2017 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid Review

The hybrid family car you can be proud to own


Wade Thiel, Staff Writer



Positives: Spacious cabin with supportive seats, very good fuel efficiency, ample technology set, distinctive styling in a generally boring segment.
Negatives: Some weird interior trim, small trunk due to battery placement, could use a bit more oomph at highway speeds for passing.
Bottom Line: The Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid is a smart choice for anyone who is interested in a hybrid car that looks and feels like a regular midsize sedan. It provides high levels of comfort and efficiency in a package that's attractive and well-equipped. While the interior has minor eyesores and the trunk is on the smaller side, the Malibu is otherwise one of the best alternative powertrain vehicles out there.
The Malibu is a stylish hybrid cruiser that's ready for the whole family. It faces a somewhat uphill battle from the two best-sellers, the Honda Accord Hybrid and the Toyota Camry Hybrid, so it has to do more than just hold its own, especially when it comes to comfort and efficiency, likely the two areas hybrid sedan shoppers care about most. The Chevrolet brings a well-equipped and well-rounded model to the segment in hopes that the car will attract buyers looking for an American alternative that offers just as much if not slightly more than its two main competitors. We drove the 2017 Malibu Hybrid for several days. Read ahead for our full review.

Driving Experience

7.2

 

You might think that with a hybrid, the driving experience is all about efficiency. Chevrolet definitely kept efficiency in mind, but the Malibu doesn’t come up short on performance, either. Its focus is on a smooth, comfortable ride and sufficient power for everyday driving. The overall driving experience is better than we expected from a bigger hybrid, and we would categorize it as "satisfying". As much as we enjoyed the car, though, we found ourselves wanting more power for highway passing.

Ride Quality: The suspension in the car is on the softer side, placing driver and passenger comfort over sportiness. It soaks up bumps and gaps on the highway and rough city streets well.

Acceleration: For a hybrid, the Malibu is fairly quick, and it also makes the transition from electric to hybrid mode very smoothly. Reported 0-60 mph times are about 7.4 seconds, which makes it faster than the Ford Fusion Hybrid, Kia Optima Hybrid, and the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.

Braking: Unlike other hybrids we’ve driven, the Malibu actually has progressive brakes and stopped the car well without any grabbiness.

Steering: The Malibu Hybrid offers steering that's decently weighted and comfortable for most drivers. It's not seriously precise, but the system responds well and elicited no major issues.

Handling: There's some body roll, but the car holds curves well, providing a modicum of confidence when entering and exiting turns.

Technology

8.1

 

There’s only one trim level for the Malibu Hybrid. This means there’s a lot of technology on the car as standard equipment. If you want to add tech like remote start, color driver information center, Chevrolet MyLink with an 8-inch color touchscreen (the standard model has only a 7-inch screen with fewer features), wireless charging, and USB ports, you’ll need to add the convenience and technology package. There are two other packages that add more safety equipment and comfort upgrades as well. Our tester came well equipped with all three packages.

Infotainment System: The Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system with an 8-inch touchscreen display worked flawlessly during our time behind the wheel. The system featured Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as smooth and fast – one of the better systems out there.

Controls: There is a nice mix of physical buttons and touchscreen controls. The layout is simple, easy to use, and everything is within reach.

Bluetooth Pairing: We paired an Android phone to the system easily and experienced no issues with our connection.

Voice Call Quality: Calls were crisp and clear on both ends with no transmission issues.

Styling

8.5

 

Manufacturers are making their family sedans bolder in styling. Put this Malibu next to the last one, and it's almost embarrassing how plain the previous generation was. The new car is fetching. It’s more dramatic than the Toyota Camry’s current model and manages to show up the Honda Accord, as well. Chevrolet did a good job of making the car appear aggressive without overdoing it. It’s sophisticated and smart looking.

Front: The front features a split grille, C-shaped LED fog lights/chrome trim, and fairly aggressive headlights. It’s a face that we find attractive and not polarizing.

Rear: The rear features wraparound taillights and an integrated spoiler. It’s a simple and uncluttered rear that looks attractive.

Profile: The overall shape of the profile is handsome with a sloping roofline, well-contoured body and a nicely curved nose. The only part we don't like is the somewhat long tail section behind the rear wheel, otherwise known as the rear overhang.

Cabin: The cabin of the Malibu is attractive, but there's a bit too much grey and weird plastic trim for our liking.

