First Tests Uncategorized

2016 Chevrolet Malibu 2.0T First Test Review

Track-Testing Chevy’s Lighter, More Refined Family Sedan in 2.0T Form

Track-Testing Chevy’s Lighter, More Refined Family Sedan in 2.0T Form

Chevrolet is proud of the redesigned 2016 Malibu, and it should be. With its larger dimensions and lighter weight, bold styling, premium interior, and new technology, the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu midsize sedan seems to address our criticism of the outgoing model, and appears to be much more competitive, too.

Although Chevrolet added 3.6 inches of wheelbase (1.3 inches more rear legroom) and 2.3 inches of overall length, the new Malibu is up to 300 pounds (136 kg) lighter than the outgoing model. More high-strength steel in the chassis is said to contribute to about 100 pounds (45 kg) of the weight loss. Good thing, too, as both the 1.5T and 2.0T engines are less powerful than their base-engine and engine-upgrade equivalents in the outgoing model.

More on the Malibu: 2016 Chevrolet Malibu 1.5T First Test Review

We recently sampled the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu in Palo Alto, California, near Stanford University in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our drive included a Malibu LT with the base 1.5-liter, turbocharged I-4 and a Malibu Premier (Premier replaces the top LTZ trim) with the optional 2.0-liter, turbocharged I-4. Because we’ve already shared our opinion on the 1.5T base-engine model in this First Test review, we’ll focus on the available 2.0-liter engine here.

Although a turbocharged, 2.0-liter I-4 was the step-up engine in the previous Malibu, the engine has a lower power rating in the 2016 model. The 2016 Malibu sedan’s turbocharged 2.0-liter is rated 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque—that’s 9 hp and 37 lb-ft less than the 2015 model. The new model, however, gains GM’s first eight-speed automatic transmission in a front-drive application. The previous car (and the new base 1.5-liter turbo) featured a six-speed automatic.

Our drive included a scenic route around the Bay Area, including time spent driving along Pacific Coast Highway overlooking the Pacific Ocean; we tested a different 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Premier 2.0T during our 2016 Motor Trend Car of the Year program.

That car accelerated to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 6.2 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 14.7 seconds at 96.2 mph (155 km/h). In comparison, a 2015 Chevrolet Malibu Turbo reached 60 mph in 6.3 seconds and posted a 14.9-second quarter mile at 94.3 mph (152 km/h). The lighter weight (3,301 pounds versus 3,625 (1,497 vs. 1,644 kg)) and new transmission more than make up for the lower power rating. Fuel economy for the 2016 model is EPA-rated at 22/33 mpg (10.7/7.1 L/100km) city/highway to the previous model’s 21/30 mpg (11.2/7.8 L/100km). The 2016 Malibu 1.5T took 8.5 seconds to reach 60 mph and 16.5 seconds at 84.6 mph (136 km/h) to finish the quarter mile.

The 2016 Malibu 2.0T stopped from 60 mph in 117 feet. That’s 10 feet less than the car with the 1.5-liter engine but 2 feet longer than the 2015 Malibu Turbo.

Although the 2016 Malibu 2.0T posted the same 26.4-second lap around our figure eight as the 2015 Malibu Turbo, it did it at a slightly lower average lateral g (0.68 g versus 0.70 g). However, the new car lapped the skidpad at a higher lateral g (0.88 g versus 0.85 g). The 2016 Malibu with the 1.5-liter lapped the figure eight in 27.4 seconds at 0.63 lateral g and pulled 0.85 lateral g around the skidpad.

In comparison, an all-wheel-drive 2013 Ford Fusion Titanium 2.0 EcoBoost (240 hp/270 lb-ft) we tested accelerated to 60 in 6.8 seconds and through the quarter mile in 15.1 seconds at 91.6 mph (147 km/h). It also stopped in 117 feet and lapped the figure eight in 27.2 seconds at 0.64 g average. A 2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T (245 hp/260 lb-ft) did the same deeds in 8.0 seconds, 16.2 seconds at 88.4 mph (142 km/h), 120 feet, and 27.5 seconds at 0.70 g average.

Although the Malibu 1.5T effortlessly kept up with traffic on surface streets and the highways around the Bay Area, the 2.0-liter turbo offers even more passing power. No surprise considering the larger engine’s 2.3-second advantage to 60 mph. In addition to its more powerful and fuel-efficient powertrains, the 2016 Malibu also rides better and is more isolated from the outside world compared to the outgoing car. Even with 19-inch wheels, the ride was smooth and any surface irregularities were well damped.

Both engines offered plenty of low- and midrange torque and even revved smoothly to higher rpms without complaint. Chevrolet also did a good job tuning the electric power steering system, which wasn’t too heavy or too light for the segment and was linear and predictable during curves and corners. In fact, the steering feel is better than that in our long-term 2016 Nissan Maxima SR sedan.

Although we weren’t sold on the interior in our Malibu LT 1.5T tester, the upgraded interior in the Malibu Premier 2.0T is a nice place to sit. The styling is attractive, and the controls are intuitive. In back, the longer wheelbase addresses the rear-seat criticisms of the outgoing model, namely legroom. Other updates include rear USB ports and rear HVAC vents. The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu hopes to lure buyers with its fancier styling and more spacious interior, as well as its more efficient powertrains, but the automaker is also touting its new active safety and connectivity technology.

Available safety technologies across the 2016 Malibu lineup include front pedestrian alert with automatic braking, new lane keep assist with lane departure warning, side blind-zone alert with lane change alert, new forward collision alert with a following distance indicator, rear cross traffic alert, front and rear park assist, adaptive cruise control with front automatic braking, and automatic parking assist. A rearview camera is standard on LS trims and above. Additionally, the new Teen Driver feature allows parents to monitor their teen’s driving habits.

Unlike the outgoing model, the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Premier 2.0T sedan is now a competitive choice in the popular midsize family sedan segment. Now we just need to wrangle up its competitors with more powerful engine options to see if it finally has what it takes to be a class leader.

2016 Chevrolet Malibu Premier (2.0T)
BASE PRICE $31,795
PRICE AS TESTED $35,280
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE 2.0L/250-hp/258-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 193.8 x 73.0 x 57.7 in
WHEELBASE 111.4 in
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,301 lb (62/38%)
ACCELERATION, 0-60 MPH 6.2 sec
QUARTER MILE 14.7 sec @ 96.2 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 117 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.88 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 26.4 sec @ 0.68 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 22/33/26 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY 153/102 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.75 lb/mile

Additional 2016 Chevrolet Malibu photography provided by the automaker.