The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu represents a radical makeover for one of General Motors' most important models. A look at what critics and others are saying about the midsize sedan with its debut this week at the New York auto show.
"Dwarfed by more daring and handsome midsize sedans, the most notable improvement on the Malibu comes from the efficient engine offerings. The base powerplant is a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a six-speed automatic transmission that gets 37 miles per gallon on the highway. The car also has an optional 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission that gets 33 miles per gallon on the highway. But the Malibu hybrid, which is based on the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt's propulsion system, gets 48 mpg city, 45 mpg highway and 47 mpg combined, according to GM President Dan Ammann. Car shoppers can't afford to overlook the Malibu with those specs."
-- The Chicago Tribune
"GM engineers say new midsize car underpinnings will enable the Malibu to handle better than the more expensive Buick Regal, which recently bested the BMW 3 Series to win top sports sedan honors from Consumer Reports."
-- Tom Krisher, The Associated Press
"The exterior design of the sedan has been given special attention with sleek, sweeping lines and subtle surface details meant to entertain the eye. The Malibu will still be unmistakably a Chevy from the front, with the new grille design borrowing its cues from the larger Impala sedan."
-- Jay Ramey, Autoweek
"The exterior of the Malibu is fine, really. It’s okay. But where the party is really going on is clearly on the inside. You scoffers, you mockers, you jokers out there on the Internet might deride the gray interior, but just LOOK AT IT. Your eyes go down, and all you see is gray. Your eyes go up, all you see is gray. You stare, glassy-eyed into the middle distance, thinking maybe you see just the barest splash of color. Was it green? No, yellow! Wait, that’s just the Chevy badge. Doesn’t count. Sure, there’s a slight hint of wood trim on the center, but that’s brown. And when you think about it, isn’t brown really just gray? (No.) You thought the gray look died in the 1980s, along with the second generation Subaru GL, rental cars everywhere, America’s dreams of a space-based laser defense system, and truly great haircuts. But you were wrong. The gray remains, all the way to the present day."
"Chevrolet needs an heroic performance from the 2016 Malibu midsize sedan ... The striking new Malibu may deliver. It has head-turning looks, competitive passenger space and improved fuel economy. The Malibu that's being replaced failed not because it's a bad car, but because it's not great in any way. That's disastrous in the cutthroat midsize car market, where an inch of knee room or a mile per gallon can be the difference between victory and defeat. The 2016 model demands attention with flowing, unexpected shapes that draw the eye and set it apart from other midsize sedans. Without looking like the bigger Impala, it draws inspiration from that car, which design director designer John Cafaro said "cracked the code" for how good a Chevrolet sedan can look."
-- Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press
"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 ... 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."
-- Eric Evarts, Consumer Reports
"No yawning. The designers appear to have gotten the memo that the most recent Impala is good-looking, as there is a lot of that car’s styling baked into the 2016 Malibu. Starting with its proportions, the Malibu adopts a “four-door coupe”-ish swept roofline à la Ford Fusion and mixes it well with a long hood and clipped overhangs. The Malibu’s face is sleek, although from some angles, the severe horizontality of the headlights’ top edge lends the mug a droopy appearance. Overall, though, the crisp lines, body-side creases, and neat stance almost left us forgetting the old Malibu’s Play-Doh-squeezed-through-sadness look."
-- Alexander Stoklosa, Car and Driver
"All in all, Chevrolet has improved the Malibu where it needed it most (cabin space) and added comfort and safety features that finally thrust this bowtie-wearing sedan into the heart of the family car sales battle."
-- Kate Mcleod, New York Daily News
"Chevrolet is done with settling for mediocrity and has finally stepped up with an all-new 2016 Malibu that aims to rise to the top of the midsize segment. It starts with the exterior styling, which loses the previous model's bland awkwardness for exactly what you'd expect a baby Impala to look like. This isn't a bad thing at all; its low headlights with clamshell-hood cut and Corvette-inspired taillights make it look much more distinctive than anything from Subaru or Hyundai."
-- Aaron Bragman, Cars.com