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2016 Chevrolet Malibu vs. 2016 Ford Fusion: Which Is Better?

Editor’s note: You may want to read more of Autotrader’s model vs. model comparison car reviews as well as the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu review and the 2016 Ford Fusion used car review.

 

If you’re interested in a new midsize sedan, the 2016 Ford Fusion and the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu should be on your shopping list. Both are handsome, well-designed sedans, and both tout a long list of high-tech features along with recently updated designs. But which one is better? We’ve created a close comparison of both models to help you answer that question, but first let’s see what’s new with the Malibu and the Fusion for the 2016 model year.

2016 Chevrolet Malibu

2016 Chevrolet Malibu

The Chevrolet Malibu is a midsize sedan with a bold new look and several available powertrains. It’s been completely redesigned for the 2016 model year with a new design, new features, an improved interior and a refined driving experience. See all 2016 Chevrolet Malibu models available near you

2016 Ford Fusion

2016 Ford Fusion

The Ford Fusion is a popular midsize sedan with handsome lines and a smooth, comfortable driving experience. Redesigned a few years ago, the Fusion is largely unchanged for 2016. See all 2016 Ford Fusion models available near you

2016 Chevrolet Malibu    2016 Ford Fusion

Reliability

Unfortunately, industry experts at J.D. Power have not yet rated the Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Malibu for reliability. However, Chevrolet ranked near the top of the firm’s recent Vehicle Dependability Study by automaker, while Ford ranked near the bottom. As for warranty coverage, the two models are the same: Both offer 3 years or 36,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage and 5 years or 60,000 miles of powertrain protection.

Although we hesitate to pick a winner here, we’re leaning toward the Malibu, though we’re curious to see J.D. Power’s ratings by model before deciding for sure.

2016 Chevrolet Malibu    2016 Ford Fusion

Fuel Economy

The Malibu offers three engines. Most models get a 160-horsepower 1.5-liter 4-cylinder, which is mated to a standard 6-speed automatic and returns 27 miles per gallon in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. Drivers looking for more power can upgrade to a 250-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which is mated to an 8-speed and returns up to 22 mpg city/33 mpg hwy. Finally, Chevy says a Malibu Hybrid is forthcoming. It’s not on sale yet, but Chevy says it’ll offer a 1.8-liter hybrid 4-cylinder and return up to 48 mpg in city driving.

The Fusion offers an even wider array of powertrains. Base models use a 175-hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, which boasts up to 22 mpg city/34 mpg hwy. An eco-friendly 181-hp 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder touts up to 25 mpg city/37 mpg hwy. Drivers looking for more power can get a 240-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which returns up to 22 mpg city/33 mpg hwy.

For drivers especially interested in gas mileage, the Fusion also offers two other options: a hybrid variant, which boasts a 188-hp hybrid 4-cylinder and returns 44 mpg city/41 mpg hwy, and a plug-in hybrid Energi model, which can travel up to 20 miles on electric power alone before a range-extending gasoline engine kicks in.

So which is best? If you skip the Fusion’s mediocre 2.5-liter base powertrain, you’ll find that both the Fusion and Malibu offer roughly identical fuel economy from their gas-powered engines. If you want even better gas mileage, the Malibu Hybrid seems like it’ll be an impressive contender — when it goes on sale. For now, the Fusion Hybrid (and plug-in hybrid Energi) is your only option if you’re choosing between these two models.

2016 Chevrolet Malibu    2016 Ford Fusion

Safety

Because it’s so new, the latest Chevy Malibu has not yet been crash-tested by the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). However, last year’s model earned strong ratings from both agencies. Meanwhile, the Fusion earned a perfect 5-star overall score from the NHTSA and good — but not excellent — ratings from the IIHS. The Fusion fell short of the firm’s Top Safety Pick accolade after merely earning an Acceptable rating in the difficult front small-overlap crash test.

As for safety features, these two models offer virtually everything you could want, from adaptive cruise control to forward-collision warning, automatic high-beam control, lane-departure warning and more. The Malibu’s sole benefit over the Fusion is an automatic forward-collision braking system (the Fusion merely offers brake priming), though we’re told the Fusion will get a similar system next year.