Comfort

8.6

 

Chevy paid attention to the space and ergonomics of the Malibu, and it shows. The cabin is comfortable for all occupants, especially the driver. Our tester had the optional leather seating, which was a nice addition, and we were able to take our tester on a longer road trip, too. It held up remarkably well from a comfort standpoint.

Front Seats: The front seats offer large and supportive seating cushions and ample head, shoulder and leg room.The 8-way adjustable driver's seat with lumbar allowed us to get in the right position easily. Our only minor gripe is that there isn’t a lot of bolstering.

Rear Seats: The rear seats are spacious and supportive with similar levels of bolstering. You would have no problem fitting three people across, and even the middle position is better than most sedans since the cushion doesn't rise too high from the outboard positions.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The Malibu is a smooth, quiet car. We noticed little road noise, even at highway speeds. There was no vibration, no harshness, and the build quality felt solid.

Visibility: Front, side, and rear visibility is good. The Malibu doesn’t have any large blind spots, and what you can’t see in tight parking spaces is brought to light by the backup camera and sensors.

Climate: The dual-zone climate control system worked well and responded quickly. The heated seats fired up quickly and were pretty toasty.

Safety

8

 

Safety in a midsize family sedan like the Malibu is paramount. The Chevrolet Malibu delivers on this front well. While the car comes up short from reaching the IIHS’s highest accolade, it does perform well in the safety tests. Also, the NHTSA awarded the car an overall crash-test rating of five stars, making the Malibu one of the safer rides out there on the road.

IIHS Rating: The Malibu received a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS with good ratings in every crashworthiness test and a superior rating in crash avoidance and mitigation technology. The downfall for the model is its poor rating for headlights and a marginal rating for child seat anchor ease of use.

Standard Tech: The car comes with some handy safety features as standard equipment, including OnStar capabilities, Chevrolet’s rear seat reminder, and a backup camera. It also comes with Teen Driver mode, which allows parents to get reports on their teens driving habits as well as warnings and alerts at certain speeds.

Optional Tech: Our tester was equipped with the following optional safety features: following distance indicator, forward collision alert, front and rear parking sensors, lane keep assist, low speed forward automatic braking, pedestrian detection, and rear cross traffic alert. These features helped both in highway driving and heavy traffic environments.

Storage/Cargo

6.3

 

With the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid’s focus on the family consumer, you’d expect it to have plenty of storage space and cargo capacity. Storage inside the model is good, but the car suffers from a small trunk due to the need to hide the hybrid battery behind the rear seats. Still, there’s enough space in the trunk for groceries or a couple of suitcases.

Storage Space: The armrest compartment is good for housing small items. There's a dedicated and convenient phone slot in front of the armrest. The shallow tray at the base of the center stack works for coins and very small items but isn't deep enough for larger items.

Cargo Room: The trunk in the hybrid version of the Malibu is down to 11.6 cubic feet from 15.8 cubic feet in the non-hybrid model. The Honda Accord Hybrid and the Toyota Camry Hybrid beat the Malibu in this category.

Fuel Economy

9.2

 

The point of a hybrid car is fuel efficiency and the Malibu Hybrid does better than most in this partcular segment. Only the Accord Hybrid beats it, with 47 mpg highway. The EPA estimates the Malibu Hybrid will get 49 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the highway.

Observed: We saw an average of 46 mpg in the Malibu Hybrid in mixed driving.

Distance Driven: 296 miles.

Driving Factors: On the highway, we got 43 mpg, and in the city we saw about 48 mpg, which is just below the EPA estimate. We took a long highway trip from Indianapolis to Chicago and then drove the rest of the time in the city.

Audio

7.9

 

The optional Bose 9-speaker audio system provides loud and clear sound to both the front and rear seats. We experienced no issues or distortion even at high volume.



Final Thoughts

For families that want an alternative powertrain car, the Malibu Hybrid makes a lot of sense. It’s reasonably affordable, attractive, spacious, and offers a mix of efficiency and performance that is very satisfying. The efficiency is excellent, and the fact that it drives well and looks attractive puts it ahead of cars like the Toyota Camry Hybrid or the Sonata Hybrid, both of which suffer in comparison to the Malibu Hybrid. The only real downside of the Malibu Hybrid that its trunk space is on the smaller side, which isn't uncommon for hybrid sedans, but the Malibu Hybrid is especially small when compared to the competition. If that isn’t an issue for you, this car is an excellent choice.
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