It’s an iconic nameplate, but how does it fare up in 2017?
It’s an iconic nameplate, but how does it fare up in 2017?
The original Chevrolet Malibu had its debut in 1964 and production ran through to 1984 covering four generations before the nameplate was retired. GM decided to bring the Malibu badge out of retirement again in 1997 and it’s been in play ever since with the car now entering its ninth generation. Old timers will tell you how good the first few were and how bad the later models compared, but as with everything, modern build processes and technologies have been introduced to every new model making it a good option for someone wanting a good and reliable sedan in the midsize sedan segment. The latest generation of the Chevrolet Malibu has bold, angular styling and some great new technologies, like a new fuel-saving nine-speed automatic transmission whose name also harks back to the good old days of 4-on-the-floor in muscle cars – the Hydra-Matic 9T50. The current generation of the Chevrolet Malibu faces some stiff competition, but in the States it already has a one-up on the rivals thanks to being a US offering and that well-known nameplate. GM had to make sure the car is a worthy competitor and they look to have done just that, which means prospective buyers will be doing themselves an injustice if they don’t at least take a closer look at a Chevrolet Malibu at a dealership, if not a full test drive too.
There are five models in the Malibu lineup from the basic entry-level L model through to the top-of-the-line Premier model.
This car is obviously miles apart from that original version; actually, it’s miles apart from any previous version. There are five models in the Malibu lineup from the basic entry-level L model through to the top-of-the-line Premier model, and as expected the best interior trim is had in the most expensive option. That doesn’t mean the L is bad though because it also has some features that are shared through the entire range, like front bucket seats as standard, keyless start and a passive entry system, a tire pressure monitoring system, power windows, the same lighting and storage compartments that will see you having a space for your everyday carry items and a few normal sized cans of your favorite refreshment and even a dedicated place for your sunglasses. There’s a good six-speaker audio system in the lower models, but the Premier wins hands down here with a really good nine-speaker Bose system as well as built-in navigation. The system is headed up by an eight-inch color touch-screen. The system is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and is easy to use, and if you’ve been in any other modern GM products and had the chance to fiddle with these systems you’ll notice that they’re all much the same with intuitive functionality. While the touch screen is easy to use, the multi-function steering wheel also allows easy access and control of all the functions in the system. The screen for the infotainment, as well as the digital readouts in the center of the gauge cluster are easily seen from the driver’s seat, as is visibility around the car with just the usual minimal blind spot caused by the C-pillar.
Overall, while the interior doesn’t excite, it doesn’t disappoint either.
The seats are good all round, but up front the bucket-style are really good, and even better in the Premier model with the driver’s seat being eight-way power adjustable. The layout is good, and the center console that surrounds the infotainment unit that sort of makes it look like wings spread across the dash is rather unique. The shifter, the control buttons and switches and buttons to set everything up are in within easy reach from the driving position. There’s everything you need crammed into the Malibu too, higher models do have extras over the L, with things like heated power-adjustable motors and a rear vision camera. Overall, while the interior doesn’t excite, it doesn’t disappoint either; materials used are typical of modern cars with some hard plastics as well as durable cloth and leather where applicable. Being a midsize sedan there’s ample space, pretty much on par with the rest of the cars found competing in the segment, so five adults can fit comfortably, but a family of four will fit even better and that’s mostly who will be buying a car like a Chevrolet Malibu. The trunk space shares the same or quite similar dimensions as others in the segment at 15,8 cubic feet it’s on par with Honda’s Accord, and like that car, the rear seats have a 60/40 split and can fold flat to free up space if the need had to arise. Loading cargo is also much the same as with segment competitors with the trunk having a deep lip that can make the loading of bigger items a bit more of a mission but normal travel luggage and gold clubs are easy enough to manage.
The Chevrolet Malibu comes with three different engine options.
The Chevrolet Malibu comes with three different engine options depending on where in the model range you want to spend your money or if you want to save trees or not. This range starts off with a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine making 163 horsepower for the lower models, that’s followed by a bigger capacity turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with 250 horsepower on tap and lastly there’s a 1.8-liter hybrid powerplant that generates a total of 184 horsepower – all of which offer up different drives and dynamics. As you go up in the engines, the performance increases as expected, but not you’re guaranteed a smooth drive even though they feature GM’s proven six-speed automatic transmission. The L model feels wanting during pull off, it’s not quite a power issue though and could be attributed to the programmed parameters of the transmission. The Premier model sees fitment of the aforementioned nine-speed automatic transmission with closer gear ratios and it feels better for it. The hybrid version sort of slots somewhere in-between these two models but is more responsive than the base engine.
You can sit in a good driving position thanks to the seats that will adjust to accommodate most frames.
