The Malibu is Chevrolet's entry into the competitive midsize sedan segment. Although not as spacious or engaging to drive as some rivals, it does offer an appealing cabin design along with a user-friendly infotainment setup.
For the latest model year, the Malibu gets freshened styling inside and out to go along with slightly increased rear seat space. A new stop-start system for the base four-cylinder increases mileage to a competitive 25/36 city/highway mpg rating.
Outside, the Malibu features evolutionary styling highlighted by a sleek rendition of Chevrolet's dual-port grille and Camaro-inspired quad taillights. A trim rear deck with a well-integrated spoiler provides an elegant counterpoint to the frumpy, BMW-inspired "Bangle bustle" rear-end seen on certain recent vehicles.
The dashboard features a contemporary look with a trick seven-inch touch-screen (on LT and LTZ trims) that folds out to reveal a six-inch-deep storage space. The touch-screen is equipped with Chevy's new infotainment system, MyLink, which provides voice control of certain entertainment functions and includes Bluetooth smartphone connectivity and streaming audio via Pandora radio and Stitcher SmartRadio.
Soft-touch materials abound throughout the cabin, and available Ice Blue ambient lighting adds a unique touch. Relatively little road or engine noise enters into the interior thanks to the liberal use of acoustic glass and other noise-deadening materials, and the car can swallow up to 16.3 cubic feet of cargo.
Under the hood
In the interest of fuel economy, the Malibu uses a turbocharged four-cylinder with standard a start/stop system in place of the previously optional V6, creating an all-four-cylinder engine lineup.
The base engine is a new direct-injected 2.5-liter mill that produces 196 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque, both of which are strong figures for the segment. Fuel economy is rated at 25 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway.
Those looking for a more performance can opt for the 2.0-liter turbo four, which pumps out 259 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of twist. Chevrolet states that the turbo motor is capable of slinging the Malibu from zero-to-60 mph in a scant 6.3 seconds, while the EPA pegs fuel economy at 21/30 mpg.
Buyers can also choose the Malibu Eco. It uses GM's "eAssist" mild hybrid powertrain, a setup that entails a 2.4-liter four paired with a 15-kWh electric motor for a total system output of 182 horsepower. Notably, the system's lithium ion battery eats up 3.1 cubes of trunk space, and as mileage increases only from 25/36 mpg with the base four to 25/37 mpg, the Malibu Eco a very difficult model to recommend.
All three motors paired with a six-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the front wheels.
Trim level breakdown
The Malibu is offered in LS, 1LT, Eco, 2LT, 3LT, 1LTZ and 2LTZ trim levels.
The LS comes standard with A/C, power windows and locks, cruise control, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD sound system with SiriusXM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth smartphone connectivity, a driver information center, remote keyless entry, auto on/off headlights and 16-inch alloy wheels.
The 1LT builds on the features of the LS by adding the folding seven-inch touch-screen display, Chevrolet MyLink, Bluetooth streaming audio, USB and AUX input jacks, ambient lighting, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated exterior mirrors and upgraded cloth upholstery.
Aside from its moderately more efficient powertrain, the Eco brings foglights, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a power-adjustable driver's seat, foglights, remote start and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The 2LT mirrors the Eco's features - with the except of the mild-hybrid powertrain - but adds 18-inch alloy wheels. The 3LT adds the 2.0-liter turbocharged four.
The 1LTZ brings leather upholstery, heated and power-adjustable seats and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The 2LTZ spices things up with the turbo motor.
Notable optional features include a navigation system, Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, a rearview camera and a nine-speaker Pioneer premium audio system.
The Malibu comes packed with an impressive ten standard airbags including dual-stage front, pelvic/thorax side-impact and even knee airbags. There are also dual front and rear head airbags that offer rollover protection, and the rear passengers receive their own outboard pelvic/thorax side-impact airbags.
OnStar with Automatic Crash Response is included, and now boasts improved voice recognition technology, as well as a myriad of improvements aimed at ease of use rather than safety concerns. Traction and stability control systems are also standard.
The Malibu is aimed at the heart of the midsize sedan segment, putting it in direct competition with the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata and Ford Fusion.