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2016 Chevrolet Malibu 2LZ Review By Steve Purdy

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By Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

We continue to be amazed at the levels of content, quality and style added to all brands of midsize sedans every time we get a significant redesign. This is especially stunning with the new Malibu front-wheel drive, five-passenger, mid-size sedan. I thought the last generation was pretty good but this one is even better, fully redesigned for 2016.

The Malibu was waiting for us at the airport as we returned from a west coast trip where we reviewed both the 2016 Mustang GT convertible in Palm Springs and the new 2016 Chevrolet Volt in Avila Beach. (See both of those travel/car stories here at TAC). As it happened we returned to Michigan during one of our notorious late winter storms arriving around midnight to pick up the car. By the time we cleaned off the snow (without gloves or any other winter gear) and got onto I-94 and I-275 to I-96 the roads were seriously glazed and slippery. Fortunately traffic was light.

As I found with the Volt in California, GM’s new lane intervention system caused some consternation. In California it sort of bumped us around between lane markings in oppressively heavy traffic, but here it made it very difficult to discern the intervention effects from the slipping and sliding caused by the treacherous roads. The button on the steering wheel seemed to be the controller of this function but repeatedly punching it did not turn the system off. Bummer.

It turned out that our Malibu tester was equipped with a teenager monitoring system that disallows the disabling of that function. (More on that later.) I can see the value of all these new safety systems that wrest control from the driver but I’m not yet a fan. If I had a teenager driving my car, that might be another story.

With 4 inches added to the wheelbase of the new Malibu we get both a visually larger car and a roomier interior. It is amazing what difference a few inches can make. Exterior styling makes a large departure from the previous model while retaining the brand’s styling cues. A narrower, wider grill and cheek vents housing LED DRLs brings the front view of the Malibu considerably upscale. More expressive character lines along the side, large optional 19-inch alloy wheels and a more tapered-to-the-rear C-pillar put it right in league with modern coupe-like design trends and emulate much more pricey sedans. Dual, chrome-tipped exhaust outlets are integrated into the rear fascia.

Inside we find a complex design with a more upscale look. The 8-inch, multi-function screen is positioned high in the center dash and looks like a removable accessory, though is not, of course. Easily managed HVAC controls are positioned beneath the screen and beneath that a substantial bin houses auxiliary inputs and power outlet. Overall I found it a convenient, sensible and remarkably attractive interior.

Seating is generous and comfortable front and rear. Front seats have more adjustment range than some competitors to accommodate larger drivers. Those extra few inches of wheelbase have been used to good advantage. The rear seats offer more legroom and seatbacks fold 60/40 for access to the 15.8 cubic foot (average for this size car) trunk.

This new Malibu, built in Fairfax, Kansas, is 300 pounds lighter than the preceding car, coming in at just over 3,000 pounds, and it has GMs first 8-speed automatic transmission. Under the hood is the 2.0-liter, turbo with direct injection making 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet or torque. Malibu is front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is not offered. The EPA estimates this sedan will get 22 mpg in the city and 33 on the highway on regular fuel. We put a lot of miles on it this week, many on the highway, and managed a decent 30-mpg.

The base Malibu L starts at $21,625 and comes with a tepid 1.5-liter turbo DI engine making about 160 horsepower. You can also get a hybrid Malibu starting at $27,770. Our test car is the 2LZ with the 2.0-liter powertrain and a long list of premium content. The 2LZ starts at $30,920. With the Driver Confidence Package and Driver Confidence Package II we show a bottom line on the sticker of $34,285. While that sounds like a lot for a mid-size Chevrolet, if you look closely at the content compared to the competition you’ll find it quite comparable. And, by the way, Malibu took the J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey honors in its category.

The Malibu’s unexpectedly brisk acceleration makes this car fun to drive in a spirited manner. A tight, controlled suspension and good steering add to the fun. You’ll not find the suspension calibration too harsh under most conditions but it is certainly firm enough to push hard if that is your driving style. The cabin is admirably quiet even on bad pavement. That adds to a feeling of serenity on a long drive.

Now, back to the Malibu’s “Teen Driver” system: Built into the MyLink system is a suite of functions designed to allow parents to spoil the kid’s day. It restricts some functions like: no audio without front seatbelts being buckled (good deal for sure), limits on volume of the audio and disallowing the disengagement of safety features like lane keeping and blind spot monitoring. Then, parents can get a “teen driver report card” that reveals distance driven, maximum speed reached, and a variety of the car’s electronic control events.

GM will not be outdone by the competition in terms of connectivity and other forward-looking technology. The Malibu has wireless device charging, it can be its own 4G WiFi hotspot, accommodates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in all but the low-end L model, and provides all the apps capabilities you’ll need.

Chevrolet’s new car warranty covers the whole car for a better-than-most 5 years or 60,000 miles and the powertrain for the same. Some manufacturers still offer 100,000 miles of coverage on the powertrain.

We loved our time with the Malibu and encourage you to include it on your list if you are in this market. While it is moving upscale with each redesign it remains affordable, particularly at the low end of the trim range. Even this pricey one is a good value considering its content.

ęSteve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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