Offering efficient turbocharged power, a comfortable ride and attractive styling inside and out, the all-new 2016 Chevrolet Malibu represents General Motors’ best effort yet in the highly contested midsize family-sedan segment.
The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu is a midsize family sedan that seats five. The front-wheel drive four-door sedan is powered by a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that mates to a six-speed automatic transmission. A more potent turbocharged 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine is optional and an all-new hybrid powertrain rounds out the lineup. The 2016 Malibu is available in L, LS, LT, Premier and Hybrid trim levels.
The 2016 Malibu adopts the new GM design language introduced on the full-size Chevrolet Impala. Up front, the dual-port grille is flanked by a pair of attractive headlights on top and available LED daytime running lights on the bottom. The 2016 Malibu’s wheelbase is 3.6 inches longer than the outgoing model and Chevrolet uses the additional length to enhance the Malibu’s curb appeal and provide a roomier cabin.
The Malibu’s profile shares more than a few styling elements with the related Impala and pricier European sedans. While you would be hard-pressed to see a specific premium-brand model in the Malibu’s sheet metal, a walk around reveals that many of the individual elements evoke rough comparisons to much costlier vehicles. For instance, a quick glimpse at the Malibu’s sideview mirrors provides a hint of BMW 3 Series, while its C-pillar beckons comparison to the formidable Audi A7 and Mercedes CLS. I’m not saying that the Malibu is ready to compete with the majestic lines of the legendary big boys from Europe, but the new athletic design sets this Chevrolet apart in a sea of midsize family sedans.
The biggest problem with the new Malibu’s styling is the limited rear visibility caused by the high trunk line. While attractive from the outside, the new trunk design is so elevated that you can’t see the headlights of the car behind you even when you are a full car length ahead. This phenomenon creates the illusion that you are constantly being tailgated, something that I never did get used to even after a week of driving.
The additional length that Chevy has added to the Malibu’s wheelbase provides an open and airy feeling to the sedan’s cabin. Chevrolet’s signature dual-cockpit interior design provides a high level of comfort and convenience for the driver and front-seat passenger. Controls are straightforward and conveniently located. A little of the European flavor so prevalent in the Malibu’s exterior is lost inside, but the simplistic, decidedly Chevy approach works well and fails to disappoint, especially considering the Malibu’s price and segment.
The new center stack is quite impressive. Chevrolet has thoughtfully designed the center of the dashboard so that the infotainment center and the climate controls are independent, but still located within inches of each other. The design is intuitive and easy to master.
The rear seating area is equally roomy and comfortable. The coupelike raked C-pillar is high enough that it doesn’t rob rear headroom, something that the design is infamously known for. Rear legroom is improved by 1.3 inches over the outgoing model, helping the Malibu’s fight in the midsize family sedan marketplace.
My test vehicle was the top of the line Premier model which featured leather upholstery and comfortable, over-stuffed heated and ventilated front seats. The eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat was easy to configure. It only took a few minutes to adjust to my frame and then was programmed into one of the car’s two memory settings with the push of a button.
Cargo space is excellent. The trunk’s 15.8 cubic feet is configured in a way that is optimal for loading luggage, making the Malibu a top contender for a family cross-country trip vehicle.
The base 2016 Chevrolet Malibu is powered by a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine which mates to a six-speed automatic transmission. It produces 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. My test vehicle was powered by the optional 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that generates an impressive 250 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Models with this engine come with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Hybrid models employ a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motor that combine to create 182 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque.
The 2016 Malibu features a balanced ride quality that favors comfort over raw performance. The overstuffed seats and forgiving suspension are welcome hosts during daily commutes and longer journeys. The base 1.5-liter engine is smooth and efficient, returning 27 mpg city and 37 mpg highway. The more potent 2.0-liter provides excellent midrange torque with a wide power band. Thanks to the 260 pound-feet of torque, highway passing is a breeze and leaving the traffic light under full-throttle is grin-inducing. While neither engine qualifies the Malibu as a pure sports sedan, its excellent braking, fine handling and precise steering certainly earn Chevy’s new model the “sporty” descriptor.
The fuel-efficient pick of the group is the all-new Malibu Hybrid that is rated at 47 mpg city and 46 mpg highway. Once again, thanks to the hybrid powertrain’s excellent 277 pound-feet of torque, passing is inspiring and the Malibu gently walks the line of performance and luxury.
The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu features an adequate level of standard equipment, but moving beyond the base model quickly increases the amount of user-friendly technology. Cruise control, keyless entry and start, power door locks and express-down power windows are included on all trim levels. A six-speaker audio system is standard.
The OnStar telematics system, which includes guidance, automatic crash response, stolen vehicle assistance, roadside assistance, turn-by-turn navigation and advanced diagnostics is provided free of charge for the first six months of ownership, after which a subscription is required.
Moving to the LS or LT trim adds a Chevrolet MyLink audio system with a 7-inch touch screen and Bluetooth. The system also features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Top-trim Premier models receive an 8-inch touch screen, a nine-speaker Bose audio system with navigation, USB and Bluetooth connectivity and more.
The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu comes equipped with stability control, anti-lock brakes and a comprehensive suite of 10 air bags. Also included are a rearview camera and a Teen Driver safety system that allows parents to monitor teen driving habits and set limitations on the vehicle. The OnStar telematics system includes vehicle diagnostics to help avoid unnecessary breakdowns and automatic crash response in case of emergencies.
Available active safety features include lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning with automatic braking.
The 2016 Malibu earned a top five-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Limited models earned a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), with top scores of Good in all IIHS crash tests.
The 2016 Malibu starts at $21,625 (excluding an $875 destination charge), which undercuts the 2016 Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Ford Fusion in terms of base price. While the standard equipment on the base Malibu is sparse by today’s midsize sedan standards, the efficient powertrain, push-button start with passive entry and start/stop technology make the all-new Malibu a compelling buy.
Pricing for my top-trim Malibu Premier begins at $30,920. Adding a destination charge and the two Driver Confidence packages (which include all of the optional safety technologies listed above) sets the nicely equipped Malibu Premier’s bottom line at $34,285. Whether you opt for the base model, the top-trim Premier or anything in between, the Malibu represents excellent value.
The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu’s striking good looks, excellent driving dynamics and wide variety of fuel-efficient powertrains add up to a hard-to-beat competitor in the hotly contested midsize segment. The marked improvements in the all-new model propel it from midpack standings to a vehicle that deserves to be a top pick. I would be hard pressed to say that the new Malibu completely dethrones the highly respected Honda Accord as my go-to in the segment, but I certainly wouldn’t try to dissuade a buyer who appreciates the Malibu’s style and comfortable ride from buying one.