2017 Chevrolet Malibu

Away from the usual prospects

"Introduced almost 50 years ago, Malibu is a very familiar name in the auto world."

"The center console is dominated by an eight-inch touchscreen that pretty much looks like an I-pad on a dock."

"The looks and features were akin to a high-end car but with a very attractive price tag."

"An easy to drive, good-looking car that'd run around without breaking your bank!"

Named after the Californian beach city, its agenda was pretty simple. An easy to drive, good-looking car that'd run around without breaking your bank. Introduced almost 50 years ago, Malibu is a very familiar name is the auto world with a great heritage and looks smashing in its newest form. From the 60s to the 80s, the Malibu had its share of good looks, some nice engines and track time. Around the 90s and early 2000s, the Mailbu seemed to lose its charm and was just blending into the mid-size car segment where every other manufacturer was trying their luck. Post 2011, the Malibu had some interesting revisions and design upgrades which brought back the individuality; and makes the new Malibu something more desirable to buy rather than just seeing it at Chevrolet showrooms. We have the 2017 Chevrolet Malibu for a test drive with its new turbo engine offering. Now let's go!

Chevrolet had a pretty interesting launch campaign for the Malibu last year. It was called "The car you never expected", which involved people driving and analyzing the features of the car which was completely debadged so that no one knew what brand or model the car was. The looks and features were akin to a high-end car but with a very attractive price tag. Car enthusiasts may have been able to guess the car because of its similarity in lines with the Impala and Camaro, but the campaign was pretty successful, I guess.

Like any other major redesign, the Malibu had shed all its old skin and was draped in the latest Chevrolet design fabric. The lines of the Impala form the base for the new Malibu, but look slightly sharper because of the compact dimensions. The front end looks aggressive with well styled grilles, but does it remind me of the Ford Fusion? Maybe it's just me. The headlamp units are sleek wrap-around units that fit the front end geometry. The Chevrolet badge (in black for our test LTZ spec!) fits snug between the two-part front grilles which have a chrome lining on their perimeter. The only downside here would be the daytime running lights (DRLs), which have a downward dropping angle. On first glance, the car looked like it had a sad expression! It would have been better if the DRLs were straight or incorporated into the headlamp units. Everything else falls just in place on the Malibu's front end. The hood is muscled up well and adds to the hunk looks of the Malibu. A very thick A-pillar defines the Malibu from here on and joins the sloping roofline. The increased wheelbase of the new Malibu ensures that the sloping roof does not hinder rear passenger headroom, as well as provides great legroom all around. From the sides, the high-ish shoulder line and some character lines help to add that upmarket look. A chrome strip running along the window edges provides that extra bling, although I am a completely anti-chrome activist! Again chrome ‘Malibu' badges now adorn the front door; just like its bigger cousin. In my opinion, all chrome in the world should be replaced with carbon fiber. Wheel arches gel in with the profile of the car and the 18-inchers fit them nicely. Towards the rear, the aggressive lines give way to smoother and simpler looks. The LED taillamp cluster is clearly inspired by the headlamp unit and looks nice when lit up. Twin tail pipes are housed in an alien-shaped diffuser and have red reflectors giving them company. A good-sized boot with a boot-lid spoiler and third brake light housed outside the rear windscreen wind up things on the rear.

Under the hood, the new Malibu hides a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine generating a power of 250-hp and a torque value of 350 Nm. The turbo engine is the first on any Chevrolet for this part of the world. The twin-scroll turbo provides instantaneous response and virtually eliminates the dreaded turbo lag. Mated to an eight-speed transmission, the Malibu hits 100 km/h in under 6.5 seconds and definitely feels quick. My only niggle on the new Malibu is the front-wheel drive configuration, which robs the fun out of any car. At least in this turbo-guise the Malibu should've had a rear-wheel or all-wheel drive setup. Another problem with these new small capacity turbo engines is that you need to keep them working hard for an exciting drive. This can lead to a busy-bee feeling and can negatively affect fuel consumption. 245/45 sized tires all around handle the duties for keeping the Malibu on track and all around disc brakes provide a confident brake feel. Power transmission from the gas pedal to the road is very smooth and highly sought after, particularly in this segment. Buyers of this segment can be quite demanding, as for many of them, it's a step up from small cars. Suspension is mostly soft with only the large sized 18-inch wheels giving a hint of the road quality. 16s or 17s would give the Malibu a quieter ride, but you would lose the snazzy looks of the 10-spoke 18-inchers!

Get into the Malibu and you are greeted by a world of comfort. The front leather seats are electrically adjustable and feature cooling - something very welcome for the climate here. The cabin feels snug and soft overall. The leather-clad steering wheel falls into hand easily and is more comfort oriented than thrashing around. Rear seats are also finished in leather with good legroom and headroom for a stress-free experience. To further relax you, the Malibu features a full-size panoramic roof, which dramatically increases cabin airiness when open. The center console is dominated by an eight-inch touchscreen, which pretty much looks like an I-pad on a dock! The MyLink infotainment system on the Malibu connects to your Apple or Android-powered mobile phone and gives you access to all the phone features through the big eight-inch screen. So, you get to keep your eyes on the road more. All vehicle functions like audio, navigation, comfort settings etc., can be accessed through the steering-mounted control which helps you to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times. It can take a while to get accustomed to the steering controls, but once done it is pretty comfortable to use.

The new Malibu features a host of active and passive safety features, which gives you greater peace of mind while on the road. A high-strength steel safety cage is provided for the best safety during accident impacts and there is a list of features that try to minimize the chance of an accident. Front Pedestrian Alert, Forward Collision Alert with Following Distance Indicator and Front Park Assist ensure that the beautiful front end of the Malibu remains intact at all times. Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning make sure that you remain stress-free in high-speed, high-traffic transits. Intellibeam technology ensures that you get the best road illumination at all times, with the Malibu automatically switching to high beam when it is best.

Verdict
The new Malibu gives you a great package at some very attractive prices. The engine is strong, interiors are chic, and the car looks excellent overall. Chevrolet is a popular brand in this part of the world and it is a wait-and-watch for the Malibu to prove its reliability. The campaign suited it well. The new Malibu is the car you never expected.

Pros: Upmarket looks, fuel-friendly turbo engine (if driven sensibly), great value for money
Cons: Enthusiastic driving requires effort, some plastic in the interior fascia
Rivals: Nissan Altima, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Kia Optima, Hyundai Sonata
one word: prepped warrior
4 stars

Specs
2.0L 4-cylinder turbocharged engine, 250 hp @ 5,300 rpm, 350 Nm @ 1,700 rpm
FWD, 8-speed auto
0-100 km/h: 6.5 sec, top speed: 250 km/h, fuel consumption: 8.5 L/100 km
Weight: 1,450- 1,500 kg

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