Drivetrain: 1.5- and 2.0-liter turbocharged engines making 160 and 250 horsepower, respectively; the 1.5 shifts with a six-speed automatic transmission, the 2.0 gets an eight-speed automatic.
At first blush, the new Malibu is attractively and intelligently designed, unlike the more brick-like 2015 edition. Designers increased the length by 2.3 inches, while holding the line on width. They also upped the distance between the front and rear wheels by 3.6 inches, of which 1.3 inches went to increasing rear legroom. Inside, the seven- and optional eight-inch tablet-style touch-screens controlling the entertainment and cabin functions are remarkable for their size and clarity. Both fit right in with an inviting dashboard that’s a far cry from the previous dash. The revised powertrain lineup starts with a new turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. It replaces the previous non-turbo 2.5-liter base engine rated at 196 horsepower and 186 pound-feet. Optional is a carryover turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that’s now rated at 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet (previously 259/295). The base engine’s smaller displacement should improve fuel economy, while the slight power reduction likely won’t impact performance since the car is about 300 pounds lighter. The 1.5 links to a six-speed automatic transmission, while an all-new eight-speed automatic is integral to the 2.0’s drivetrain. In the spring, a hybrid Malibu arrives that uses components from the 2016 Chevrolet Volt’s plug-in system. Output is estimated at 182 horsepower and fuel economy is about 48/45 mpg (city/highway). The base Malibu S includes most expected features, but ascending to the LS or LT gets you additional premium kit. Along with the 2.0 turbo engine, the range-topping Premier has dual-zone climate control, navigation, Bose audio system, heated and ventilated front seats, wireless smart-phone charging and 19-inch wheels (16-, 17- and 18-inch wheels are fitted to lower grades). Leather seat covers, sunroof and the latest in crash-mitigating interventions (forward collision alert, blind-spot monitoring, etc.) are optional.
Base price (incl. destination): $23,500
Type: Four-door sedan
Base engine (hp): 1.5-liter DOHC I4, turbocharged (160)
Optional engines (hp): 2.0-liter DOHC I4, turbocharged (250)
Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
Transmissions: Six-speed automatic (1.5); eight-speed automatic (2.0)
MPG (city/highway): 27/37
Weight (lb.): 3,090