The Malibu nameplate first appeared on Chevrolet car lots more than five decades ago with Malibu Super Sport as a sporty coupe or sedan variation of the rear-wheel-drive Chevelle. Ultimately, the label accounted for multiple millions of car sales until its demise in 1983.
Yet Malibu returned to Chevrolet in 1997 in the format of a front-wheel-drive mid-size sedan with four doors and room for five passengers, a couple of engine options and several trim designations with competitive price tags.
For 2016 the Malibu sedan scores a ninth-generation reset with a longer but lighter front-wheel-drive platform, sophisticated and aerodynamic body styling and an expanded-length passenger compartment dressed with fine materials and top-quality switchgear, new turbo-charged but gas-sipping Ecotec engines plus more in-vehicle connectivity and advanced electronic safety features.
Body styling for Malibu 2016 looks slick with an edgy shell featuring Chevrolet's dual-port grille and thin sweeping headlamp bezels up front plus LED daytime running lamps on top trim versions, a coupe-like silhouette with a high belt line on flanks and three body-side creases, and a high-hiking tail treatment with wedgy LED taillamps.
Concealed beneath Malibu's chiseled skin, the new stronger but lighter-weight body structure measures 2.3 inches longer in overall length with the wheelbase stretching for 3.6 inches longer. These expansions forge a roomier and more comfortable passenger compartment as rear seat legroom expands by 1.3 inches.
Vehicle handling improves with the fully independent suspension using MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link rear arrangement. The rack-mounted steering system has electric power assistance, which contributes to powertrain fuel efficiency. Brakes consist of a disc at every wheel with electronic links to an anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution (EBD), corner brake control (CBC) plus a traction control system (TCS) and electronic skid controls (ESC).
Chevrolet constructs the 2016 Malibu in four trim grades encompassing two high-tech Ecotec 4-pack engines fitted with a turbocharger (TC), electronic throttle control (ETC), gasoline direct injection (GDI) technology and continuously variable valve timing (CVVT) apparatus.
Malibu's standard 1.5-liter Ecotec turbo engine mated to a 6-speed electronic automatic transaxle has GM's fuel-saving stop/start technology applied -- it shuts down the engine in certain conditions to reduce the fuel burn. The new powertrain generates a GM-estimated 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque.
Malibu's optional 2.0-liter Ecotec 4-in-line turbo tied to a new 8-speed electronic automatic shifter develops an estimated 250 horsepower plus 258 lb-ft of torque.
The federal EPA sets out these fuel economy estimates for 2016 Malibu turbo powertrains:
* 1.5-liter: 27 mpg city and 37 mpg highway.
* 2.0-liter: 22 mpg city and 32 mpg highway.
Four trim designations for 2016 line out as Malibu L, Malibu LS, Malibu LT and the new top grade Malibu Premier.
Further, there will be a new Malibu Hybrid model stocking a new hybrid powertrain (a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine teamed with a 2-motor drive unit and 1.5-kW lithium-ion battery pack) and earning an estimated combined fuel economy rating above 45 mpg.
Malibu's 5-seat passenger compartment seems airy and expansive, with designers focusing on occupant comfort, convenience and connectivity. Features include a dedicated storage slot for mobile phones with wireless charging, satin chrome accents on the instrument panel and center console, Chevrolet MyLink with a 7-inch color touch screen, optional navigation gear with MyLink 8-inch screen and 3-dimensional map views, and OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi hotspot standard on all Malibu models.
The 2016 Malibu stocks extensive passive safety devices including 10 standard air bags. Optional electronic active safety features range from Forward Collision Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Alert to Front Pedestrian Alert, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Side Blind Zone Alert with Lane Change Alert, Adaptive Cruise Control with Front Automatic Braking and Automatic Parking Assist.
Chevrolet's price structure for 2016 Malibu models begins around $23,000.