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Friday
Apr082016

Review: 2016 Chevrolet Malibu

By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla 

With abundant innovation, a solid core feature set of performance, fuel efficiency, space and many conveniences for technology-focused drivers and passengers, the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu is an impressive and exciting new standard bearer of what midsize sedans should offer customers moving forward.

Victoria, BC – Chevrolet Canada chose the bright and summery island of Victoria, British Columbia to stage their 2016 Chevy Malibu test drive program. 

Fortunate to have been selected as one of their media drivers to experience their latest vehicle, I was based at the luxurious Oak Bay Beach Resort, a stunning seaside resort that also happens to be the home of the David Foster Theatre Foundation. Oak Bay Beach fronts the ocean and has access to a various seaside roads which made it an ideal base for some great driving experiences.

Inevitable jet lag and general travel weariness and lack of sleep was quickly quelled by the sight of the fiery orange sunrise right from my room’s balcony. A quick breakfast in on of the resort’s meeting rooms, as well as seeing familiar faces belonging to familiar car and technology journalists as well as GM’s attentive staff helped set the breezy mood for the day.

 

I learned about the 2016 Chevy Malibu, it’s various safety features that target distracted driving in teens (and, really, most drivers). It’s a lot to put on one vehicle but the Malibu seems the perfect platform to call attention to the issue of distracted driving.

Keeping drivers in check

The idea is to keep young drivers in check but the they apply to anyone who gets behind the wheel. We received alarming statistics. Young drivers apparently account for over 30 per cent of accidents today, the fatal crash rate per mile for 16-19 year olds is 3 times the rate than that of drivers over 20. Automotive accidents are the no. 1 cause of death for teens. These are the facts that can send any concerned parent into a panic attack and also explains why insuring teen drivers is so costly. Armed with that information, a hearty breakfast and various cups of coffee, we soon set off to meet the cars.

With autonomous cars a few years away, the only recourse is to nip distracted driving in the bud. The 2016 Chevy Malibu, being the quintessential midsize sedan that appeals to a lot of families, is likely the type of vehicle that teenage drivers will learn to drive in. It is likely the one that they’ll have to endure driving until parents are convinced that they deserve to own and drive their own car.

With that in mind, Chevrolet made the teen driving feature one of the key features of the line. The car will not play music until you buckle up, it also silences the sound system if you go over speed limits, it features a way to program the key fob so that metrics can track your driving and even generate an report card at the end of your ride. 

While I did want to test these features and get a feel for the real world use and practicality, I was also there as a car reviewer and wanted to get a good feel for the new line of Malibus.

Defying age-old expectations

This meant I would push the car to get a feel for its acceleration, responsiveness, handling and overall drive quality. While the teenage driving features are interesting, and some would argue, necessary, the reality is that cars like the Chevy Malibu and its competitors like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, represent workhorse vehicles that get driven to work daily, are usually kept for various years and are expected to offer ample performance and great fuel economy.

 

That all sounds very boring and practical, but it does not reflect the design of the latest Malibu sedans in any way. The 2016 Malibu greets you with a broad, muscular stance and a sporty front end with more vents and angles than some jet fighters. 

The gold bowtie is front and centre and even has its own bridge dividing two sets of vents. The way the bodywork flows from front to back is cohesive and makes certain models looks like they’ve been tuned with aftermarket spoilers and ground effects, but that’s just the way the new Malibu looks. The most impressive part for me is the confluence of all the lines at the rear, including how it all ends with a flourish in the lip above the trunk, which is reminiscent of some great touring hatchbacks.

 

While the redesigned exterior is sporty and sleek, the 2016 Malibu’s interior is surprisingly sober and conservative. This isn’t a bad thing at all, everything is where you expect it to be and points to the 8-inch center touchscreen as the nerve centre of the car’s operations.

Of all the models I got to ride, I felt a sudden attachment to the Iridescent Pearl Tricoat (white) LT model which featured the 250 HP 2.0 Litre Turbo engine mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, plus a long list of amenities, including a multi-colour leather interior, a wide selection of seating controls, and all the technology and connectivity you could want in a car of this class.

 

Legroom and headroom are abundant, a 6’4 tall man can ease into the rear seats and not have to contort himself and drivers have a lot of room, definitely enough for two tech journalists and all their gear. The front seats offered good support without being overly hard and I liked that the headrest really allowed me to rest my head, I didn’t have to hunt for it or even go out of my way to adjust it.

Practicality and fun can come together

The 2016 Malibu defies the conventions of most mid-sized sedans in its class which are historically about compromise in the name of practicality. There’s a lot of practicality built into the Malibu but there are also a lot of fun features, specially in the higher-end models. The panoramic sunroof, the cellphone dock that offers wireless charging and air conditioning to cool the device while it is charging up, the multiple USB ports as well as 12v power on tap.

 

Chevrolet has future-proofed the Malibu with the inclusion of OnStar as well as 4G-LTE which is something that makes sense for families, specially during long trips. I also got a taste of Android Auto and was surprised at how well that system worked with my LG G4 (for a more detailed overview of Android Auto, check this out). 

Both the 1.5 litre and 2.0 litre power plants featured in the new Malibu offer great response and enough zip to enable overtaking at a moment’s notice. The 1.5 litre actually feels more like a 1.8 and definitely punches above its weight class while still yielding great mileage.

 

The 2.0 litre turbo felt more deliberate and accelerated at a steady and even pace. So much so that you feel you are driving a smaller, nimbler vehicle. You can push the 2016 Chevy Malibu and it will respond with very little lag. Best of all, it responds in a very civilized and balanced manner while keeping everything quiet, stable and comfortable for drivers and riders.

I spent enough time driving the 2016 Chevy Malibu to realize that it would make a great car for longer road trips and would be ideal for a family of four (plus all their gear) to take and just go to a new destination. Preferring cars to SUVs or crossovers, I liked that there was enough interior and cargo space plus an abundance of thoughtful nooks and crannies to place all the gadgets, food and travel essentials a 5-10-hour road trip would require while still offering the comfort of a midsize sedan.

Restyling practicality

Chevy has done an impressive job of re-styling the Malibu into a car that retains the practicality and workhorse values that go back decades but adding enough flair and performance to make it a truly desirable car to drive and own. Making the entire car lighter plus adding some more punch in the performance keeps things exciting and all the tech and convenience the Malibu comes with is something that you can’t find with any competitors (and would probably cost you thousands in aftermarket installations).

A lot of these conveniences, like OnStar and the ability to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto aren’t even available in the majority of competitors this year.

 

While the ‘teen driving” features are innovative and useful for parents who are just starting to trust their teenagers and young adults with the use of the car, they’re not likely something that most other buyers will be looking for. Someone who is searching for a new family car, an office-issued vehicle or even looking for something bigger than their hatchback, the Chevy Malibu can fit nicely into the needs of these drivers.

With abundant innovation, a solid core feature set of performance, fuel efficiency, space and many conveniences for technology-focused drivers and passengers, the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu is an impressive and exciting new standard bearer of what midsize sedans should offer customers moving forward.

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