In the world of mid-sized sedans, there’s a lot going on as this class fights for the attention of Canadian consumers who are leaning more and more towards the SUV/CUV/Crossover options.
Both import and domestic manufacturers are clamoring to say, “Hey, don’t forget about us! We’re still important!”
The good folks over at Chevrolet put me in the all-new, totally redesigned 2016 Malibu for a week to show me how they’re staying relevant and exciting.
The new Malibu, a Chevrolet icon for affordability for over half a century, looks good. Really good. There’s a sweet sense of sleekness upon first glance at the front end, smooth lines through the body and a shapely (opposed to the ugly flat on the outgoing models) rear end. My LT trim tester (middle of the pack) was decked out in 17” wheels and LED daytime running lights, giving it a smart look.
Matched against the Mazda 6, Honda Accord, Kia Optima et al, some may lean towards the others as far as objective attraction goes but full marks to the Bowtie brethren for sculpting something that’s strong enough to hold its own appearance-wise.
Engine choices see three options.
The one that came with my LT (the likely high volume seller in the Malibu lineup) was the 1.5L turbo, four-cylinder six-speed automatic churning out 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft. of torque, which responded well to the city heavy/highway light driving I did over a seven day period. You won’t win any races with this engine but you’ll have enough passing/acceleration power to keep you out of trouble. Now seeing as the Malibu is one of the lightest weight-wise in its class means that the “low on paper” figure of 160 isn’t as bad as it reads.Besides, seeing as the fuel ratings come in at 8.7 city 6.3 highway and 7.6 combined on 49 L of regular gas for L/100 km, means you’re saving at the pump.
Having said that, there are those who will want the larger 2.0L turbo charged four cylinder engine mated to an eight-speed autobox kicking out 250 horsepower and 260 lb-ft. of torque, which appears on the “Premium” trim. Sure, you’ll spend a bit more at the pump but there’s extra confidence beneath your right foot.
Handling and steering on this lightweight sedan is surprisingly responsive, steering feel is admirable and the overall drive quality keeps it on par with the competition. The engineering team really did a terrific job of giving driver dynamics a high priority on this redesign and it clearly shows. And for those who want it, there’s a Hybrid engine available starting at nearly $29K.
The goodness carries forward inside the vehicle. My tester was equipped with the available 8” MyLink touchscreen that’s compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. I’m an iPhone fella (seriously, I’ve invested far too much time with iTunes/iPhones/iPads to ever switch to anything else) so all I had to do was USB connect my phone to the car and there was Siri, ready to help. It’s a pretty easy set up and the rewards easily warrant paying for the upgrade on this side, since we’re a technologically driven lot these days.
There’s also an available class-exclusive built in 4G LTE with Wi-Fi and Teen Driver technology, which allows you to cap the speed, kill the audio if seat belts aren’t fastened and let you know if any of the safety features were triggered (lane departure, forward collision) so especially in 2016, big brother, who wears a bowtie, is always watching.
The overall fit and finish of the dashboard/infotainment system impressed me. Thank goodness the 8” touchscreen also had dials and buttons (the trifecta of balance for me because sometimes, I want the simplicity mixed in with current touch technology but not necessarily the flood of messy fingerprints).
Seating is comfortable via the eight-way power driver seat (six-way manual for shotgunners). Heated front seats are an option (so are long johns in the winter) and there’s an upscale feel to the cabin overall. There’s decent space in the rear seats for longer trips but still count on someone to try and snag the front seat during a bathroom break.
Pricing sees the bare bones “L” model run $21, 845 and the “everything jammed in there” Premier tip the register at a value-packed $32,145.
My LT trim runs at $25,245, plus the $1,425 sunroof package, $995 convenience and tech package and $455 for the crystal red tint coat. Oh, the good ol’ destination charge of $1,650 brings the pre-tax amount to nearly $30K, which isn’t too bad.
In a segment that’s slowly losing traction to larger, taller vehicles, I’ve gotta say that I was impressed with what Chevy has done with the Malibu for 2016, now entering its ninth generation. It’s a hard sell these days to convince folks that the mid-sized sedan world is worth venturing into.
Chevrolet has put together a solid offering that’s definitely going to turn a few heads and between the well-crafted interior and attractive exterior, there’ll be more than a few folks that come away impressed.
Enjoy the full gallery below: