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2016 Chevrolet Malibu: New York Auto Show

What Is It?

The Malibu 5-passenger midsize sedan is totally redesigned for 2016. The current Malibu, despite certain strengths, hasn’t measured up in the most important car segment in the U.S.: affordable family sedans. This segment accounts for about one out of every seven vehicles sold.

It’s immediately apparent that the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu is no mere makeover. Its design has markedly changed course, with a longer, lower and sleeker shape and an absence of the contrived styling cues meant to link it to other current Chevrolets or Malibu models from the past.

An all-new base structure provides almost 4 inches more wheelbase and, most importantly, allows for an extra 1.3 inches of rear-seat legroom, a sore point for the current Malibu. Despite the new 2016 Malibu’s size increase, increased use of high-strength steel and other weight-saving measures cut overall weight by a considerable 300 pounds.

There are no fewer than three available powertrains, all centered around 4-cylinder engines from an entirely new engine family. A 1.5-liter turbocharged base engine generates 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, and a standard 6-speed automatic transmission and standard stop-start functionality should help yield 27 miles per gallon in the city and 37 mpg on the highway, according to Chevy’s estimates.

Engineers aren’t yet revealing how much power the 2016 Malibu’s turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder will be rated to make, but it gets GM’s first-ever 8-speed automatic for a front-wheel-drive vehicle, and fuel-economy projections of 22 mpg city/32 mpg hwy. We reckon that horsepower in excess of 200 is certain in trade for about 5 mpg in each driving cycle, compared to the base 1.5-liter engine.

The big news might be Chevrolet’s renewed focus on over-the-top midsize-car mileage with the 2016 Malibu Hybrid. Borrowing a lot of the hardware and associated technology from Chevy’s high-tech Volt plug-in hybrid, the Malibu Hybrid is projected to achieve more than 45 mpg in combined driving. The Malibu Hybrid also has a trunkload of other mileage-bumping technology, including a slick system to reuse wasted engine heat and advanced new batteries.

And the 2016 Malibu is gunning for the segment’s leaders with a bevy of new safety and convenience technologies, highlighted by the Teen Driver suite. This tech suite encourages attentive driving and records certain driving parameters for parents to review. The Teen Driver system can, for example, be set to cap the volume of the audio system or disable it completely if the seatbelts aren’t being used. The system also records the maximum speed the vehicle attained and whether forward-collision alert was engaged.

How Much?

Prices won’t be released until closer to the 2016 Malibu’s on-sale date late this year, but given this segment’s 17 competitors and that the Malibu currently trails in sales behind the top-tier models, Chevrolet probably can’t afford, at least at the start, to bake in much of a price increase over the current Malibu’s base pricing (in the $22,000 to $30,000 range).

When Can You Get It?

The fourth quarter of 2015

Add It to Your Shopping List Because…

The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu is, by most objective criticism, a vastly improved car from a styling standpoint, but it’s also likely to be one of the most value-packed, as well. Chevrolet benefits from the new Malibu coming at a time when many of its strongest rivals are in the middle of their replacement cycles. In addition to fresh styling, the 2016 Malibu should have the advantage of offering some of the most advanced technology you’ll find in any family sedan, at least for a time.

Other Cars to Consider

2015 Ford Fusion — Fantastic looks, energetic engines and a choice of two fuel-sipping hybrid models make just about any Fusion a can’t-miss proposition.

2015 Honda Accord — If there’s a fault with the supple-riding, roomy and economical Accord (which also offers high-efficiency hybrid models), it might be its comparatively conservative styling. But if you don’t mind blending in, the Accord’s a great way to do it.

2015 Toyota Camry — The Camry was the country’s best-selling affordable midsize sedan last year, but Toyota upped the game anyway with more expressive styling for this rock-solid reliable car.

Used Chevrolet Malibu — It’s not like the current Malibu is a bad car; it’s just than even Chevrolet admits it wasn’t as good as its rivals. Between now and when the all-new 2016 Malibu hits dealer showrooms, you’ll probably see some attractive prices on its predecessor. If you don’t think you require all the advances of the new Malibu and don’t mind its tight back seat, you might save a bundle.

Used Hyundai Sonata — Hyundai went all-new for the midsize Sonata for 2015, and while it’s a fine car, its styling isn’t as memorable as the 2010-2014 generation. Already a value-packed choice in this segment, the roomy and efficient Sonata could be even more of a bargain as a couple-year-old model.

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