Chevrolet introduced the latest version of its mid-size Malibu in 2016. Initially presented into the Chevy line-up in 1964, today’s Malibu is the ninth generation of the model. This report is not so much a regular road test review as a comparison between the first year and the latest year of the swoopy-bodied four-door sedan.
A couple of years ago I purchased a 2016 Malibu with about 21,000 kms. It is the top-of-the-line Premier model with every option available. It has the 250-hp two-liter turbo four-cylinder engine, and the eight-speed automatic. The main reason for the car’s purchase was the positive impressions on driving a new Malibu during an AJAC Eco-Run. (The annual Eco-Run is organized by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada to evaluate electric, hybrid and conventionally powered vehicles in real-time driving conditions). Also, as an owner of several Chevrolet Impalas, the interior room of the Malibu was about the same size and offered about the same ride and comfort.
When introduced in 2016, the all-new car came longer and lower than the previous version, with a four-inch increase in wheelbase and a fuel-saving 300-pound drop in vehicle weight. Three powertrains were initially offered, the 1.5-liter turbocharged four with 166 horsepower, the 1.8-liter 182-horsepower engine/twin-motor hybrid version, and the two-liter turbocharged 250- horsepower performance engine.
For 2020, the hybrid version is not available, just the base 1.5 engine and the larger 2.0 engine. The smaller engine is mated to a constant velocity transmission (CVT) while a nine-speed auto is behind the larger engine.
There are few changes on the new Malibu, which is offered in LS, RS, LT, and Premier trims. The prospective buyer is offered some new exterior colors, and the RS comes with a chrome grille surround with black grille inserts and 18-inch aluminum wheel design.
Tested here is the LT Midnight Edition which includes nameplate badge in black, black front and rear bowties, blacked out grille, 19-inch black-painted aluminum wheels and 245/40R19 all-season black wall tires. With a multitude of optional packages with its 1ZD69 designation, including the LT Preferred package of sunroof, upscale interior components including leather seats, heated steering wheel, and both of GM’s Driver Confidence Packages, the base price of $27,748 has jumped to $37,358, including taxes and destination charges.
Both cars have LED headlights and taillights, remote and keyless entry, an eight-inch touchscreen, (although navigation is standard with the Premier,) as is wireless phone charging and a USB charging port. The Premier also has a nine-speaker Bose system, the LT has six speakers. Other than chrome accents on the door handles of the Premier and some different badging, the LT is just about the same car both physically and in cost, except for the powertrain.
With a CVT and almost 100 less horsepower, the 2020 version does not offer the performance of my own Malibu. While the 2020 is no slouch and is certainly able to provide enough for today’s traffic situations, it does not have the oomph of the 250-horsepower two-liter engine. On a personal note, I prefer the positive shifts of the conventional transmission over the ambiguity of the CVT. One interesting aspect of the drivetrains between the two cars is that the 2020 version with the smaller engine has a 5.10 to one final drive, while the bigger engine comes with a 2.89 to one final drive. Final drive ratio on the 2016 Premier is 3.07 to one.
Government mileage figures for the 2020 Malibu range from 6.6 L/100kms highway to 8.2 L/100 kms city, and 7.1 L/100 kms highway to 9.0 L/100kms highway for the 2016 with the larger engine. I can attest to the 2016 figures here, and under certain highway driving I have averaged under 6 L/100kms. GM suggests premium fuel for the 2.0-liter engine, but I have not had any issues with using regular fuel.
In day-to-day driving for the past two years, I have put brakes on my Malibu, and a new battery. A malfunctioning electronic shift lever was repaired under warranty. That’s been it so far. The Kansas-assembled car has offered lots of power, a comfortable ride, and spacious interior with intuitive controls.
Hopefully GM will not kill off the Malibu. When FCA drops its Chrysler 300 this year, there will be no domestic four-door sedan available. Some may think of the Malibu as a perfect rental or fleet car, but for basic transportation it’s hard to beat.
2020 Chevrolet Malibu LT four-door sedan, front-wheel drive
Price: base $27,748, as tested $37,358
Engine: 1.5-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder
Power/Torque: 160 hp, 184 lb-ft
Fuel Mileage: 6.6 to 8.2 L/100kms
Drivetrain: Constant velocity transmission, final drive ratio 5.10:1, MacPherson strut front suspension, multi-link rear suspension, 300-mm rotors on front brakes, 287-mm rotors on rear brakes, rack and pinion steering, P245/40/R19 tires
Wheelbase: 2829-mm, 111.3-inches
Weight: 1432 kg, 3,157 pounds
Fuel tank capacity: 60 liters
Cargo volume: passenger 2913 liters, (102.8 cubic feet): trunk 444 liters, (15.7 cubic feet)