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2015 Chevrolet Malibu REVIEW logo 4/3/2017

Con: Snug backseat; MyLink touchscreen interface can be finicky to use at times.

Interior: The 2015 Chevrolet Malibu is blessed with an unusually upscale cabin by segment standards, at least in terms of design. The dashboard's graceful curves are complemented by a tasteful smattering of metallic accents. The materials are mostly impressive as well, with ample soft-touch surfaces, though some of the buttons and stalks have a less substantial feel than we'd like.

The central control layout looks a bit intimidating at first glance, but there's a logic to it; most drivers should acclimate quickly after a few miles behind the wheel. The MyLink touchscreen interface -- standard on all but the base LS -- scores points for its intuitive menu structure, and it also provides smartphone app integration, including radio apps like Pandora and Stitcher. However, we've found that touch inputs don't always meet with a quick response or even a response at all, suggesting that Chevy's still got some kinks to work out.

Seat comfort in the Malibu is a tale of two rows. In front, the cushions are nicely shaped for long hauls, and the optional power driver seat provides extensive adjustments for drivers both short and tall. In back, however, the Malibu's relatively short wheelbase makes for "midsize-minus" passenger space. It's snug enough that tall folks in front will have to slide their seats up to make room -- a rare inconvenience in a modern midsize sedan. You may also struggle to fit a rear-facing child seat. This may not be a deal-breaker, but it's something to keep in mind when you're weighing your options.

The Malibu's trunk measures 16.3 cubic feet, which a bit larger than the norm for a midsize sedan.

Body: The 2015 Chevrolet Malibu midsize sedan is offered in three primary trim levels: LS, LT and LTZ.

The base LS starts with 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, keyless entry, full power accessories, cruise control, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cloth upholstery, a power driver seat height adjuster, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, OnStar (with 4G WiFi connectivity), Bluetooth phone connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player.

The LT is divided into three sub-trims: 1LT, 2LT and 3LT. Relative to the LS, the 1LT adds heated mirrors with integrated turn signals, cloth and leatherette (vinyl) upholstery, Bluetooth audio connectivity, the MyLink infotainment system (includes a 7-inch touchscreen, voice controls, Internet radio smartphone app compatibility and voice-to-text messaging capability for certain smartphones), satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB/iPod interface.

The 2LT piles on 18-inch alloy wheels, foglamps, a compact spare tire (replacing the standard tire repair kit), dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar) and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The 3LT is essentially identical to the 2LT with the addition of the turbocharged engine.

The top-of-the-line LTZ has two sub-trims of its own: 1LZ and 2LZ. Either way, you'll get leather seating, heated front seats, an eight-way power passenger seat (with power lumbar), an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a cargo net for the trunk. The 2LZ adds a sunroof and the turbocharged engine.

Many of the fancier features are available on lower trim levels via various option packages. Other add-ons (depending on trim) include the Advanced Safety package (consisting of forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems), xenon headlights, keyless ignition and entry, driver memory settings, a nine-speaker Pioneer audio system, a 120-volt power outlet, a navigation system and a rearview camera.

Driving: The 2.5-liter engine is one of the strongest base offerings in this segment, providing plenty of juice whether you're accelerating from a stop light or merging on the freeway. Still, the 2.0-liter turbo is a significant and desirable upgrade, imbuing the 'Bu with authoritative power at any legal speed. The downside is that some rival V6s -- the Altima's and the Accord's, for example -- are more fuel-efficient, as is the more powerful 2.0-liter turbo shared by the Sonata and Kia Optima. But if you're sold on the Malibu otherwise, the turbo is certainly an appealing option.

Road and wind noise are things you're only distantly aware of in the Malibu's cabin. Chevy set out to make this Malibu the quietest one yet, and they nailed it. The suspension is a win as well, expertly soaking up bumps while preserving the driver's sense of control. The one demerit here concerns handling, as the Malibu just isn't that fun to drive compared to some rivals. If you value a playful, sporty character when you're in the saddle, there are better options elsewhere.

What’s New: The hybrid-powered Malibu Eco is no longer available, but all Malibus receive a 4G data connection with WiFi hotspot capability.

All 2015 Chevrolet Malibus employ a six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. The base engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that generates 196 horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 29 mpg combined (25 city/36 highway), aided by a barely perceptible stop-start system that automatically turns off the engine when the car comes to a halt.

The optional 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is only offered on the 3LT and 2LZ trims. It pumps out 259 hp and a robust 295 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy checks in at 24 mpg combined (21 city/30 highway). As with the base engine, this is respectable but not class-leading efficiency.

Safety: The 2015 Chevy Malibu comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front knee airbags, front side airbags, rear side airbags and side curtain airbags. Also standard is the OnStar telematics system, which includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, remote door unlocking and stolen vehicle assistance. A rearview camera is available, as is an Advanced Safety package with forward collision warning, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems.

In government crash testing, the Malibu earned a perfect five stars for overall crash protection, with five stars for total frontal impact protection and five stars for total side impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Malibu its highest possible rating of "Good" in the small-overlap frontal-offset and moderate-overlap frontal-offset impact collision tests. The Malibu also earned a "Good" rating in the side-impact, roof strength and whiplash reduction (seat and head restraints) tests.

Pro: Outstanding crash test scores; well-appointed interior; comfortable ride; strong turbocharged engine.

Edmunds Say: The 2015 Chevrolet Malibu may not be the first midsize sedan that comes to mind, but it's a solid effort that checks most of the boxes for shoppers in this segment.

Introduction: Ah, Malibu. We know it well. Sandy beaches, palatial estates, celebrities galore and winding canyon roads. All of which begs the question: What on earth does the 2015 Chevrolet Malibu have to do with its namesake? Well, like many Malibu residents, Chevy's family sedan received some front-end enhancements last year. Otherwise, though, there's not a whole lot of overlap. The Malibu gets the job done, but it tends to get lost in the shuffle versus its higher-profile rivals.

That's a shame, because when you get right down to it, the Malibu is a pretty nice car with few apparent weaknesses. One used to be the underwhelming Eco model's "mild hybrid" powertrain -- too mild, frankly, to justify the compromises in performance and trunk space -- but Chevy has done away with the Eco for 2015, leaving just the satisfying base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine or the strong turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder as your choices. Another shortcoming, literally, is the Malibu's limited rear legroom, an unavoidable consequence of the car's unusually compact wheelbase. But other than that, the Malibu has much to recommend it, including excellent crash-test scores, an upscale interior and a quiet, supple ride.

Despite these and other merits, however, the Malibu is simply outdone by other midsize family sedans. The 2015 Nissan Altima, for example, is notable for delivering better fuel economy with both its base and optional engines. Same goes for the Honda Accord, which also offers a particularly spacious backseat. On the home front, the 2015 Ford Fusion impresses with its sharp handling, head-turning style and rich feature set. The overhauled 2015 Hyundai Sonata also merits close consideration, and there are others we could mention as well.

So where does that leave the 2015 Chevrolet Malibu? Even if it isn't a class leader nor as glamorous as its name suggests, it's still a competitive family sedan that's worth taking for a spin.


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