Chevrolet's 2016 Malibu Hybrid is Sneaky-Good
Chevrolet's 2016 Malibu Hybrid is Sneaky-Good

DETROIT — We ended up with the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid by accident. Our scheduled car was canceled because of mechanical issues and we were offered the hybrid. It was a great car and it just might be a bit of a sleeper.

On the way out of a health food store, a 20-something couple that certainly didn’t look like hybrid buyers, she was in short-short shorts with a backwards baseball cap and he looked like he belonged with her, spotted the little H that was on the trunk of our tester and they literally walked around the Malibu and took a good look.

They would have been more impressed if they could have driven the car. Even after its downsizing GM has a deep technology bin that it is beginning to leverage. The 2016 Malibu uses components from the plug-in Chevrolet Volt.

It had a direct injected 1.8-liter four cylinder engine that was mated to a two-motor (electric) drive unit that operated as its transmission. The normally aspirated four-cylinder engine generated 122 horsepower and 129 pound-feet of torque. Add the electric drive unit and that jumped to 182 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque.

And to be clear, there was no transmission. With electric motor drive, power is just about instant. It is sort of like direct drive. There was no stop start but it didn’t matter. The 2016 Malibu Hybrid had an EPA rating of 47 mpg in the city, 46 mpg on the highway and 46 mpg combined.

There was enough oomph to move the Malibu Hybrid smartly to the point that we forgot it was a hybrid. And the only thing inside the car to indicate it was a hybrid was the power and regenerative charging instrument which was placed where the odometer would normally go.

In a way, that was safer. There was one simple dial to let you know what the hybrid system was doing at a glance. Now that we think about it, and we just did, that was a lot better than a screen with bar graphs and all sorts of stuff about regenerative braking that you can’t read and keep your eye on the road at the same time. The Malibu Hybrid had a better idea.

Chevrolet said, “The engine also features Chevrolet’s first application of Exhaust Gas Heat Recovery, or EGHR, technology, which uses exhaust heat to warm the engine and cabin. EGHR improves engine warm-up and ensures consistent fuel economy performance in cold weather. Additional fuel economy benefits come from Exhaust Gas Recirculation, or EGR.”

The Malibu Hybrid had a 1.5 kWh lithium-ion battery that was significantly lighter than a nickel-metal hydride battery. The lithium battery can move the Malibu up to 55 mph alone on electric power. Faster than that and the gasoline engine kicks on and it will kick on under “high loads” read assertive acceleration.

Because of the light weight of the battery and a new architecture, the 2016 Malibu Hybrid, at 3,457 lbs., weighed 300 lbs. less than its predecessor. And that could be felt in its ride. A 4-inch longer wheelbase also helped a lot in giving the car a very silky feel on the pavement.

The front-wheel-drive sedan had a MacPherson strut-type suspension in the front with dual path mountings, tuned coil springs, direct-acting stabilizer bar and hydraulic ride bushings. In the rear, there was a four-link independent suspension with hollow stabilizer bar. The car had a 2.8 lock-to-lock steering wheel turns and a 37-foot turning radius. With a 15.8 steering ratio, it was very responsive to driver input.

In cars that are really too heavy for their suspensions, when you go over deep impressions in the road it can be felt in the deep articulation of the shock absorbers and the sound of the suspension. Neither was the case with the 2016 Malibu Hybrid.

The interior of our test car looked good. Chevrolet has become adroit at using fabric on the face of the Malibu dashboard. In this case, it was the same jet black pattern that was on the seats and the doors. The cars infotainment screen looked like the surface of an iPad.

In a word, our tester was loaded. It had automatic high beams, front and rear park assist, sensor indicator for the following distance, forward collision alert, rear cross traffic alert, rearview camera, lane keep assist, front automatic braking at low speeds, lane change alert with blind spot alert, pedestrian detection, remote vehicle start and USB charging only ports.

Of course, there was MyLink with phone integration, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, voice controls, Wi Fi, OnStar, satellite radio, a navigation system, a smart key and wireless device charging.

The $30,735 price tag for the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid seemed awfully reasonable.

Frank S. Washington is editor of

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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