New Car Previews

Preview: 2016 Chevrolet Malibu

Hot competition in the mid-size sedan segment is nothing new... So many manufacturers, so many really good cars! For 2016 Chevrolet is taking another crack at the Malibu. Despite a recent redesign of the prior generation and quick refresh after it was critically panned, Malibu sales were stagnant when the competitors have seen surging growth.

The latest version introduced here at the 2015 New York International Auto Show is built on a new platform that adds 58 millimetres to the length of the new Malibu. It's also considerably lighter, promising sharper handling and further improved fuel consumption, and is fully restyled.

Using technology to be found propelling the latest Chevrolet Volt, its application in the Malibu marks a proliferation of this technology into the mainstream GM fleet.

Under the hood you'll find a choice of drivetrains. Base engine is a new 1.5L “Ecotec” turbo making 160 hp and 184 pound-feet of torque that's mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel consumption as reported at the show is expected to be 6.3 L/100 km, city/highway combined. More power is available from the 2.0L engine making 250 hp and 268 lb-ft torque that's mated to an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission. Malibu models powered with this engine can expect fuel consumption of approximately 10.7/7.3 L/100 km, city/highway.

The return of the Malibu Hybrid is also making news. Using technology to be found propelling the latest Chevrolet Volt, its application in the Malibu marks a proliferation of this technology into the mainstream GM fleet. Using the US five-cycle system, the 2016 Malibu Hybrid's fuel consumption is expected to be 5.0 L/100 km combined city/highway.

Malibu Hybrid is fitted with an all-new, direct-injection 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine paired with the two-motor drive system from the Volt. In combination, the engine and motors develop 182 horsepower. An interesting wrinkle is that the engine's exhaust system is pressed into service heating the cabin, which promises cold-climate Malibu Hybrid owners quicker heat in the cabin than conventional systems.

Unlike other hybrid systems, Malibu's Volt-derived technology allows the car to travel at almost 100 km/h on battery alone. The engine charges the battery once it's spent, allowing it to continue driving the front wheels electrically.

Keeping pace with the competition, Malibu will offer a full range of safety technologies, including a camera-based Front Pedestrian Alert that can apply automatic braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Blind Zone Alert, Forward Collision Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Front and Rear Park Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Automatic high beam (Intellibeam) and Automatic Parking Assist. Malibu also offers a suite of “Teen Driver” features to assist young drivers and permit parental monitoring. It's a fully connected interior, as well.

As mentioned, the 2016 Malibu is bigger than the outgoing model, acquiring 91 mm in wheelbase length that creates more room inside and a longer, sleeker profile outside. Styling is similar to the latest Chevrolet Impala, having clean lines and a premium look.

Not that Malibu isn't up to the task, but like all midsize sedans it will have its work cut out for it in such a tough segment. That said, I don't think you can fault the appealing design of this car, which may actually turn some heads as it motors by.

As one Chevrolet executive said at the vehicle launch, the company is not simply looking to place in the race for top sales. “This car,” he said emphatically, “has to win!”