Stronger, bigger yet lighter: don’t call latest generation Chevy Malibu plain

Victoria, BC – The all-new 2016 Chevrolet Malibu is stronger, longer and wider but surprisingly it’s also lighter giving it extra fuel efficiency appeal.

Such features check the boxes of those concerned about safety and economy but for many its greatest appeal might be that it bears no resemblance to its predecessor. To say the fourth generation Malibu was plain would be complimentary but the latest version cannot be damned with such faint praise.

It adopts the current trend to make a sedan look like a coupe but without drastically compromising rear and rear side views with too deep a slope in roof and window design. (A standard back up camera reduces that slight visual shortcoming.) It does resemble the larger Impala, a model the hypercritical Consumer Reports organization described as the best domestically produced sedan ever.

The Malibu’s beauty is not just skin deep, which can also be said of the Impala upon which such high praise was showered. The interior is roomy front and back, thus addressing a previous deficit in the rear. Controls are handily placed and the dash is a clean design.

A few more dollars could have been spent on materials – a little too much plastic for me. The trunk is massive and can be made more so by the split folding rear seats. Many other spots are within the cabin to be cluttered too.

Time to press the start button, strike out along the Pacific Marine Circle Route on Vancouver Island, and take the Malibu on a hike through the rain forest, as one of the Chevy team quipped. A short hop through urban Victoria showed it to be an able town car but it came into its own on the highway. The body, strengthened with high-tensile steel, reduces flex in the vehicle at speed and thus reduces cabin noise. No raised voices necessary unless your passenger is hard of hearing.

Some of the route was sparingly paved. On those stretches, the ride struck a nice balance between a harder, sporty feel and the softness of those North American boats of yesteryear. You don’t really get much feedback through the steering wheel on regular roads and only a little more on the aforementioned bumpy patches. Suits me, especially as this car will find most use as a family traveler.

The standard power unit is a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine (8.7 / 6.3 L/100 km city/hwy), which generates 160 horsepower. An optional 2.0-litre turbocharged unit adds another 90 horses (10.6 / 7.1 L/100 km, city/hwy). A hybrid is on the way, featuring a 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine and electric motor drive system (5.0 / 5.1 L/100 km, city/hwy).

The 1.5 version matched to a six speed auto should find favour with most drivers though long-distance drivers would likely enjoy the 2.0 mated to an eight-speed auto.

There are some interesting technology features, which I will explore in more detail during a local test drive. One is the Teen Driver system, which tracks the driving behavior of your young driver and reports to you!

When switched on it mutes the radio if either front seat belt is unbuckled, when passengers are detected. There are programmable speed warnings, a radio volume limit and those in-vehicle reports enable parents to review the maximum speed driven by Junior, the number of above-speed warnings issued, the total distance driven and how many crash alerts sounded while your offspring was behind the wheel.

The Malibu L starts at $21, 745. LS – $24, 245, LT – $25, 242, Hybrid – $28,850, Premier – $32, 045. Destination freight charge is $1,650.

keith [dot] morgan [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca
Follow @ChangeGears and @DrivewayCanada on Twitter.


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