By Keith Buglewicz
The 2017 Chevrolet Malibu midsize sedan is a formidable competitor against the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Kia Optima, Hyundai Sonata, and any other car in its class you'd care to mention. The sleek design gives it, in our opinion, a best-in-class appearance, resembling the larger Chevy Impala in all the right ways. The same is true of the modern and comfortable interior as well. But it's more than just esthetics. The 2017 Malibu's comfortable interior boasts a big back seat, plus high-tech features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear cross-traffic alert and automatic-parking assist. The three engine choices include a 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder and a hybrid with a Volt-derived powertrain, and prices are right in line with its rivals in this highly competitive class.
The 2017 Chevrolet Malibu isn't just good "for a Chevy," but it's a compelling choice in its own right against the usual Honda/Toyota/Hyundai/Nissan gang. With a super-fuel-efficient hybrid, plus tons of cool features, it's worth a look.
While the Chevy Malibu is a very compelling choice, the midsize-sedan category is arguably the most competitive market segment there is. What we're saying is that even though the Malibu is a very strong contender, personal preference and brand loyalty may sway buyers in a different direction.
Malibu Premier models with the 2.0-liter turbo get a new 9-speed automatic, a Sport package will make an appearance eventually, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are now available on the LS and base LT audio systems, and in all hybrid models.
We haven't had a chance to check out the new 9-speed automatic in the Malibu Premier, but our experiences with the Malibu have been nothing but impressive. The 2.0-liter turbocharged...
... models pull strongly from a stoplight. The rocker switch on top of the gear selector lets you manually select gears, and although we'd prefer steering-wheel paddles, it works well enough for the few times you're likely to use it. The nicely sorted suspension didn't let the big 19-inch wheels and low-profile tires on our test car transmit much in the way of bumps, regardless of the surface we encountered. The payoff for the big wheels was in handling, which isn't going to give the Mazda6 night sweats, but is certainly enough for the challenges the Malibu is likely to face.
APPLE CARPLAY AND ANDROID AUTO
While Chevrolet MyLink is one of the better touch-screen infotainment systems out there, we love the consistency using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto brings to a vehicle’s interior. Using the identical functionality of a smartphone on your infotainment system is just as desirable and useful as it sounds.
Nervous parents with first-time drivers can keep track of what their youngsters are up with Teen Driver's suite, now available in LS and LT models, and all hybrids. The system lets you monitor how fast and where the car has gone, and even mutes the audio unless everyone's strapped in.
Even if you don't use CarPlay or Android Auto, you'll appreciate the Chevy MyLink infotainment system's combination of big icons and physical knobs and buttons. It's all part of an interior design that isn't just functional, but is among the best in class from a purely esthetic point, too. The gauges are big and clear, the dash curves and swoops attractively, and it's even easy to see out. The comfortable front seats adjust to virtually any body size, and the rear seats boast enough legroom to seat tall adults, although they might find headroom a little tight.
Chevrolet has managed a difficult task with its family of sedans, somehow imparting a family resemblance on the Malibu that's immediately shared with the larger Impala and smaller Cruze, but without making small, medium and large versions of the same car. There are subtly sculpted, elegant-looking coves in the front and rear doors, and at the rear the taillights -- LEDs in Premier models -- tie it all together. Higher-end models also get LED daytime running lights, and super-bright HID headlights are also available. Wheel sizes range from 16 inches all the way up to the 19-inchers on our test car.
While the base Malibu L model offers the basics -- air conditioning, cruise control and an AM/FM radio -- it's a rental-fleet special you should skip. Instead, the 2017 Chevy Malibu lineup really starts at the LS model, which adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with USB ports and Bluetooth with its 7-inch MyLink infotainment system. There are also a standard rearview camera and a 6-way-adjustable manual driver's seat. The very good 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder includes stop/start and hill-start assist. On the safety front, there are 10 total airbags, plus stability control and OnStar, which automatically dials for help in an accident.
There are powertrain choices in the form of the Malibu Hybrid and the 2.0-liter turbo in Premier models. Beyond that, the Malibu offers ever-increasing levels of technology, including available adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, forward-collision alert, and rear cross-traffic alert. There's a 4G LTE-powered Wi-Fi hotspot to help you find your dinner spot, the available on-board navigation system can help you get there, and the Automatic Parking Assist can even help you park when you arrive. And of course there's available leather upholstery, with Premier models offering automatic climate control.
Standard on 2017 Malibu models from L through LT1 is the 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 6-speed automatic. This frugal drivetrain has little problem moving the Malibu, and returns up to 36 mpg on the highway. Premier models get the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which gets the new Malibu moving without hesitation. With the new 9-speed automatic transmission, it gets 33 mpg on the highway, easily competitive for the segment. The new hybrid combines two electric motors and a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder for a combined 182 horsepower and up to 49 mpg in the city. All the engines run on regular gasoline; premium is recommended for the 2.0-liter but not required. Some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel economy numbers this year, due to changes in EPA testing.
1.5-liter turbocharged inline-4
160 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
184 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000-4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 27/36 mpg
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
250 horsepower @ 5,300 rpm
258 lb-ft of torque @ 1,700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/33 mpg
122 horsepower @ 5,000 rpm
129 lb-ft of torque @ 4,750 rpm
Motor A: 55 kW
Motor B: 76 kW
136 horsepower (electric motors combined)
277 lb-ft of torque (electric motors combined)
182 net horsepower
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 49/43 mpg
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
Prices for the base-level 2017 Chevrolet Malibu L start with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $22,500, which puts it in the lower end of the midsize-sedan segment. But since you'll probably skip that model, the real-world base model is the 2017 Malibu LS, starting at about $24,000. The Premier, with its 2.0-liter engine and 9-speed automatic, starts just below $32,000, while the Malibu Hybrid starts at about $28,750. Those prices are competitive with, and often slightly less than, comparably equipped midsize sedans like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price calculator to see what others in your area are paying. Unfortunately, while the new car looks great and offers a lot, historically resale value hasn't been one of the Malibu's strengths.