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2015 Chevrolet Malibu: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader September 2014

The 2015 Chevrolet Malibu, as some may recall, has a long history going back to the 1960s, when it debuted as an unabashedly American car named after a pristine beach town north of Los Angeles. It was decked out with rear-wheel drive and available V8 power in all sorts of body styles. By 1981, however, it had evolved into a generic-looking 4-door. A decade-and-a-half hiatus came next, during which the original Malibu convertible, ideally with bouncy pneumatic shocks, became a choice for A-listers. In 1997, the Malibu was improbably reincarnated as a front-drive family hauler similar to the popular Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

Today, in its fourth generation as a family sedan, the Malibu continues to provide plenty of conversation fodder. From its swoopy beltline to its Camaro-inspired taillights, the latest Malibu certainly makes an impression, and its cabin is no less memorable. Unlike past Malibu models, this one features plenty of technology, including available Chevrolet MyLink touchscreen integration. Also unlike previous models, the new Malibu is global in scope. As we speak, it's on sale everywhere from Shanghai to Sao Paulo. The powertrain range promises something for everyone, even if it doesn't always exceed expectations.

Warts and all, the current Malibu looks and feels intentionally American. In the crowded midsize-sedan segment, it certainly helps to set Chevy apart.

What's New for 2015?

After thorough updates for 2013 and 2014, the Malibu is largely unchanged for 2015. Most updates surround new colors, though there's also a new OnStar system with 4G Wi-Fi hot spot capability. Additionally, last year's mild hybrid Eco model is no longer available.

What We Like

Quiet at speed; good technology options with available MyLink infotainment; improved rear-seat room

What We Don't

Mediocre fuel economy; interior could be better; lackluster driving experience

How Much?

$23,300-$31,300

Fuel Economy

The 2015 Chevrolet Malibu is offered with two engines. Most models use the sedan's base-level 196-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, which is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission and returns 25 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. For drivers who want more power, there's a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. It makes 259 horses and a whopping 295 lb-ft of torque, returning 21 mpg city/30 mpg hwy with the standard 6-speed automatic.

Standard Features & Options

The Malibu is offered with six trim levels. There's a base-level Malibu LS, midlevel Malibu 1LT, 2LT and 3LT trims, and high-end Malibu 1LTZ and 2LTZ trims.

The base-level Malibu LS ($23,300) doesn't include much, boasting only alloy wheels, automatic headlights, power accessories, air conditioning, cruise control, OnStar, Bluetooth, a power driver's seat and a CD player. LS models include the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder as standard equipment.

Step up to the 1LT ($24,500), and you get premium cloth upholstery, Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth audio, and an auxiliary jack and USB port for music.

Next up is the 2LT ($26,400), which adds dual-zone automatic climate control, a remote starter and larger alloy wheels.

Topping the LT range is the 3LT ($28,000), which is identical to the 2LT except for the engine. While the 2LT includes the Malibu's 2.5-liter powerplant, the 3LT boasts the 259-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder.

Next up is the 1LTZ ($29,100), which adds leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power passenger seat and auto-dimming mirrors. The 1LTZ retains the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine.

Topping the Malibu range is the 2LTZ ($31,300), which includes the 2.0-liter engine and a sunroof.

The Malibu is available with a long list of options, which primarily involve features from higher trim levels. There's also an optional reversing camera, a Pioneer audio system and xenon headlights. Safety-minded drivers can add an Advanced Safety package, which boasts forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert.

Safety

The 2015 Malibu features 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, stability control and a whopping 10 airbags. It also offers an Advanced Safety package that includes forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert.

In government crash tests, the Malibu was close to perfect, garnering the top 5-star rating in the frontal, side and overall categories (like almost every passenger car, it received four stars out of five in the rollover category). The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, meanwhile, gave the Malibu its top rating of Good in every category except small front overlap -- a new test in which the Malibu was deemed just Marginal.

Behind the Wheel

The Malibu is narrower than typical American-style family sedans, so it feels tighter and more nimble from behind the wheel. That's not to say that the Malibu likes twisty roads -- on the contrary, it's more of a highway cruiser -- but for day-to-day traffic maneuvers, it's a trusty companion. No matter what kind of cruising you're doing, the Malibu's cabin remains impressively quiet, which is a welcome luxury at this price. The ride, too, borders on luxurious, filtering out rough pavement without ever feeling floaty.

In our interior evaluation, we appreciated the new Malibu's sense of style. In keeping with Chevrolet's recent trend, the dashboard flows smoothly into the door panels, accentuating its curves, but that's not all: With the available MyLink color touchscreen aboard, the Malibu's cabin looks thoroughly modern, which is something we couldn't say of its predecessor.

While the cabin looks nice, we weren't blown away by quality of materials, which is only mediocre compared to rivals such as the Hyundai Sonata or Mazda6. Likewise, ergonomics are middle of the road. The controls aren't as large and foolproof as in a Camry or Altima, say, but most owners should have no trouble figuring things out within a week or two.

Other Cars to Consider

Ford Fusion -- If you're considering the Malibu, be sure to also check out the handsome Ford Fusion. It offers top-quality interior materials, several powertrain options and the latest in infotainment technology.

Honda Accord -- The latest Accord is a real return to form, boasting excellent fuel economy, a high-quality interior, and the sporty driving dynamics for which older Accords were renowned.

Mazda6 -- Mazda's newly redesigned Mazda6 sedan offers handsome styling, excellent interior quality and great driving dynamics -- not to mention reasonable pricing.

AutoTrader's Advice

The turbocharged 4-cylinder offers some nice power, but it's hardly necessary. As a result, we'd go with the Malibu 1LT, which offers everything you'd need -- basics such as keyless entry, air conditioning, Bluetooth, alloy wheels and cruise control -- along with a few luxuries such as Chevrolet's impressive MyLink infotainment system.

Find a Chevrolet Malibu for sale

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Chevrolet Malibu: New Car Review - Autotrader