim level joined the lineup, which was available on both body styles. It had a 3.9-liter V6 with 240 horsepower and came with revised styling, 18-inch wheels and a sport suspension. The base model was dropped and a new LTZ trim joined the lineup, too. For 2007, a new 3.5-liter V6 gained 17 horsepower over the old one.
In 2008, Chevy introduced a new Malibu, with styling far removed from its predecessor. Based on a longer version of the same platform, the Malibu also added numerous new comfort and convenience features.
LS models come with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 169 horsepower and a four-speed automatic transmission, as well as major power accessories and OnStar. LT models gained aluminum wheels, a power driver's seat and power-adjustable pedals. LTZ models got a six-speed automatic, 18-inch wheels, automatic climate control and leather upholstery. A 3.6-liter, 252-horsepower V6 engine was initially standard on the LTZ, and optional on the V6.
For 2009, the six-speed automatic became available on LT models. Bluetooth was a new option and stability control became standard. All but the LS would get the six-speed as standard in 2010, and the old four-speed automatic was gone altogether in 2011.
The Malibu was fully redesigned for 2013. That model, based on the Buick Regal, boasted more refinement over the old model, even if it was slightly smaller overall.
The base engine was a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 197 horsepower. Replacing the old V6, however, is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 259 horsepower. Finally, a Malibu Eco model has a 2.4-liter four with a mild assist hybrid function. All models got a six-speed automatic transmission.
Base LS models got 16-inch aluminum wheels, power accessories, OnStar and Bluetooth. LT models gained features such as Chevy's MyLink infotainment system, a USB input and a power driver's seat. Finally, LTZ got heated front seats and leather upholstery.
For 2014, the Malibu got a host of revisions to address customer and press complaints. The front-end styling was revised and the rear seat design was changed to boost legroom. The base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine got a stop-start system and became the Eco model. The turbo model got a firmer suspension and a bump in torque for better performance.
In its last year before a full redesign, the 2015 Malibu gained an updated OnStar telematics system with 4G LTE and a built-in Wi-Fi hot spot.