The Chevrolet Malibu is one of the longest-running nameplates in the brand's history, but history hasn't always been kind to it.
The last Malibu wasn't Chevy's best effort. It was small for its class, and its gas mileage didn't keep pace.
Today's Malibu changes all that, and more. With great style and the latest features, is it a better rival for cars like the Accord, Camry, and Fusion?
In styling the Malibu is a clear winner, up there with the best-looking cars in the mid-size class. The body has subtle curves stamped into its sheetmetal, and the roofline has the elegance of an Audi. This Malibu is one long, lovely sedan.
The Malibu's interior takes a step up from the past, too. In top trims, it has a rich look with materials and fit and finish that punch way above its price point.
Most of the Malibu lineup is now powered by a turbocharged 1.5-liter inline-4 with 160 horsepower. This setup isn't overly quick, but it’s hard to catch the turbo-4 and its 6-speed automatic flat-footed. It's quiet, and it's composed.
More energetic acceleration comes from a 2.0-liter turbo-4 with 250 horsepower. Coupled to an 8-speed automatic, this top turbo model feels as quick as some of the previous Malibus with V-6s under the hood.
Keep that in mind, because the Malibu is 4-cylinder only now, and front-wheel-drive only, too. There's no all-wheel-drive option.
There is a new Malibu Hybrid, however. It pairs a 1.8-liter inline-4 with batteries and motors for a total of 182 horsepower. It earns up to 48 mile per gallon city and 45 miles per gallon highway.
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All told, today's Malibu isn’t a scorching performer, but it’s nimble, confident, and responsive in all of its variants. We prefer the bigger turbo, but in all the versions we've driven, GM has nailed the road manners, with great shift quality and very good steering. It feels nimble, and way more tossable than most of its rivals, thanks to a weight loss of about 300 pounds in some versions.
It's lighter and a little bigger by the spec sheet, but the new Malibu feels much more spacious. The front seats are very supportive, rear-seat leg room is better, and the back bench is no longer a penalty box.
Crash-test scores have been good so far, and the new Malibu has an advanced set of safety options. They include adaptive cruise control; forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking; blind-spot monitors; and lane-keep assist with lane-departure warnings.
Starting in the low $20,000 range, the Malibu comes standard with cruise control, keyless ignition, and power features. Options include touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, leather, heated and ventilated front seats, and LED taillights.
What’s the bottom line with the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu? It focuses on style and safety, but it's performance that elevates it into the top tier of family sedans.
This article first appeared at The Car Connection.