2017 Chevrolet Malibu 2LZ Premier Review

The golden bowtie makes one of the best family sedans on earth


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Potent four-cylinder turbocharged engine, great chassis and steering, ample interior space for all occupants, a seriously good-looking Malibu finally arrives.
Negatives: Overdone interior has too many angles and shapes, strange patterned plastic trim has to go, terrible manual mode shift button on the shift knob needs to be replaced by paddles shifters, gauges look cheap.
Bottom Line: The Malibu is easily one of the best family sedans around because it delivers true comfort and a thrilling driving experience, especially with the top tier engine. It also happens to be a truly attractive family car with the best sheetmetal in Chevy's lineup, shy of the Corvette and Camaro. It ranks up there with the Mazda6 in terms of driving dynamics (but has more power) and
If you expected more of the doldrums from the Chevy Malibu, you weren't the only one. The car has never really thrilled, but this total redesign for this generation might just prove that Chevy has done its homework. The styling alone will get your attention, since it surpasses the Impala as the most attractive four-door in the lineup. We drove the top-tier Malibu for a week to see if it had what it takes to reign in the compeitive family sedan segment.
 

Driving Experience

9.2

 

We'll be honest by saying we didn't expect to love the way the Malibu drives, but we do. Everything about its road manners says this is a sedan that will thrill the driver far more than the best-selling Accord, Camry and Altima. Yes, it's that good. It's second only to the superb Mazda6 with better power.

Ride Quality: A great blend of comfort and sport. It manages bumps and road imperfections with aplomb without disconnecting you from what you're driving on.

Acceleration: This is a turbo-four cylinder we can totally appreciate since it sounds like a V6 and pulls like one, too.

Braking: The Malibu has good brakes with very good pedal feel and progression.

Steering: Though its steering isn't quite a sharp as the Mazda6, it's still very good. It's on the light side but still pretty precise.

Handling: The chassis is excellent, and the car can certainly handle turns well. We'd like to see Chevy extract an SS model out of these great bones.

Technology

8.2

 

We've never been huge fans of GM infotainment tech from a design and intuitiveness standpoint, but the Chevy MYLINK system is pretty good. The GM 4G LTE Wi-Fi is always a great amenity, as well. On board Wi-Fi should be a de facto option on all vehicles. We're not quite sure why this hasn't happened yet.

Infotainment System: The 8" screen is crisp and clear with excellent visibility and very good responsiveness. We find it odd, though, that the shiny screen is angled upwards rather than straight on. We didn't have trouble in bright sunlight, so we got past it.

Controls: We like the button/knob audio controls but would've liked a tuning knob instead of having to resort to the touchscreen. The home button is a plus. Temperature displays are excellent, but the center climate buttons look a bit cheap.

Bluetooth Pairing: No issues with pairing and re-pairing on re-entry. It found our smartphones every time without a hiccup.

Voice Call Quality: Clear phone call transmission during our numerous calls.

Styling

8.6

 

It's hard to believe this is a Malibu. After decades of styling seemingly inspired by manila folders, the current Malibu is one of the best looking sedans on the market, regardless of price.

Front: Nice touches like the slim split grille and the C-shaped foglights give the Malibu a handsome face.

Rear: There's nothing dramatic here, but it's all done tastefully, giving the Malibu a slim look in back that contradicts the thickness of so many vehicles these days. The curve of the built-in trunk spoiler and the tapering taillights are well-done.

Profile: The coupe-like roofline and the handsome 18" turbine-style wheels give the side-view a touch of sexiness not often found in the conservative family sedan segment.

Cabin: GM cabins have come a long way, but the interior is one aspect of the Malibu's styling we don't like. Too much chrome, too many disparate shapes and weirdly patterned brown plastic trim feel out of place here.

Comfort

8.8

 

We found ourselves very happy with the level of comfort the Malibu affords. It's at the front of the pack in terms of daily usability and roominess.

Front Seats: Great front seats with decent support and good cushioning. They're also plenty wide and accommodating, albeit a bit bland looking in black. Some good contrast stitching would go miles here.

Rear Seats: The Malibu's big 111.4-inch wheelbase allows for ample space for second-row passengers, and the seats themselves are pretty good.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The Malibu is solidly built with no apparent vibration or intrusive road noise. Even the turbo-four sounds better than most, avoiding that kitchen appliance-like whirr.

Visibility: Decent visibility out the front and sides, but the pillars are on the thick side.

Climate: The Malibu's HVAC system worked well, and cranking up the air conditioning on hot days resulted in quick, cool air. The ventilated seats also worked very well.

Safety

9

 

If it's a truly safe family sedan you want, the Malibu is an excellent choice. It just misses the top spot for IIHS's rating but manages to nail it in NHTSA testing. Our car came with a robust set of safety features with its many options.

IIHS Rating: The Malibu manages to get the Top Safety Pick, missing the top score due to poor headlights and marginal child seat LATCH scores.

NHTSA Rating: Five stars puts it at the top of the pack.

Standard Tech: We like the standard rear vision camera, as well as the OnStar automatic crash notification.

Optional Tech: Our model came with a ton of safety features that bolster its crash test ratings, including such tech as forward collision alert, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist, lane change alert with side blind zone alert, front pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, semi-automatic parking assist, front automatic braking.

Storage/Cargo

7.7

 

The Malibu is pretty good when it comes to overall stowability and cargo space. We would've liked a bit more thought put into the cabin storage, but it's more than acceptable for everyday use.

Storage Space: The front binnacle at the base of the center stack is a bit narrow and shallow. The center armrest has enough room for daily gear.

Cargo Room: The Malibu has 15.8 cubic feet of trunk space with a flat load floor, more than spacious enough to be competitive in the midsize sedan segment. It's the same as the Honda Accord and smidge more than the Toyota Camry.

Fuel Economy

7.5

 

The turbo four mill can get thirsty when you mash the gas, and you'll want to drive the car with some verve because of the way it handles and accelerates. We recommend the Malibu Hybrid if you care more about trips to the pump than yo do about driving fun. That being said, the Malibu does a decent job of managing fuel if you're conservative enough.

Observed: 23.6 mpg.

Distance Driven: 221 miles.

Driving Factors: We drove fairly aggressivley in highway and city conditions, so our mileage was at the lower end of its EPA estimates.

Audio

8.8

 

We really loved the 9-speaker Bose system that came standard with our car. It was great with music, even cranked up, exhibiting no distortion and excellent clarity.



Final Thoughts

The Malibu is car we actually fell in love with during our review. It handled and moved far better than we imagined, and we always looked forward to driving it. What Chevy has done is nothing short of remarkable because the Malibu is a truly excellent family sedan that actually gets your pulse a bit elevated. Chevy really does need to pay more attention to interior aesthetics and styling, but this Malibu does provide solid comfort and good ergonomics. It just feels a bit cheap sometimes and somewhat overdone with the shapes, but these are really its only demerits, and it doesn't amount to much. Those who need a family sedan will be hard pressed to do better, especially in the Premier trim with a stellar turbo four engine.
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