Drive

The Chevrolet Malibu: a solid commuter car with a few extras

While it isn’t the most stylish in the midsize-sedan market, the Chevrolet Malibu may surprise you with a far better driving performance than you might expect.

An all-new, next-generation version will be coming out for 2016, but I was impressed overall with my 2015 tester.

Two engines are available, starting with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder that’s standard in all trim levels.

You can also opt for a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine in the two upper trim levels, which is how my top-line LTZ tester was equipped. Mine was also further optioned with in-dash navigation.

The differences in the two engines aren’t just in their horsepower, but also in a start-stop system that’s included with the 2.5-litre — but not the turbo engine.

This technology shuts off the engine at idle, such as when you’re stopped at a light, to save fuel and cut down on emissions.

The lights, climate control and other features continue to operate, and the engine automatically restarts instantly once you take your foot off the brake.

The 2.0-litre turbo is quick, strong and smooth, and mated exclusively to a six-speed automatic transmission.

The Malibu also handles well, with just the right weight to the steering

and a nimble but confident feel.

It’s a good everyday commuter car, but it’s also fun to drive if you get the chance to push it a little.

That said, the small exterior mirrors don’t give you the best visibility, nor does the sharply raked rear window that doesn’t provide

for much of a view out the back.

The handsome interior uses GM’s “twin-cockpit” design, and features simple controls.

There are some small cubbies in the centre console, but for more secure storage, the centre touch screen flips up to reveal a hidden compartment.

Rear-seat passengers enjoy a great deal of legroom,

and while you’ll have to reach over that tall bumper to stow cargo, the trunk is huge.

The styling is ho-hum, but look below the skin: If you haven’t considered the Malibu in this segment, take it for a test drive.

The Basics

Type. Four-door, five-passenger midsize sedan

Engines (hp/torque). 2.5-litre I-4 (196); 2.0-litre turbocharged I-4 (259)

Transmission. Six-speed automatic

Price. Base $25,040, as-tested $36,605 (plus destination)

Points

  • While each trim line moves up successively with standard features, there are also options and option packages available for each.
  • The Malibu’s brakes use Duralife rotors, which have a special coating that strengthens them and makes them less prone to corrosion.

Features

Available lane departure and forward collision warning, cross-traffic alert, Wi-Fi hot spot capability, blind spot monitoring system, rearview camera, leather upholstery, premium stereo, and navigation system.

Market position

The Malibu gained a reputation as a rental and fleet vehicle that slid it off the radar with many consumers. A complete redesign in 2013 marked a considerable improvement, while the upcoming 2016 is expected to be roomier and lighter.

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