In the past four years, Chevrolet's Malibu has had more costume changes than Lady Gaga — but it saved the best 'til now.
This 2016 Malibu is a knockout, right there with such fashion mavens as the Ford Fusion, Mazda6 and Kia Optima. But it took Malibu a while to find its sartorial mojo.
Totally redesigned for the 2013 model year, Malibu got a yawn from car buyers. So it got another facelift the very next year, to little benefit.
Now Malibu has raided the clothes closet again and — whew! — get a load of that haberdashery! Malibu has hung up its Carhartts and put on its Guccis.
While looking good from every angle, it's Malibu's profile that astounds. That dart-like flank shows sharp character lines and a backlight so fast it nearly appears horizontal. More than one head turned as this one motored by.
Available in L, LS, LT and Premium trims, Malibu boasts an all-new engine and an all-new transmission, although they don't play together. The new engine is a 1.5-liter, 163-hp turbo I-4, which mates to Malibu's familiar six-speed automatic. The upgrade is a largely carried-over 250-hp 2.0-liter turbo four that buttons to a new eight-speed automatic.
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We drove a Malibu 1.5L LT, which we found gorgeous to behold and easy to live with. Our only complaint was the lack of an override button for the auto-engine-shutoff. Every vehicle we've ever driven with that fuel-saving stoplight feature includes an override button, just in case the vibration of the engine kicking on and off becomes too irritating. Not Malibu. So buyers will have to live with it. Fortunately, the vibration from Malibu's tiny turbo engine is slight, making it among the least irritating we've encountered. But still ...
On the road, our Malibu was no hot rod, but that little blown four, with its full complement of torque on tap at just 2,000 rpm, successfully motivated our car's light 3,160-pound curb weight. We hit 60 mph in 8 seconds. And Malibu proved quiet and confident while delivering to us 25 mpg.
Inside, room is fine up front and fabulous in back, thanks to Malibu's 2.3-inch longer length and 3.6-inch longer wheelbase.
FYI: There's an available Orwellian feature called "Teen Driver" that allows parents to program the kid's key fob to record fastest speed, distance driven, number of times active safety features kick in and more. So behave, Junior.
A hybrid arrives later this spring.
Dan Wiese is a freelance automotive writer. You can email him at email@example.com