This means the drive is much the same between all the cars, one offers suitable power to get the sedan around comfortably, one has more power and thus uses more fuel; one makes less power and uses even less fuel. On your drive you’ll have all the tech bits doing their thing to keep you safe, and they’re not intrusive to the drive experience at all, unless you come across something that causes the wheels to slip and the traction control kicks in. You can sit in a good driving position thanks to the seats that will adjust to accommodate most frames, although at any height rear visibility isn’t too great thanks to the size and the angle of the rear window. If you have passengers in the back you’ll find yourself ignoring the rearview mirror and keeping your eyes on the exterior wing mirrors instead. Handling is more than adequate too, especially at normal driving speeds, which is where the Chevrolet Malibu will spend most of its life. If one must take the car to it’s limit then the handling might not be up to the task at hand, but that’s where buyers would likely opt for a more sports-orientated sedan over a family cruiser like the Malibu and it’s segment rivals.
The base model L and the intermediate LS and 1LT models see fitment of a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine.
The engine range seen in the Chevrolet Malibu for 2017 remains the same as for the 2016 outgoing model. The base model L and the intermediate LS and 1LT models see fitment of a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine that produces 163 horsepower. It’s not a performer in any way, but it does an adequate job of getting the Malibu to its destination. There’s no sportiness to the engine and it can even feel like the power doesn’t come in fast enough, which sometimes makes a pull off feel a little labored. While this isn’t great news, the base models have never been marketed as being sporty or exciting. Moving up, the Premier model makes use of a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine that produces a much more usable and punchy 250 horsepower, and it’s this version of the Chevrolet Malibu that’s fitted the new nine-speed automatic transmission. With this new transmission, the gear ratios are similar to the eight-speed which means with an extra gear in the mix, the Malibu makes better use of the available power and one of the positive side effects is an improvement to the fuel efficiency. Punching it off the line, the car feels a lot more alive as it changes through the gears at a quick pace, but again, the Chevrolet Malibu isn’t going to win races unless it’s lined up against a clearly inferior car.
When compared to the rivals, the Chevrolet Malibu’s power and consumption is good.
The last one in the range is the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, which makes use of a 1.8-liter hybrid powerplant that produces the total of 184 horsepower. The combustion engine side of it is a regular 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline and that part creates 124 horsepower, with the balance of power coming from an electric motor that provides 60 horsepower of continuous power. The advantage of this option is a twofold one of saving fuel while being kinder to the environment. The Chevrolet Malibu with the 1.5-liter engine is rated at 27 mpg for the city and at 36 mpg on the highway. For the 2.0-turbocharged models, consumption is rated at 22 mpg for the city and 33 mpg for highway use, which as you can see is more frugal than the smaller capacity model, in part thanks to having more torque on hand and being able to carry the weight better and also that aforementioned new nine-speed transmission. As you’d expect, the hybrid model offers up the best consumption of the lot with a city average rated at 49 mpg and highway at a lower 43 mpg. This is opposite to the norm with highway usage usually being less, but at highway speeds the car relies on the gasoline engine more. When compared to the rivals, the Chevrolet Malibu’s power and consumption is good, just like every other aspect of the car, which adds to the choice for prospective buyers and making the decision even harder.
The differences are minor, and many are also unseen.
There are many sedans on the market worldwide, and many of these can be had in the States. If you look at the specification and the price point, the Chevrolet Malibu sits among some pretty good company, which means the car needs to be hold it’s own against them to become an attractive offering for prospective buyers. The 2017 Chevrolet Malibu may have a new designation for the year added to the title, but it’s essentially the 2016 car in every way. The differences are minor, and many are also unseen; a feature-rich version of the 2.0-liter Premier, the LT, falls away and the current Premier model is now the best of the lot. Safety and tech in the Chevrolet Malibu is quote good, but the same can be said for most offerings in this segment of the market. In the Chevrolet Malibu you’re looking at an impressive array of ten airbags to make sure you’re safe in the event of an accident, these cover just about every space in the cabin – There’s frontal and knee airbags for the driver and front passenger, side-impact seat-mounted airbags for front and rear outboard seating positions and roof rail-mounted airbags for front and rear outboard seating positions. Standard features include a rear seat reminder, stability control system with brake assist and a host of safety features like automatic crash response, crisis assist and automatic crash response..
As with the Honda Accord, the Chevrolet Malibu is also listed as a top safety pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety scoring good marks in every category bar two.
Higher up we see models feature the same spec and tech, but there’s also more available like the teen driver mode that helps encourage safe driving habits, a rear vision camera, side blind zone alert with lane change alert, pedestrian detection, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist and low speed forward automatic braking. A few of these things need to be specified while ticking the options list though. Many of these systems, or similar systems, can also be seen in the competition, and just like in those cars the way they’re optioned can reflect in the overall price package. As with the Honda Accord, the Chevrolet Malibu is also listed as a top safety pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety scoring good marks in every category bar two. The child seat anchors were rated as just marginal and the headlights rated as poor, something we shouldn’t be seeing on a modern car. Luckily if the headlights do let you down and you do have a front-end smash, the Chevrolet Malibu scored a superior rating for front crash protection with optional equipment.
Well, both. The 2017 Chevrolet Malibu is a completely new car with that good old American heritage added in. The new styling really does work well for the car, especially considering many out there start their new car search based on looks with specs and drive comfort coming in as secondary requirements. The on-board tech and spec is also good, but if buyers will choose a Chevrolet over the rest of the market competitors is hard to say because they’re all just that good.