The 2017 Chevrolet Malibu is a solid mid-sizer in the segment, punctuated by good, efficient powertrains, and a quiet ride.
One year removed from a complete overhaul, the 2017 Chevrolet Malibu continues on as a solid mid-sizer with a good set of options and powertrain.
In fact, it's hard for us to imagine a domestic mid-sizer that better exemplifies how far the Detroit Three have come in 15 years of American automaking—the Malibu isn't a boring pick any more. Base L models are fleet specials, LS and LT are better suited for retail buyers. Hybrid and Premier trims round out the top, with dedicated powertrains for each.
It earns a 7.2 overall on our ratings scale with a good shape, better safety record, and plenty of interior comfort. Performance isn't why many people buy these cars, but it makes up for that in mileage. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Styling and performance
You'd be excused for overlooking how the Malibu has evolved over the past few years, yet this iteration may attract attention outside of the Midwest. The new Malibu is lighter, brighter, and longer thanks to more high-strength steel in more areas. The nose is lower and its shape has been stretched, but much of the attention invested into new proportions pays off in the interior.
The Malibu's cabin is very well considered and laid out, most of the dash has been pushed to the corners and the two-tiered layout is gone. Base trims are clad with nylon that we could do without, but upper trims are pleasant and quiet.
This year's biggest addition is a 9-speed automatic paired with the most potent turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4, which is available only on Premier cars. That engine is the top of the heap, and is a more-than-adequate replacement for a V-6 by churning out 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. We haven't yet driven the new transmission on the 2.0-liter, but we're fans of that engine over many of its contemporaries.
Far more Malibus on the road will be powered by a 1.5-liter turbo-4 that makes 140 hp and 158 lb-ft mated to a 6-speed automatic. It's perfectly adequate for medium duty commuting, and plenty of power for us to forget some of the old generation's coarse inline-4s.
The efficiency champ is the Malibu Hybrid that mates a 1.8-liter inline-4 to a battery pack and electric motors, which is good for 182 hp and—more importantly—48 mpg combined, according to the EPA.
The Malibu's diet from the last generation has helped more than the new powertrains, we say. Losing 300 pounds has help the Malibu hone its road manners without being too sharp, and we like its handling—even in base cars.
Comfort, safety, and features
The Malibu manages to be one of the most spacious mid-sizers, despite having a relatively smaller wheelbase. Clever interior packaging helps the car feel more spacious and rear-seat passengers get the benefit of 38.1 inches of leg room. Active noise cancellation and sound deadening help quell harsh vibrations from the road and powertrain, although we're not huge fans of the base cloth material.
Safety officials give the Malibu very good scores. The IIHS has given the car a Top Safety Pick award, while federal testers give it a five (out of five) star score overall. Many retail Malibu cars will have standard rearview cameras, but budget shoppers looking for an L model won't be afforded that luxury this year.
If you're willing to overlook the base L model—which is built to attract fleet buyers, primarily—the Malibu is fairly well equipped.
A standard 7.0-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth connectivity is standard on LS models and higher, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. LS models also get a Teen Driver feature that tattles on misbehaving young drivers, OnStar with built-in wi-fi capabilities (additional subscription required), rearview camera, 16-inch aluminum wheels, and an acoustic windshield for a quieter ride.