Making a name for itself: Reinvented Chevy Malibu merges new looks, improved driving dynamics with comfort and technology

If you were playing a game of Family Feud and the question was, name something associated with Malibu. Likely answers would be Barbie, California or rum. General Motors and Chevy would like to also make sure their midsize sedan is first on your mind when you hear the name Malibu. Mired in mediocrity for years, in the ultra-competitive midsize segment, the Malibu floundered along for several years.

With the 2016 model year, Chevy now has a totally redesigned midsize that is ready to make a name for itself again. It’s doing so with high grades from many critics. It was even a finalist for North American Car of the Year during the Detroit Auto Show. That is great company keep and shows just how far the Malibu has come.

The Malibu starts with the reinventing of itself with all new looks. Too often we critics use generic sayings like “all new” or “redesigned” and I fear that waters those terms down. So let me be clear, the 2016 Chevy Malibu is so beautifully redesigned it is stunning. It doesn’t even resemble its previous generation.



The exterior styling shows GM’s new aggressive approach to styling. It blends in well with the stable of handsome cars that sport the Chevy bowtie. It’s also aggressive enough to where it will look good next to the also redesigned Camaro. While the Malibu’s looks aren’t as obviously muscular as the Camaro, it does have a certain sleek European look.

Squint your eyes and you may mistake it for an Audi (no really!). Chevy nails the beautiful exterior of the Malibu from the just-right grille, the sexy LED head lamps, the perfectly styled and the sleek side creases that give it a striking profile. It all adds up to the best looking mid-size family sedan in the segment.

Beyond the attractive shell, the Malibu is also lighter and nimbler. The Malibu weighs 300 pounds less than its predecessor and has a longer wheelbase (four inches longer). This totally changes the driving dynamics of the Malibu.


There are two engine options for the new Malibu. A 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine is standard and yields a ho-hum 160 horsepower. However, my tester was the more exciting, turbocharged 2.0 liter engine. This engine makes an impressive 250 horsepower, although that is less than the last model year Malibu made with the similar engine. However, this year’s Malibu drives so totally different, due to the new design, change in wheelbase and addition of a new transmission, that the 2016 Malibu feels like it has a lot more pep. Chevy adds an eight-speed automatic transmission for the first time to the Malibu. The eight-speed transmission is available on only the top tier trims, while a six-speed automatic transmission is standard for the L, LS, and 1LT trims.


2016-Chevrolet-Malibu-011As good as the outside looks are and the improved driving dynamics, the interior is not to be left out of the satisfaction. In both comfort, design and technology, the Malibu is thoroughly modern and marvelous. On the higher trimmed 2LZ that I drove, the touchpoints are high quality. The seats are comfortable offering ample room for front and rear passengers. In the back seat, I fit comfortably with still a few inches to give on legroom. The noticeably bigger backseat is thanks in part to the aforementioned increase in wheelbase. Friends of mine put their infant daughter in the back seat with ease and her mom sat next to her in comfort.


The technology in the Malibu far exceeds just the improved infotainment system. Sure the organization of the center stack and the eight-inch touchscreen is modern and clean. It has a minimalist approach that is refreshing in the era of too many buttons, sliders and knobs! The overall intuitive nature of Chevy’s system is nice. It uses Apple’s Car Play, which really adds a wide array of features through smartphone integration. Additionally, like other Chevy vehicles, the Malibu comes with a 4G WIFI hotspot, making it ideal for other passengers who may have tablets that require their own internet connection.

2016-Chevrolet-Malibu-026None of this new to GM or Chevy, but what is new and exclusive is the Teen Driver feature. This safety feature encourages (almost forces) all passengers to buckle up for safety by disabling the audio system until everyone engages their seat belts. The moment any passenger’s seat belt is disengaged, the audio system shuts off. Yes it’s obnoxious, but as a parent, I love this feature. This feature also provides a printed report of how your teen driver performed on the road. Did they drive too fast? Were they swerving, did they have any forward collision warnings engage? It also tells you how far they drove. Talk about piece of mind for parents who go through the nerve wracking process of handing the keys over to a new driver. In this regard, the Chevy Malibu has to be near the top of any family’s list just for the peace of mind alone.

Trims / Pricing

There are two base trims and two top-tier trims for the Malibu and each depends on what features you want. My tester was the top-of-the-line 2LZ trim which also came with two different Driver Confidence packages (that integrate with the Teen Driver program). With these you get new (to the Malibu) safety features like adaptive cruise control, semi-automatic parking assistance, electronic parking brake, forward collision alert, lane assist and blind spot monitor. The two different driver confidence packages run $1,200 each but bring peace of mind and safety.

My tester had a base price of $30,920 with a final MSRP of $34,285. The base price for lower trims is around $22,000, so there’s a wide range of affordability.

Fuel Economy

Fuel economy for the front-wheel drive Malibu is 22 mpg/city and 33 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of driving, I averaged 27 mpg.

The 2016 Chevy Malibu should be considered a top contender in the midsize segment, especially for families with new drivers. Chevy is helping the Malibu make a name for itself with safety, technology and they do all that with amazing new looks.


2016 Chevy Malibu 2LZ

Price/As tested price………………………… $30,920/$34,285

Mileage…………………………………… 22 mpg/city; 33 mpg/hwy

Engine……………………………………… 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder

Horsepower…………………………… 250 hp/258 lbs./ft.

Transmission……………………………Eight-speed automatic

Drive Wheels…………………………. Front-wheel drive

Final Assembly Point…………………… Fairfax, Kansas

Jimmy Dinsmore
For several years Jimmy Dinsmore has reviewed new vehicles, offering up a unique look and an interesting voice in his weekly column. Jimmy looks at vehicles from the consumer’s point of view. Light on the technical jargon, and lacking the cynicism that pervades many other auto reviews, Driver’s Side treats each vehicle fairly, offering a light-hearted take. Email him at - and follow him on Twitter @driversside.