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First Drive: 2016 Chevrolet Malibu 2LT 2.0T


As a man with a nicely pressed white polo shirt handed me the keys to a 2016 Chevrolet Malibu, I stood there waiting, expecting him to tell me my car was ready in stall 43 and to have a nice trip. Fact of the matter is, the Malibu is a rental favorite and with our sampler coming home in a 2LT trim with a white paint, it fits right in with all the other rental fav’s. All it’s missing is the Hertz tag.

Aggression is all the rage these days, and taking a step back, the new Malibu has all right curves in all the right places. Definitely more than your average rental with a strange smell. The 2LT trim, which is just a few clicks above entry level does bring some pizzazz to the table with LED daytime running lights and these rather sharp looking 18-inch wheels that accent our fancy $995 Iridescent Pearl Tricoat paint.

There are new engine options for 2016, a 1.5-liter turbo and a 2.0-liter turbo. The 1.5-liter rated at 160-horsepower is equipped on lower grade trims and, on paper, sounds sufficient to get the job done. However, the engine to get excited for is the new 2.0-liter turbo, as seen on our tester, it’s good for a solid 250-horses and hauls booty to highway speeds in about six-seconds. Eight gears continuously ushers the Malibu forward quite smoothly – so smooth actually, we never really felt the car change gear – and when we planted our foot to the floor, there was no hesitation as to what gear it knew it had to be in.

Moving in the direction of turbo only can have its faults. Torque steer and fuel economy being two problems here. AT 258lb-ft of torque, it can be a lot for the front wheels to handle, especially when they have to do the steering and the braking to. At highway speeds, torque steering is the most present. Passing other motorist who doesn’t get it’s a freeway, requires some heavy footed activity which then turns into a battle of fighting the steering wheel – its controllable, just makes you look like an idiot to other drivers. Turbocharged engines are placed in sight of better fuel economy, but the Malibu is a heavy car and merely returned V-6 mpg, seeing we only averaged 22 mpg combined for the week.

Handling at its best is plain adequate – the leather wrapped steering wheel has an overall pleasant feel and decent substance to it maneuvers, but a far cry from being something like Mazda 6 or VW Passat. And that’s okay. Because we don’t always expect family cars to be fun to drive. The chassis on the other hand, well that’s actually really good. It’s more solid and planted. It doesn’t giggle or sway or creek and wobble over rough road. Its ride is very comfortable and absorbent while have a solid firm ride quality to it. Road noise is present however, even on these 18-inch wheels, but only when the road hasn’t been repaired in over 20 years – welcome to Phoenix.

Designed to withstand the test of time, the interior is decent for what it potentially will go through. Our sampler here being a more consumer oriented trim came with this ash gray cloth interior. The fabric is rough like burlap, but considering the torture of grungy messy children and eager to party collegers, this interior should hold up well. And the mimicking fabric on the dash is a unique touch of material that we think works in this application. But do remember, this is still grey and if you have kids, it’s a color to avoid.

There is nothing special to the overall interior design of the cabin space, our 8-inch touch screen Chevy MyLink Infotainments system came standard on our 2LT model and features Apple CarPlay – which honestly, is all you need! Even for a mid-level trim, Chevrolet was kind enough to make safety a top priority by featuring standard blind-spot monitor, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, low speed braking mitigation, front and rear parking sensors and a back-up camera.

Comfort all around we say. It’s a big car and there is plenty of space for everybody. However I wish I could have called back seat on this one and just enjoy the ride. Extra inches have been added for rear passengers making the comfort levels just a hair above cozy. At least part of the 2LT brought in a power adjustable driver seat, we all know how lazy we can be adjusting our own seats.

Starting at a respectable $22,500 for a base L, the Malibu makes a good statement of family durability. With our mid-level 2LT trim coming in at $28,620 before destination, it expresses a good attribute of performance and comfort with the capabilities of withstanding even the most outrageous of rental nightmares.  No matter where you’re headed and what you’re doing, the Malibu makes for a good companion for whatever journey comes your way.

Price (As Tested):
2016 Chevrolet Malibu 2LT: $28,620
Destination: $875
Performance Specs:
2.0-Turbocharged four-cylinder – 250-horsepower/258lb-ft of torque – 0-60 MPH: ±6.0 seconds
EPA MPG: 22/33/26 (city/highway/combined) – SSB Average: 22 MPG’s | Fuel Range: 350 miles
Featured Options:
Iridescent Pearl Tricoat Paint: $995
Grand Total: $30,490





  1. Think the Malibu has improved but still prefer the Mazda 6 overall. I was really surprised to see that Car And Driver had the Malibu above the Honda Accord in their recent comparison. The VW Passat seems often overlooked, but seriously spacious interior.

    • Hi Mark, yes, the Malibu has improved quite dramatically in the chassis department. I too was surprised to see the Honda Accord drop to third in their comparison. However, I still don’t think I am completely sold on the Mazda 6 – they just need to fix that transmission! And yes, the VW Passat really does get overlooked. I’m hoping with the new changes they’ve made, the consumers will take notice, because the Passat is a wonderful car to drive and you can’t beat that back seat.

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