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2016 Chevrolet Malibu Windy City Review By Larry Nutson +VIDEO

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2016 Chevrolet Malibu - It’s come a long way

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Malibu name has been a part of the Chevrolet brand for over fifty years, having first been introduced as a trim level on the Chevelle in 1964. It later became a stand alone model offered up to 1983 when it was dropped.

In 1997 the Malibu name was resurrected and returned to the Chevrolet line up. Interestingly, I was doing a stint at Campbell-Ewald Advertising back then working on marketing strategic planning that had a role in the Malibu’s return. Some not-so-good product decisions were made on Malibu iterations over these last nearly 20 years and its marketplace success was so-so.

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However, now for 2016 the Malibu is all-new and has been completely redesigned. It’s longer as well as lighter. The new Malibu took a big leap ahead from where it was and is now a very viable contender in the midsize segment. So much so that the 2016 Malibu came in second place in the North American Car of the Year judging.

And that says something, since it was judged not against the first place winner but against its midsize segment competitors. The Malibu has raised the bar in the midsize segment according to the NACTOY judges.


For 2016, Malibu is offered in five models – L, LS, LT, and Premier as well as a Hybrid (see below review for specs, comparisons and prices) Prices start at $22,500 for the L model and top out at $31,795 for the Premier.

Powering the L, LS and LT is a 163HP 1.5-L turbo mated to a 6-speed automatic. Optional on LT and standard on the Premier is a 250HP 2.0-L turbo with an 8-speed automatic.

I spent a week with a Malibu 2LT model, which had the 2.0-L engine and is priced at $28,620. The only option was the Iridescent Pearl Tricoat paint costing $995.

Performance is very adequate with the 250HP engine with nothing lacking in acceleration, highway merging and passing as well as overall drivetrain noise levels. I did a long highway road trip during my time with the Malibu and got 36 mpg overall. This compares very well to the EPA test-cycle ratings of 26 mpg combined, with 22 city mpg and 33 highway mpg.

I haven’t driven the Malibu with the 163HP engine. If you’re Malibu shopping I would drive both engine variants to be sure you choose the performance you need for your usage and driving style. If you carry lots of passengers, a loaded trunk and drive in hilly terrain you may need the 250HP engine.

The Malibu Hybrid, priced at $28,645, offers EPA estimated ratings of 48 mpg city, 45 mpg highway and 47 mpg combined. It has an all-new, direct-injection 1.8L four-cylinder engine mated to a two-motor drive unit. The drive unit provides additional power to assist the engine during acceleration, for 182 horsepower of total system power. Hybrids payoff if you do lots of city driving, so weigh the return-on-investment for the added cost. You also give up some trunk space for the batteries.

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The 4-door, 5-passenger, front-wheel drive 2016 Malibu is offered in a wide variety of models and options that will suit many customers. The exterior and interior design and style have all been redone. Subjective as they may be, they should please lots of folks.

New driver-assistance technology on the Malibu is something everyone should consider, in my view. Available Malibu driver-assistance features include Front Pedestrian Alert that uses a forward-looking camera to help avoid or reduce the harm caused by crashes with pedestrians ahead of the vehicle. The system can apply automatic last-second braking.

The Malibu also offers lane keep assist, lane departure warning, blind spot monitor, forward collision alert, rear cross traffic alert, front and rear park assist, adaptive cruise control with braking, automatic headlamp high beam switching and a rear view camera.

Confused? I went through this litany of features intentionally trying to bring them into the forefront. We all know that anti-lock brakes and stability control are standard on all new cars today and help tremendously to reduce crashes. This new driver-assistance technology will do the same. So much so, twenty vehicle makers have pledged to make automatic emergency braking a standard feature by 2020. IIHS estimates that as many as 20 percent of the 5 million vehicle crashes that occur annually in the U.S. could be prevented by this technology.

To help clear up the confusion, the National Safety Council and the University of Iowa have teamed up to provide an online, mobile- and tablet-friendly resource to help educate consumers. The website’s homepage lists the 28 technology and safety features present on vehicles today. This webpage is a great resource to consult when you are car shopping. You might say to yourself I don’t need that or be unwilling to spend the extra money. Consider that one collision will probably cost you inconvenience, car repair bills, paying your insurance deductible, and maybe an increase in insurance rates. Oh did I mention injury. It’s all about reducing accidents to prevent injury or even death.

I’m also a believer in new teen drivers driving new(er) vehicles and not some ten year old hand-me-down. Chevy’s new Teen Driver feature offered on Malibu allows parents to monitor their teen’s driving habits through the MyLink screen and then provide coaching to help improve their driving habits.

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Overall I found the Malibu pleasant to drive. Ride and handling were quite satisfying with the right amount of firmness and good roll control in corners. I did notice a bit of road noise that varied a lot with pavement types. On our road trip I had my daughter and her husband along in the back seat and they had plenty of leg room. We all enjoyed connecting to the 4G WiFi hotspot. I was missing an interior remote trunk release that I’ve come to expect in every car today.

More specs and information on the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu can be found at Shop and compare other midsize cars right here at

The new Malibu is pretty sleek looking and easily mistaken for its big brother the Impala. It looks a lot pricier than it is and should continue to get lots of attention.

© 2016 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy

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