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2016 Chevrolet Malibu: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader January 2016

The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu is completely redesigned for the latest model year. It replaces last year's model: a lackluster midsize sedan that failed to distinguish itself in a highly competitive field. There's even a hybrid version, which we've covered in a separate review.With striking new exterior styling and a long list of features, the latest Malibu seems like it probably won't have that issue.

But does the bold new look hide a mediocre car underneath? For the first time in years when talking about the Chevy Malibu, we can honestly say that we don't think so. The latest Malibu isn't just handsome and striking, but it's also technologically advanced, fuel efficient and comfortable.  There's even a hybrid version, which we've covered in a separate review.  If you're interested in a midsize sedan, it might surprise you to discover that this is absolutely one that deserves a spot on your shopping list.

What's New for 2016?

The Malibu is fully redesigned for the latest model year, touting new styling, a new interior, new powertrains and a long list of new features and gadgets.

What We Like

Handsome design; vastly improved interior; comfortable ride; large infotainment screen

What We Don't

Mediocre base engine; pricy optional 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder; no all-wheel-drive variants

How Much?

$22,500-$31,800

Fuel Economy

The latest Malibu offers three engines: two traditional gas-powered engines, and a new hybrid powerplant we've covered in a separate review.. Most models use a 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that touts 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, mated to a standard 6-speed automatic transmission. That engine is the best choice for drivers who prioritize fuel efficiency, as it offers an Environmental Protection Agency-rated 27 miles per gallon in the city and 37 mpg on the highway.

Drivers who want more power can upgrade to a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which boasts a bulky 250 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. This engine is mated to a standard 8-speed automatic transmission, and it returns up to 22 mpg city/33 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu comes in five trim levels: a base-level L, midlevel LS, 1LT, 2LT and an upscale model called the Premier.

The Malibu L ($22,500) is pretty basic, as it comes standard with only 16-inch steel wheels with hubcaps, Bluetooth, a 6-speaker stereo, power accessories, air conditioning, cruise control and keyless entry with a push-button ignition.

Next up is the LS ($24,000), which adds GM's OnStar system with 4G LTE Wi-Fi, 16-in alloy wheels, GM's MyLink infotainment system (accompanied by a 7-in touchscreen and both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay), a backup camera and Bluetooth audio.

From there, drivers can opt for the 1LT ($25,900), which adds 17-in alloy wheels, a power driver's seat, rear climate-control vents, satellite radio, LED running lights and heated mirrors.

Next up is the 2LT ($29,500), which adds 18-in alloy wheels, dual exhausts and, most importantly, the larger 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine.

Topping the range is the high-end Premier ($31,800), which offers a luxury-car-like array of features that includes 19-in wheels, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8-in touchscreen, a power passenger seat, a wireless smartphone-charging system, a navigation system and a 9-speaker Bose sound system.

The Malibu also offers a few options, most of which include features from higher trim levels. Also optional is a sunroof and two different Driver Confidence packages, which tout modern safety gadgets such as automatic high beams, forward-collision warning with automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and even a self-parking system.

Safety

The latest Chevrolet Malibu has not yet been rated by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) -- though we expect good things, as the outgoing model earned a perfect 5-star score from NHTSA and a Top Safety Pick designation from IIHS.

As for safety features, the Malibu has a lot to offer. While we bemoan the lack of a standard backup camera, all Malibu models offer standard anti-lock brakes and side-curtain airbags. The latest Malibu also touts a wide range of safety options, ranging from forward-collision warning with automatic braking to lane-departure warning, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, a blind spot monitoring system and more.

Behind the Wheel

On the road, the latest Malibu offers a lot of impressive characteristics. While it isn't the most engaging midsize sedan -- that honor goes to the Mazda6, with the Ford Fusion a close runner-up -- we vastly prefer the new Malibu's driving experience to the outgoing model's. It's lighter on its feet, sportier and more composed in corners. It also offers the outgoing Malibu's excellent level of comfort, though the latest version touts less road and engine noise.

One drawback: The new model's standard 4-cylinder is weak in comparison to the outgoing Malibu's base-level engine. In fact, it loses 36 hp to the outgoing model's power plant, which is a huge figure, and it shows under hard acceleration. Worse, the outgoing Malibu's 196-hp 4-cylinder -- one of the most potent among midsize sedans -- returned 25 mpg city/36 mpg hwy, which is just shy of today's 27 mpg city/37 mpg hwy. It's the only flaw we've found with an otherwise stellar driving experience.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Chrysler 200 -- Like the Malibu, the Chrysler 200 is a formerly maligned midsize sedan that has now made good with a handsome new design and a wide range of technology. Unlike the Malibu, it offers all-wheel drive.

2017 Ford Fusion -- The Fusion is an excellent contender in this popular segment, boasting handsome styling, forward-thinking technology and several available models, including a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid and an all-wheel-drive variant.

2016 Honda Accord -- The Honda Accord is among the best midsize sedans thanks to notorious durability, a roomy interior, reasonable pricing and a lot of different variants.

Used Chevrolet Impala -- If you like the Malibu's general design and interior but need more space, consider Chevrolet's larger Impala. Higher pricing means you may need to consider a used model, however.

Autotrader's Advice

If you're choosing a Malibu, it's hard not to pick the upscale Premier model. In addition to touting high-end features such as a navigation system and ventilated seats, it also comes standard with some must-haves, including dual-zone automatic climate control and a power passenger seat. Opt for one of Chevy's Driver Confidence packages, and you're basically driving a luxury car.

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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.
2016 Chevrolet Malibu: New Car Review - Autotrader