NEW YORK -- The next-generation Chevrolet Malibu will be larger, lighter, packed with new safety gear and wrapped in sculpted sheet metal that signals Chevy’s ambition to turn the heads of midsize sedan buyers.
The 2016 Malibu, unveiled at the auto show here today, looks to be an all-out bid by General Motors to elevate the Malibu’s also-ran status in a fiercely competitive segment, one in which every automaker must bring its A game.
“It’s nice to see what GM’s A game looks like,” said Karl Brauer, senior director of insights at Kelley Blue Book, after previewing the latest Malibu at a recent briefing. “This appears to be a transformative release for a car that has struggled. It should get a whole new set of people to consider that nameplate.”
Creating a compelling exterior design was the top priority when GM set out to develop the car, GM engineers and executives say. The design is a departure from past models, with some styling cues adopted from the current, stylish Impala large sedan. (The same design team worked on both cars.)
The car is nearly 4 inches longer in the wheelbase and grew by about 2 inches in overall length. The hood and the cowl -- where the windshield meets the hood -- are lower, allowing for a longer, sleek daylight opening that gives way to a fastback roofline and short rear deck lid.
GM will build the Malibu on a new global platform that sheds nearly 300 pounds, taking the sedan from among the heaviest in the midsize segment to the lightest. The lengthened wheelbase alleviated the problem of a cramped rear seat, a main gripe of current Malibu owners.
It gets an overhauled powertrain lineup, with a significantly downsized base engine -- a 1.5-liter turbo, from a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated engine. A full hybrid model -- GM’s first for a car -- will have fuel efficiency that beats hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry and Hyundai Sonata, GM says.
The Malibu has been the weak link in Chevy’s revitalized car lineup. After gaining some respect with a vehicle that ran from the 2008 to 2012 model years, Chevy took a step backward with the current Malibu, launched in the spring of 2012.