Positioned between two popular sibling sedans, the compact Cruze and the full-size Impala, the midsize Malibu is a bit like the proverbial middle child. Both the bigger and smaller models often seem to command more attention. Yet all along, Chevrolet has been making gradual updates to keep the modern-day Malibu a compelling choice, even in the ultra-competitive family sedan market. For the 2016 model year, Chevrolet totally redesigned and enlarged the long-lived model, moving it to a longer wheelbase while shaving off almost 300 pounds.
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2017 Chevrolet Malibu Overview
What's New for 2017
In Premier models with the turbo engine, a nine-speed automatic transmission replaces the previous eight-speed unit. A newly optional Sport Package for the LT trim adds 18-inch aluminum wheels and leather trim for the steering wheel and shift knob. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard on most models, as is a Teen Driver feature that lets parents establish limits for young drivers.
Choosing Your Chevrolet Malibu
The most important decision a Malibu buyer makes is the trim level. In addition to determining which features are included, the trim level dictates which of two turbocharged four-cylinder engines will provide power.
The sole engine for L, LS, and LT trim levels is a turbocharged Ecotec 1.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, and includes start/stop technology for enhanced efficiency. Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, it's estimated at an impressive 36 mpg on the highway and 27 mpg in city driving (30 mpg combined). This engine is installed in most Malibu trim levels.
Standard in Premier trim is a turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder that generates 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. With its new nine-speed automatic transmission, fuel economy is estimated at a decidedly less-frugal 22-mpg city/33-mpg highway (26 mpg combined).
For $1,195, the LT and Premier can get the optional Driver Confidence Package, which includes forward collision alert, lane departure warning, side blind-zone alert, lane keep assist, pedestrian detection, city-speed forward automatic braking, rear cross-traffic alert, and front/rear parking assist. An alternative Driver Confidence Package for the Premier trim adds full-speed adaptive cruise control, front automatic braking, semi-automatic parking assist, and an electronic parking brake.
Malibu sedans come in four trim levels:
We almost always recommend against Chevrolets in base-level trim, and the Malibu is no exception. The midlevel LT model represents the best value. Coming close is the more costly Premier edition, because it adds quite a hefty selection of notable features. You might want to consider the Premier as an alternative to sedans from more expensive near-luxury brands.
2017 Chevrolet Malibu Review
The 2017 Chevrolet Malibu lacks a performance model and even the choice of a V6, but it's a solid entry in the mid-size segment, punctuated by good, efficient powertrains, and a quiet ride.
Pricing and Equipment
Prices for the Chevrolet Malibu start at $22,555 (including $875 in destination charges) for the base L trim, but most buyers will likely choose the mid-level 1LT for its $26,000 starting price and standard features that include:
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- Rearview camera
- Bluetooth audio and phone capability
- Standard 7-inch or optional 8-inch touchscreen infotainment
- LED daytime running lights
- Heated power outside rearview mirrors with integrated turn signals
All models other than the base L trim come with a standard rearview camera. But the Malibu's advanced safety features like automatic emergency braking and Chevrolet's new "Front Pedestrian Alert" system are only available as options on the top two trim levels – the LT and Premier.
The 2017 Chevrolet Malibu is available with three engines. Most of the lineup is powered by a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that's paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The Premier trim gets a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder and a nine-speed automatic, while the Hybrid trim returns with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder, a pair of electric motors, and a 1.5-kilowatt-hour battery pack.
- Other than on long grades and some highway passing, it's easy to mistake the 1.5-liter turbo for a bigger engine.
- With plenty of low-end torque, the 2.0-liter turbo easily takes the place of a V6 in the Malibu lineup. For 2017, this engine is paired with a new nine-speed automatic transmission.
- The Malibu Hybrid weighs just 100 pounds more than the 2LT, so it feels nearly as nimble. The only downside is a little less trunk space.
- The suspension isn't particularly performance-tuned and favors comfort over any serious edge.
- The 1.5-liter runs out of steam at just 5,200 rpm. Rev it any higher and it just makes more noise – not more speed.
- The gasoline engine in the Hybrid is noisier than in the non-hybrid models.
- Spacious for a mid-size sedan with a lower dash that helps open up the cockpit.
- Most adults will find the Malibu's seats supportive for all-day drives.
- Thoughtful touches include console padding at the knee and more bolstering and length in the seats.
- Active noise cancellation and generous sound deadening make for a mostly quiet ride.
- Cloth seats aren't terribly nice.
- A swoopy roofline limits rear headroom for taller passengers.
- Base models are trimmed in cheap-looking nylon cloth.
- Non-hybrid models get 15.8 cubic feet of cargo space, while Hybrid Malibu only has 11.6 cubic feet due to the placement of batteries.
The Most Pleasant Surprise
Even the base Malibu L comes with engine stop-start, steering-wheel audio and cruise controls, Bluetooth, keyless ignition, a split-folding rear seat, and power windows with auto-down for all.
The Least Pleasant Surprise
The top Premier model comes with dual zone automatic climate control, but this feature – even single-zone automatic climate control - is not available on any other trim level.
The Bottom Line
Base models are spartan, the big engine is only available in the top level Premier, and the cloth interior feels a little cheap. But an Impala-inspired design, a quiet, comfortable interior, and two turbocharged four-cylinders plus a high-mileage hybrid may convince buyers to trade in their Camrys, Accords, or Fusions.
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