“Finally, we have a car that’s architected to win this segment,” says the executive director of design for global Chevrolet cars, John Cafaro. While he may have just coined a new verb, he does have a point: the 2016 Malibu is on a new iteration of General Motors’ Epsilon platform, with a longer, lower, and wider look. It has lower shock towers, a lower cowl, and a lower profile, Cafaro says, and has sheetmetal stretched out further to the wheels.
Cafaro describes the Malibu’s “form language” as like “wind-swept sand dunes on a beach.” Hyperbolic, for sure, though it describes a coherent design, sleek for a midsize family sedan, that should help you forget the frumpy, fractured 2013-15 Malibu, which faced the unenviable task of proceeding a much more impressive Malibu design (2008-12) It didn’t help that the ’13 Malibu’s development began about the time GM was going through bankruptcy.
The new 2016 Chevrolet Malibu is 2.3-inches longer overall, on a 3.6-inch longer wheelbase, yet it weighs 300 pounds less than the uninspired car it replaces. So the new car’s 111.4-inch wheelbase now is just 0.3-inch shorter than the Chevy Impala’s, though its overall length of 193.8 inches falls 7.5-inches short of its full-size sibling.
The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu rides on a wider, much updated version of GM’s midsize Epsilon platform. It was engineered in the U.S., whereas earlier versions were developed in Germany, Ortega explains.
With the 3.6-inch stretch in the wheelbase and with scooped-out front seatbacks, the new Malibu’s rear seat offers plenty of space and potentially, comfort, with just a tiny bit of knees-up passenger position thanks to the lower roofline. Because Cafaro’s design crew went big on styling, the C-pillar is made to look fast without seriously cutting into headroom or trunk usefulness. That means the car’s beltline sweeps up between the B- and C-pillars, which gives the Malibu the same kind of cavernous feel and shoulder-high rear doorline you find in every one of its modern competitors, save the Honda Accord and Subaru Legacy. (The ’08-’12 Malibu had a more formal roofline.)
Chevrolet ditched a V-6 for the current Malibu, and with the 2016 model, the downsizing continues. The base engine is a new 160-hp, 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-4, making 17 psi of boost and 184 lb-ft of torque. With a six-speed automatic and stop/start technology as standard, its preliminary estimated EPA fuel mileage rating is 27/37/31 mpg (city/highway/combined). The 1.5 is the biggest engine in GM’s new small EcoTec engine family, which begins with a 1.0-liter three-cylinder.
The Malibu will also continue to offer a 2.0-liter turbo four, which is rated 259 hp and 295 lb-ft in the current car. It will be mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission, and Chevy expects EPA numbers of 22/32/26 mpg.
Volt tech for the Malibu
With its expected combined EPA number north of 45 mpg, Chevy expects the Malibu Hybrid to be near the top of its class; the Honda Accord hybrid is currently the most efficient midsize sedan with a 47 mpg combined rating. The Malibu Hybrid’s gas engine is a naturally aspirated 1.8-liter four. The twin-motor drive unit and power electronics are identical to the Volt’s, while the Malibu also has an exhaust gas recovery system that a first for a Chevy.
The hybrid engine will be available with all but the base trim level in the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu. The top-spec Malibu LTZ trim level becomes the Malibu Premier. The name will spread to other Chevrolets but debuts on the 2016 Malibu. There’s a lot of padding along the dash and door inserts of the Premier, and the leather is as good as any in the mainstream commodity midsize car segment.
The 2016 Chevy Malibu goes on sale with the 1.5- and 2.0-liter turbo engines late this year. The Malibu Hybrid goes on sale in spring 2016.