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2016 Chevrolet Malibu REVIEW

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 4/7/2017

Con: Mediocre acceleration from base 1.5-liter engine; some low-speed lurches from transmission; sparsely equipped base L trim; touchscreen prone to harsh reflections and obscuring fingerprints; distracting sun reflections from interior trim.

Interior: The changes inside the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu aren't as radical as those on the outside, but the new model is nevertheless improved. What jumps out about the new dashboard is its more modern, organic design that features sleeker gauges and climate controls that show a bit more flair. Another welcome touch is the way in which the optional MyLink touchscreen is integrated: It looks like an iPad slipped neatly into its own slot, bucking the trend these days of infotainment screens perched awkwardly atop the dash.

The 2016 Malibu's optional 8-inch MyLink touchscreen is user-friendly, and we like how it appears to slot into the dashboard like an accessory iPad.

Speaking of those touchscreens, the lower-end unit has a 7-inch diagonal with merely adequate graphics, while the available 8-inch screen (standard on Premier, optional on LT and Hybrid) offers tablet-like colors and clarity. We like the intuitive menu structure, quick response times and notable cool features such as mobile 4G Wi-Fi and full smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It's unfortunate, however, that the screen can become unreadable due to reflections and fingerprints. Furthermore, the base L trim comes standard with neither of these infotainment systems.

Seat comfort is a strong point in the 2016 Malibu. The power driver seat (we haven't tested the manual version) slides back farther than the Accord's, making this Chevy a strong pick for tall shoppers, and all front-row riders will likely find support and cushioning to be satisfactory. In back, the new Malibu's elongated wheelbase opens up enough legroom to challenge rivals including the Ford Fusion, though in our experience, the Accord and Sonata offer even more. Still, the Malibu is now competitive in terms of backseat space, and that addresses a major complaint about the previous-generation car.

Cabin storage for small items is unremarkable for a midsize sedan, but the 15.8-cubic-foot trunk is large, if admittedly average for the segment. Getting the Hybrid reduces trunk capacity to 11.6 cubic feet since the battery pack eats up its lower rear portion (imagine a small stage in the back of the trunk). This is typical for a hybrid sedan, though the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid does buck the trend.

Body: The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu midsize sedan is offered in four main trim levels: L, LS, LT and Premier. Note that the LT is technically divided into two sub-trims (1LT and 2LT), with the latter receiving the 2.0-liter engine, the eight-speed automatic transmission and a few other features noted below. The Hybrid is a stand-alone trim level.

The base L comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, keyless entry and ignition, cruise control, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cloth upholstery, manual front-seat height adjusters, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, OnStar, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a six-speaker audio system.

The LS adds 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, 4G LTE connectivity with mobile Wi-Fi, a rearview camera, Bluetooth streaming audio, and the MyLink infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen that includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration.

Although the base L trim isn't particularly well equipped, the higher trim levels raise their game with up-to-date features and even a two-tone color scheme.

The 1LT comes with 17-inch wheels, LED daytime running lights, heated mirrors, ambient interior lighting, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), rear climate vents and satellite radio.

The Hybrid is essentially equal to the 1LT, though it does come standard with dual-zone automatic climate control.

The 2LT is also generally comparable to the 1LT but adds a more powerful turbocharged engine, 18-inch wheels, dual exhaust tips and a larger fuel tank (15.8 gallons versus 13.0 for the 1.5T).

The Premier boasts 19-inch wheels, LED taillights, remote ignition, a color driver information system, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, driver memory settings, a six-way power passenger seat (with power lumbar), a heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, wireless smartphone charging, a 120-volt power outlet, two additional USB charging ports, an upgraded 8-inch touchscreen, a navigation system and a nine-speaker Bose audio system.

Some of the Premier's higher-end standard features are available on lower trim levels as options. Other options, depending on trim, include a sunroof, 18-inch alloy wheels and a couple of advanced safety-related packages (see Safety section).

Driving: The 1.5-liter turbo engine's 160 hp is about as meager as it gets in this segment, so don't expect a stirring experience when you mat the gas. On the other hand, the ample turbocharged torque hits early and often, so when you're climbing a hill or simply keeping up with traffic, this engine can feel virtually effortless. Overall, we'd say it's just fine for most purposes, but if you're underwhelmed on your test drive, be sure to check out the energetic 2.0-liter turbo, which makes the Malibu a much quicker car and also brings the more confident eight-speed transmission.

The powertrain to get, though, might very well be the hybrid. Its smooth, quiet and surprisingly quick acceleration is more akin to an electric vehicle than other hybrids such as the Toyota Camry, as it relies more on its electric motor than its gasoline engine. When the engine does come on, it's relatively unobtrusive unless you're flooring the gas or chugging up a steep grade. We also like that the Hybrid's brake pedal feels progressive and natural.

The 2016 Malibu's styling hints at a certain sportiness within, and sure enough, this model feels more athletic on the road than its stolid predecessor.

