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All-new 2016 Chevrolet Malibu rights past wrongs

Full hybrid, turbo engines, teen nanny, and a roomier backseat promise major improvements

Last updated: April 01, 2015 03:30 PM

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Introduced at the New York International Auto Show, the all-new 2016 Chevrolet Malibu aims to correct past shortcomings, including rear passenger room and fuel economy.

The new car is longer, with a 3.6-inch longer wheelbase to give it more backseat legroom. That should bring it closer in line with other midsized sedans that have adult-scale space in back. It is 2.3 inches longer overall, yet Chevrolet says it weighs 300 pounds less than the old car, which may aid efficiency and overall performance.  

The new Malibu will also introduce a new full-hybrid option that piggybacks on parts and engineering used in the Chevrolet Volt. The Malibu Hybrid won’t plug in, but Chevrolet says it can go up to 55 mph for short distances in electric mode. A 1.5-kWh lithium-ion battery, downsized from the one in the Volt, takes up some trunk space. The electric motor is connected to a 1.8-liter gas engine that gives it a combined 182 hp. Chevrolet says it expects an EPA rating better than 45 mpg for the hybrid.

Like its midsized sedan competitors, the Malibu is otherwise going to an all-turbocharged four-cylinder engine lineup, except for the hybrid. The standard engine is a 160-hp, 1.5-liter turbo, with the same optional 250-hp, 2.0-liter upgrade as the outgoing Malibu. We’ve found that such small turbocharged engines often don't deliver on their fuel economy promises.

For parents who have teen drivers in their household, Chevrolet is introducing software in the new car called Teen Driver. The aptly named system monitors where and how teens drive, and it lets parents see their teen’s highest speed on their latest drive, how far they went, and how many times forward-collision warning, electronic stability control, and emergency braking were activated. It will also mute any audio input if the seat belts aren’t buckled. Parents set the guidelines using a private PIN in the car’s infotainment touch screen, and the system is activated whenever the teen uses their key fob to drive the car.

To aid all drivers, the 2016 Malibu is available with blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assistance with lane-departure warning, forward-collision alert with a following distance indicator, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with automatic braking, parking assistance, and automatic high-beams. Forward-collision warning and automatic braking have proven effective at reducing accidents, and lane-departure warning and automatic high beams are among our testers’ favorite new features.

Inside, the Malibu gets wireless charging and a Wi-Fi hotspot. A seven-inch touch screen is standard, and an optional eight-inch screen comes with the navigation and Teen Driver systems.

With sleek new styling, a comfortable backseat, and finally a real hybrid system, it looks like the Malibu may be following in the footsteps of its impressive big brother, the Impala, which went from a rental-lot-special to the top of our ratings with its last redesign. We’ll find out when we test one, after the 2016 Malibu goes on sale in the fall.

See our complete 2015 New York auto show coverage.

—Eric Evarts

2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

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