Now in the fourth year of its eighth generation, the Chevrolet Malibu dates to 1964. And like other vehicles with long histories, the Malibu has come a long way since it was named after the surfing-oriented city along the California coastline.

The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu, however, is much the same as last year’s model, but it’s without a few items. The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is no longer available and xenon headlights and a few other more minor equipment features have been discontinued.

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

The midsize sedan segment is among the most competitive in the industry, dominated by Japanese vehicles and vastly improved competitors from South Korea. So where does the Chevrolet Malibu, now more than 50 years ago, fit into the mix?

My weekly test model was the Chevy Malibu Limited in the mid-level LT trim, one of three available trims.

The Chevrolet Malibu: Still an underdog

The base LS starts with 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, air-conditioning, cloth upholstery, a partial power driver seat with power height adjustment, 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a trip computer, cruise control, OnStar (with 4G LTE and mobile WiFi), Bluetooth phone connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player.

The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu is an unheralded, worthy midsize sedan.
The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu is an unheralded, worthy midsize sedan. Image © James Raia/2016

The LT model adds 17-inch aluminum wheels, upgraded headlights, body-color heated mirrors with integrated turn signals, ambient interior lighting, floor mats, Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system (includes a 7-inch touchscreen, voice controls, Internet radio, smartphone-app integration and voice-to-text messaging capability for certain smartphones), Bluetooth streaming audio, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio input jack and a USB port.

Several option packages are available, including the Driver’s Confidence Package ($1,195). It includes nearly a dozen safety items, including lane assist, collision alerts and parking assist.

The 1.5-liter, four-cylinder, turbo-charged engine produces 197 horsepower and advances with front-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission.

While never to be mistaken with a sports car, the Malibu accelerates with satisfaction considering its four-cylinder status. It’s a spacious sedan and its smooth, quiet ride makes the car feel bigger on the open road.

Several midsize rivals achieve better gas mileage, but the Malibu is on par with the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and recent new top players like the Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata in other areas. Its handling is firm and the keen suspension helps provides a sense of refinement.

The Malibu’s interior is another strong point. Like the exterior, the console is modern and sleek, replete with sharp angles and controls. While most look the same and provided some intimidation, it all works efficiently.

Technology features are abundant although many have learning curves. The interior material is handsome and of strong grade, and the front seats can be adjusted in a generous selection of position.  The Malibu’s backseat is the only area of concern. The legroom is tight for larger adults.

Likes:

Overall spaciousness.
Superior trunk space.
Intuitive infotainment system.
Confident ride.

Dislikes:

Tight backseat.
Competitors have better gas mileage.

Facts & Figures, 2016 Chevrolet Malibu

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, unavailable.
Airbags: 6.
Fuel economy: 27 mpg (city), 37 mpg (highway), 31 mpg (combined), six-speed automatic transmission.
Horsepower: 197.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $25,020.00.
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.chevy.com.
Price As Tested: $27,985.00.
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/100,000 miles; Corrosion, 6 years/100,000 miles; Roadside Assistance, 5 years/100,000 miles; Scheduled maintenance, 2 years/24,000 miles.

What Others Say:

“We’ve just driven the all-new 2016 Chevrolet Malibu, and it is simply excellent, the strongest contender GM has had in this segment in many, many years.” — Automobile Magazine.

“Its sleek looks might be the best in its class, resembling the larger Chevy Impala in all the right ways. But there’s more than that pretty face. The new Chevy Malibu boasts a comfortable and modern interior with a big backseat and high-tech features. — Kelley Blue Book.

“The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu makes its presence felt with standard turbocharged power, an optional hybrid version and much sleeker styling inside and out. The family sedan segment is so competitive that it’s hard to pick a winner, but the new Malibu is now in the conversation.” — Edmunds.com.

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“The Honda Accord and Toyota Camry get most of the midsize sedans props, but the Chevy Malibu joins the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima as top-notch contenders against the stalwart Japanese segment leaders. It’s a superior vehicle for well under $30,000.”

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