Whichever powertrain you select, the 2016 Malibu possesses a newfound nimbleness that makes it at least mildly entertaining to drive. Even the Hybrid is surprisingly light on its feet. Ride quality also remains a Malibu strength, with most bumps and ruts getting expertly filtered out before they reach the cabin. There might be a bit more interior noise than before, but this is still a fundamentally quiet car.

What’s New: The 2016 Malibu is fully redesigned.

All 2016 Chevrolet Malibu models are front-wheel-drive. The L, LS and 1LT trim levels come standard with a six-speed automatic transmission and a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 160 hp and 184 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy is EPA-rated at 31 mpg combined (27 city/37 highway), boosted slightly by a stop-start system that automatically turns off the engine when the car comes to a halt.

You can tell the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Limited by its propeller-style 19-inch wheels. Also, the powerful 2.0-liter turbo engine comes standard.

Standard on the 2LT and Premier trims are an eight-speed automatic and a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that cranks out 250 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. That's less output than this engine made in the previous Malibu, but the new eight-speed transmission makes the most of it. In Edmunds testing, it brought a Malibu Premier from zero to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds--which is about average for a midsize sedan engine upgrade.

EPA fuel economy estimates for the 2.0-liter are 26 mpg combined (22 city/33 highway). We averaged a very impressive 32.2 mpg on the 116-mile Edmunds evaluation route.

The Hybrid, as the name suggests, includes a gasoline-electric system derived from the Chevrolet Volt. Most of the time, it sends its power through its 76-kW electric motor, which draws electricity from its battery pack and a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. Overall output is 182 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. In Edmunds testing, the Malibu Hybrid went from zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, making it one of the quickest hybrid sedans we've tested to date.

EPA-estimated fuel economy is 46 combined (47 city/46 highway) for the Hybrid. In terms of actual fuel used, it is essentially equal to the Accord Hybrid and considerably better than the Camry Hybrid and Sonata Hybrid.

Safety: The 2016 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 standard from the LS trim on up, and there are two advanced safety packages. The Driver Confidence package adds automatic high-beam headlight control, front and rear parking sensors, a blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning and intervention, and a forward collision warning system with low-speed automatic braking. The Driver Confidence 2 package adds a self-parking system, an electronic parking brake, adaptive cruise control, and an upgraded collision mitigation system with automatic emergency braking.

In Edmunds brake testing, a Malibu Premier came to a panic stop from 60 mph in 113 feet--a superior distance that one is one of the shortest we've recorded in this segment. The Malibu Hybrid stopped in a more typical distance of 123 feet.

Pro: Spacious interior with tall-person-friendly front seats; sporty handling around turns; hybrid version is respectably quick to accelerate; strong brakes; responsive and intuitive 8-inch touchscreen interface with sharp graphics.

Edmunds Say: It's a wallflower no more. If you're shopping for a midsize family sedan, the fully redesigned 2016 Chevrolet Malibu can be put on your test-drive list. It might not be as polished as some rivals, but you'll find it to be plenty practical and surprisingly fun to drive.

Introduction: Though the previous-generation Chevrolet Malibu was a likable enough sedan, we found it came up short in a few key areas. For 2016, though, Chevy has gone back to the drawing board, and the result is one of the biggest generation-to-generation improvements in recent memory.

The first thing you'll notice about the 2016 Chevy Malibu is the striking exterior styling. To some eyes, it even evokes the Audi A7 with its sleek, faux-hatchback profile. In any case, it's safe to say this is the first Malibu since the early 1970s that won't look out of place in the tony California seaside town for which it's named, particularly in Limited trim with the 19-inch wheels.

A wallflower no more, the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu has become a striking car by family sedan standards.

Chevy tinkered under the hood as well. There's a newly standard turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that replaces the previous non-turbo 2.5-liter base engine. It gives up 36 horsepower compared to the old 2.5, but its turbocharger supplies suitable low-rpm oomph plus improved fuel economy. The Malibu's engine upgrade, a smooth and strong turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, remains optional. But it might be the new Malibu Hybrid that impresses the most. It produces excellent fuel economy and smooth, quiet and surprisingly rapid acceleration. The fact it otherwise drives like the other Malibus is icing on the cake.

Inside, the quality of the materials is unremarkable, but standard and optional equipment are competitive for the segment. The front seats offer plenty of adjustability, even for tall folks. And in back, the previous-generation Malibu's shortage of rear legroom has been corrected thanks to a wheelbase that's nearly 4 inches longer, finally putting the Malibu on par with its primary competitors.

So, is the Malibu the new family sedan favorite? We wouldn't go that far. The Honda Accord’s thorough refresh helps it maintain its status as a very compelling car, especially in its value-packed lower trim levels. The Hyundai Sonata is another excellent all-around choice for the money, while the Ford Fusion strikes emotional chords with its sharp styling and engaging driving dynamics. We also like to introduce shoppers to the underappreciated Mazda 6, which is a great choice for a car with a bit more style and athleticism. But if the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu ends up feeling right to you, you'll certainly be driving one of the finer sedans in this class.

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