As a result, these two models are tied — although we think the Chevy could edge out the Fusion if it ends up with stronger safety ratings from IIHS.

2016 Chevrolet Malibu interior   2016 Ford Fusion interior

Technology

Both the Malibu and the Fusion offer a long list of modern technology and features. In fact, choosing between the two models is hard because they’re both among the most advanced midsize sedans on the road.

We’ve already covered many of their benefits in the Safety section, but their high-tech prowess goes well beyond safety: Both models offer excellent infotainment systems with large screens, heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheels, multispeaker sound systems (up to nine in the Malibu and up to 12 in the Fusion), remote starters, keyless access and much more. In short, these two cars almost feel more like luxury vehicles than midsize sedans, and neither has a substantial advantage over the other.

2016 Chevrolet Malibu    2016 Ford Fusion

Value

Dollar for dollar, the Malibu and Fusion are roughly identical — as are most midsize sedans, each of which tout about the same base price. In fact, the Malibu’s starting price is only $240 more than the Fusion’s, which is virtually meaningless in the grand scheme of car buying and negotiating.

However, we think the Malibu does offer one advantage. The Fusion offers only three trim levels (S, SE and Titanium), and the Malibu touts four options (L, LS, LT and Premier). The additional trim level, LT, helps to break up the huge price difference between the midlevel LS and the upscale Premier, and we think the Fusion could use a similar trim. To us, that alone makes the Malibu a slightly better value than its Ford rival.

Autotrader’s Advice

We really like the 2016 Ford Fusion for its handsome styling, smooth ride and comfortable interior, but we really like the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu more. Although we’re a little disappointed that the Malibu Hybrid isn’t yet out, we like what we already see from the gas-powered model, from the sedan’s excellent interior design to its reasonable pricing, its long list of available technology and its excellent driving experience. The Fusion is a great car, but the Malibu is an even better one.

Find a Used Chevrolet Malibu for sale

Find a Used Ford Fusion for sale

 
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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1 COMMENT

  1. Close competition here.  I just turned in my 2014 Malibu LS and leased a 2016 Malibu LT.  Leather heated seats and all kinds of other neat stuff.  The infotainment was night and day difference with the 2014 Malibu LS.  I think the reason is the difference between the LS and LT package.  There is only one area where I am a little disappointed, the 2014 LS model boasted the 2.5L 4 cylinder rated at 197hp and 191ft-lbs of torque, the 2016 with the 1.5L turbo feels a little under powered.  Too me the 2.5L was better.
    Now my sister-in-law owns a 2015 Fusion SE (2.0L Turbo).  Nice power and in terms of driving, it is almost identical to the Malibu.

    The biggest difference between the two, price.  My sister-in-law bought her car through the Ford A plan and her lease is $335/nothing due at signing.  My Malibu, with my GM earnings of $1625 brought my lease price in at $268/month nothing do at signing.

    Overall I do favor the Malibu and Chevy in general, but Ford has a lot of nice products to chose from and that is why they doing so much better than GM.  I do applaud GM for reducing is number of brands, but Regal is just a higher priced Malibu.  As much as I like Buick, it needs to go and let GM focus on Chevy, GMC and Cadillac.  I really see no need for Buick and I think that Buick is still around because GM is Buick.  Buick existed before GM and perhaps that is why Buick is still around.

    GM needs settle on one 2.0L turbo engine and one 3.6L engine instead of having two variants of the motor depending on the car.  Ford doesn’t do that.  You can find the same 2.0L turbo in the Fusion, Focus, Escape and Explorer.  This is another area where GM shots itself in the foot.  In addition, they need to share the twin turbo 3.0L across platforms and stop reserving it for Cadillac.
    Ford had put their TT 3.5L ecoboost across all their platforms and GM should do they same.  You offer the the 3.0L TT in their truck platform and re-calibrate it for more torque.  Give the truck buyers a difference option than the pushrod/OHV engines. 

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