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2015 vs. 2016 Chevrolet Malibu: What's the Difference?

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Doug DeMuro January 2016

The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu has been fully redesigned for the latest model year. While its handsome new look is an obvious difference over last year's model, you might be wondering what else has changed compared to its predecessor. To help you find out, we've created a close comparison that details all the key differences between the latest Chevrolet Malibu and the outgoing 2015 model.

Exterior

On the outside, changes between the 2015 Malibu and the newest model are immediately obvious from the first glance. Simply put, the 2015 Malibu is bland compared to the new one, offering relatively simple, plain styling and no major distinctive or memorable features. The latest Malibu is the exact opposite, as it touts an aggressive front end, dramatic character lines down both sides and some bold edges with jagged creases. Although most car shoppers were indifferent about the old Malibu's design, the new one is sure to inspire a love-it-or-hate-it reaction.

Interior

Not surprisingly, it's the same story on the inside. While the outgoing Malibu offered a fairly bland, simple interior design, the new one touts a much bolder look and more aggressive shape that helps it stand out from its predecessor and rival models. The new Malibu even offers some highly distinctive styling cues, such as unique lines on the dashboard that almost look like they belong in a sports car. Of course, the interior has grown in size too, and the latest Malibu offers more room for front and rear passengers.

Mechanicals

Both the new Malibu and the old model offer two powertrains, but things have changed a little under the hood. Specifically, while the old Malibu's base engine was a 196-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, the new version offers a 160-hp 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. While that means the new model offers less power than the 2015 Malibu, fuel economy is up from last year's 25 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway to 27 mpg city/37 mpg hwy.

Drivers who want more power can upgrade to a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which is largely carried over from last year's Malibu. Power is down a little -- from 259 hp to 250 hp -- but fuel economy is up, from 21 mpg city/30 mpg hwy in last year's car to 22 mpg city/33 mpg hwy in the new model. That change is largely due to a new 8-speed automatic transmission, which replaces last year's 6-speed automatic.

Features & Technology

Although the outgoing Malibu wasn't exactly down on technology -- especially compared to rival midsize sedans -- the new one makes some serious leaps forward. For example, forward-collision warning remains, but it now adds an automatic braking feature. There's a newly available Bose sound system, which you couldn't get in the outgoing Malibu. The same goes for ventilated seats and the desirable Apple CarPlay and Android Auto features in the infotainment system. And then there's the newly available self-parking system and adaptive cruise control features, both of which enhance the Malibu's appeal as a luxurious midsize sedan. Indeed, you'll likely find everything you need in the outgoing Malibu, but the new model also offers more of what you want.

Driving Experience

On the road, both the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu and the 2015 model offer some advantages and drawbacks. The biggest advantage of the old model was its standard 196-hp 4-cylinder engine, which was among the most powerful base-level midsize-sedan powertrains. The new 160-hp engine is among the least powerful, and it shows. Frankly, we'd rather have the extra 36 hp back instead of a barely noticeable fuel economy boost of 2 mpg city/1 mpg hwy.

Otherwise, however, it's the new Malibu that primarily offers advantages over the old one. Specifically, the 2016 Malibu touts an improved ride that's smoother over bumps, sharper handling and a quieter cabin that's more reserved from road noise and wind noise. While the old Malibu was something of an also-ran in terms of driving experience, the new one is much closer to the top of the heap, though we still don't think it's quite as good as some of its best rivals.

Safety

In crash testing carried out by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the outgoing Malibu earned a perfect 5-star overall score. It also earned a Top Safety Pick rating from the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, falling just short of that firm's Top Safety Pick+ rating due to a lack of equipment. The new Malibu has not yet been rated by either group.

As for features, though, the latest Malibu has a clear advantage over the 2015 model. While the outgoing model offered lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert and a blind spot monitoring system, the new version also touts additional options such as automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, an automated parking system and automatic high beams. Once again, this is a case of the old model offering just about everything you'll need, while the new model offers basically everything you might want.

Conclusions

Although many automotive redesigns change few details beyond interior and exterior styling, the transition from the 2015 Chevrolet Malibu to the 2016 model is far more dramatic. Not only is interior and exterior styling considerably different, but the latest model also offers more equipment, more safety features, more interior room, a new powertrain and an improved driving experience. As a result, we highly recommend the new Malibu over the outgoing model, unless you get such a good deal on the old model that you simply can't resist it.

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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 vs. 2016 Chevrolet Malibu: What's the Difference? - Autotrader