| Code: 79739 |

TIN news:   GM has really changed since its rebirth from bankruptcy. The old GM was known for giant size as well as bureaucracy that made it unable to adapt to market changes. Its cars were mostly outdated, poorly assembled, inefficient and poor to drive. Not that all the new GM cars are good, but whenever it makes a mistake, it corrects quickly. The outgoing Chevrolet Malibu was an example. Went on sale in early 2012, it was criticized for overweight, short of rear seat accommodation and mediocre engines. GM responded quickly with an emergency facelift by late 2013, but it knew only a full redesign would fix the fundamental problems. Therefore, it immediately kickstarted the development of next generation. During this period, sales of the old car continued sliding. Last year, its domestic sales dropped 6 percent to 188,500 units in a growing market. For comparison, the top 4 mid-size family cars, i.e. Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Ford Fusion, all recorded more than 300,000 units of sales. Fortunately, the new generation Malibu has just arrived, ending the brief life of the old car.

The new Malibu looks pretty handsome. While its twin-polygonal grilles looks a bit busy and over-aggressive to my taste, the whole car has a sleek, coupe-like profile which is not uncommon among family sedans these days – see Ford Fusion, Mazda 6, Nissan Maxima, Hyundai Sonata or Chrysler 200. It certainly looks a lot more modern and elegant than the last effort of Chevrolet, Impala

Speaking of Impala, the last generation Malibu was deliberately made smaller than the class norm to distant itself from the larger Impala. GM finally realizes that strategy doesn’t work, thus it lifts the restriction and allows the new Malibu to be right-sized. Consequently, the new car gains 62 mm from nose to tail and, more crucially, 92 mm is added between its two axles. The wheelbase is now a very generous 2829 mm, almost matching the Impala. Don’t worry about the additional metal. Because the new car is built on the new GM E2XX platform, which will be the basis for next generation Opel Insignia, Chevy Impala, Buick Regal and LaCrosse, it employs a lot of high-strength steel to lighten its structure plus an aluminum bonnet. Moreover, as the Malibu follows the footprints of Korean rivals to abandon V6 engine, its chassis can be made lighter still. Overall, some 100 lbs (45 kg) has been slashed from its monocoque body, whereas the whole car is about 300 lbs (136 kg) lighter than the old one. The mass-selling 1.5T model tips the scale at just over 1400 kg, lighter than the four-cylinder versions of Accord or Camry
To lift the level of fuel efficiency, it employs a pair of downsized turbocharged motors. The aforementioned 1.5T is a 1490 c.c. all-alloy DOHC turbo with continuous variable valve timing and direct fuel injection. It is deliberately sized to slip under the 1500 c.c. tax band in Chinese market. Compared with the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder of the outgoing car, its output drops considerably to 160 horsepower, but torque is nearly unchanged at 184 lbft. Thanks to the flatter torque curve of turbocharging and the reduced kerb weight, it suffers little in performance, while refinement is improved by its smoother and quieter operation. Fuel economy is improved, too, although not as much as expected

More performance can be obtained from the updated 2.0 Ecotec DI turbo engine. It is detuned to 250 hp and 258 lbft to improve fuel efficiency again. Though not as powerful as Japanese V6s, 0-60 mph accomplished in the low 6-seconds range should be more than enough for a front-wheel-drive family car. If you want faster still, I suppose you should look for a pony car or a rear-drive sporty sedan like BMW 3-Series instead of anything this class. The 2.0T engine mates with an Aisin 8-speed automatic whose gearshift is slightly less refined than the GM 6-speeder used on the 1.5T. In my opinion, the smaller engine is the smarter buy with your own money.

The 2.0T is not the preferred choice also because the Malibu is not exactly a sporty car. Although its handling is already improved, with a lighter feel and more consistent steering, its body control, balance, turn-in response or steering feel are no match with many cars in the class. Obviously, the Malibu’s chassis is tuned for comfort on first priority. It rides smoothly over bumps and transmits little noise into cabin. It feels solid and well isolated from the outside world. It encourages you to drive it with a peaceful mind, and demands little effort from you. In short, it is more Camry than Mazda 6. This civilized manner suits the 1.5T engine

Benefited with the longer wheelbase, the interior of new Malibu offers 33 mm of extra rear legroom. Despite of a fastback roof line, the rear seat is still good for 6 footers. It is not the most spacious in class, but it no longer cries for more space. The cabin is generally comfortable and convenient to use. The dashboard has some style – not as boring as some Japanese and Korean counterparts – and it is equipped with updated infotainment technology. Ergonomics are pretty good, as many buttons are located on the steering wheel or integrated into the touchscreen, leaving the center console clean and tidy. That said, the fully exposed touchscreen cannot avoid light reflection. Build quality neither surprises nor disappoints, just business-like in GM’s fashion. Materials are less pleasing. There are cheap-looking cloth trims on lower-spec models (though the leather trims on premium models are nice), and the plastics it employs are generally lower grade than the new class norms. Varying trim materials and textures all over the cabin don’t offer a quality perception either. These are the last traces of the old GM.

On the up side, the Malibu is very competitively priced. Its styling is nice, its packaging is finally right and its mechanicals are mostly good, if not remarkable. A class leader it won’t be, it is nonetheless a decent choice for average family car buyers, especially those seeking comfort on high priority
Specifications
       
 
Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
 
Max torque
 
Transmission
Suspension layout
 
Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Malibu 1.5T
2015
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4922 / 1854 / 1465 mm
2829 mm
Inline-4
1490 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
Turbo
DI
163 hp
 
184 lbft
 
6-speed automatic
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
225/55R17
1418 kg
130 mph (est)
8.0* / 8.5**
24.7*
Malibu 2.0T
2015
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4922 / 1854 / 1465 mm
2829 mm
Inline-4
1998 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
Turbo
DI
250 hp
 
258 lbft
 
8-speed automatic
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
245/40WR19
1536 kg
155 mph (c)
6.1* / 6.2**
15.4*
Malibu Hybrid
2015
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4922 / 1854 / 1465 mm
2829 mm
Inline-4 + electric motors
1796 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
-
DI
Engine: 122 hp 
Combined: 182 hp
Engine: 129 lbft 
Combined: 277 lbft
CVT
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
225/55R17
1568 kg
130 mph (est)
8.0 (est)
-
       

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