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2016 Chevrolet Malibu: First Look

837150409 1427858886750 jpg 2016 Chevrolet Malibu | Manufacturer image
  • Competes with: Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Ford Fusion
  • Looks like: A baby Impala
  • Drivetrain: 160-hp, turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder with six-speed automatic; 250-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with eight-speed automatic; or 188-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder hybrid with two-mode electric drive
  • Hits dealerships: End of 2015

Sick of taking heat from the media and finishing as an also-ran in the midsize sedan category, Chevrolet has upped its game considerably with the new 2016 Malibu.

Related: More 2015 New York Auto Show News

A complete redesign front to rear of Chevy’s volume sedan, it sits on a 3.6-inch-longer wheelbase for much better rear-seat room and features a true gas-electric hybrid version aimed at producing exceptional fuel economy.

Exterior

You’ll be forgiven for seeing one of these out on the street in late 2015 and thinking it’s an Impala – the similarities are considerable; the biggest difference is the side swoop that descends down the doors from the front to rear. The hood cut lines and the taillight arrangement also strongly echo the Impala and the rest of the Chevrolet line. The taillights in particular are meant to ape the Corvette’s 3-D graphics and do so rather successfully. The split grille up front differs from the Impala’s design, and brings to mind the Toyota Avalon, but the whole look is decidedly attractive and a bit more distinctive than some rather generic competitors, which are all starting to look the same.

Interior

An all-new interior graces the Malibu as well, with more space for front and rear passengers thanks to a 3.6-inch-longer wheelbase than the previous car. Legroom in back has been increased by 1.3 inches for a much more competitively sized cabin. New materials and designs give the cabin a more upscale look, especially on high-end trim levels. The new top trim level is Premium, replacing LTZ according to Chevrolet. The MyLink multimedia system is standard on all models and features a 7-inch touch-screen on LS and LT trims, while an 8-inch version is available on LT and Hybrid models and standard on the Premium trim.

Under the Hood

There are three powertrain options for the new Malibu, starting with a standard turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. It makes 160 horsepower and 184 pounds-feet of torque, which doesn’t sound like much, but Chevrolet says the new body structure is up to 300 pounds lighter than the outgoing model, which should make it one of the lightest midsize cars on the market. The more powerful option is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine hooked up to an eight-speed automatic that produces 250 hp and 258 pounds-feet of torque. GM estimates that the base engine will be EPA rated at 27/37/31 mpg city/highway/combined, while the bigger 2.0-liter engine will come in at 22/32/26 mpg.

For a more efficient Malibu, opt for the all-new Malibu Hybrid. It borrows a significant number of powertrain components from the upcoming second-generation Chevrolet Volt, including its two-mode drive system, regenerative brakes, auxiliary power unit, electric air conditioning and more. The Hybrid model is powered by a combination of a 1.8-liter engine and electric motors. It uses a 1.5-kilowatt-hour air-cooled lithium-ion battery and should get more than 45 mpg combined, according to Chevrolet. More specs will be provided as the car approaches its on-sale date.

Safety

Chevrolet is adding a host of safety features to the new Malibu, such as pedestrian alert with automatic braking, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning, distance-keeping cruise control with automatic braking and a side blind spot monitor. But the most interesting one may be the new Teen Driver system, which is part of Chevy MyLink. By inputting a PIN in the car’s settings menu, a parent can receive a monitoring report of how the vehicle was driven, showing items like maximum speed reached, how many times the safety systems were engaged and more. Even more interestingly, some level of control can be exerted over the car. For instance, a feature can be engaged that mutes the audio system until everyone’s seat belts are buckled; parents can also opt to limit maximum speed.

837150409 1427858886750 jpg 328093865 1427861405659 jpg 1479360598 1427861391452 jpg 1008152235 1427861400445 jpg 799302228 1427861420937 jpg 1908594750 1427861417320 jpg 578918083 1427861413662 jpg 1258976453 1427861410602 jpg 1393781398 1427861396622 jpg 837150409 1427858886750 jpg 328093865 1427861405659 jpg 1479360598 1427861391452 jpg 1008152235 1427861400445 jpg 799302228 1427861420937 jpg 1908594750 1427861417320 jpg 578918083 1427861413662 jpg 1258976453 1427861410602 jpg 1393781398 1427861396622 jpg Photo of Aaron Bragman
Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman has had over 25 years of experience in the auto industry as a journalist, analyst, purchasing agent and program manager. Bragman grew up around his father’s classic Triumph sports cars (which were all sold and gone when he turned 16, much to his frustration) and comes from a Detroit family where cars put food on tables as much as smiles on faces. Today, he’s a member of the Automotive Press Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. His pronouns are he/him, but his adjectives are fat/sassy. Email Aaron Bragman

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