The mid-sized sedan segment is one that hasn’t seen much change lately over the past few years. Perhaps it’s because the default choices in the category – the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord – have enjoyed great success simply resorting to excellent market perceptions and just a few minor updates here and there.
Disrupting the balance is the all-new Chevrolet Malibu LTZ. Launched during the recent Manila International Auto Show, it’s the newest entry to the segment and could very well be its new champion as well.
Parking the Chevrolet Malibu and hearing positive comments from people who walk by cements the fact that Chevrolet’s design positively works. It utilizes excellent body proportions and coupe-like lines while keeping the overall aesthetic minimalist yet sophisticated. It’s also lighter than its predecessor by 130 kg despite the use of high-strength steel, which contributes to a more enjoyable drive. High profile 18 x 18.5-inch tires contribute to a low-slung sporty stance, which are complemented by an aggressive front grille. Overall its design manages to be classy and distinctive while remaining consistent with Chevrolet’s corporate identity.
The Malibu’s interior is one of the best in the segment, with comfortable, supportive seats and plenty of leg room to spare on both rows. The interior provides excellent visibility out through the front, and the overall greenhouse seems highly expansive thanks in part to its panoramic sunroof. The central console is intuitive and easy to use, with a large eight-inch touchscreen handling the Chevrolet MyLink system (with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support), which powers the impressive nine-speaker Bose speaker setup.
Adding a first to the segment is the inductive mobile charger to the center island, which allows you to seamlessly slot your phone in to charge it on the go. I’ve always been a fan of two-tone interiors, and the Malibu executes this while maintaining a first-class, upscaled feel. You’ll never get the impression of cost-cutting with cheap materials, as all the materials used feel high-quality, and the general fit and finish of the interior is competitive to even the most premium offerings.
The Chevrolet Malibu goes with the trend and avoids using a large V6 to power it. Instead it uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that delivers 250 hp and 353 Nm of torque. It may not be the most powerful car in the segment, but the Malibu is nevertheless just as enjoyable to drive.
Despite the small displacement engine pushing out all those horses, turbo lag is barely negligible, and careful threading with the right foot generates an adequate response every time. Thanks to its relatively lightweight construction, the Malibu overtakes with absolute ease on the highway, proving that you don’t need a hefty V6 to enjoy a spirited drive.
Steering feedback is alert and responsive, and the updated fully independent suspension does a great job of soaking up road imperfections while keeping the car composed and stable. It rides a little stiffer than the Accord and Camry, while not as aggressively tuned as the Mazda6, providing a nice balance between comfortable and agile. It’s a tough balance to achieve on most cars, but Chevrolet has nailed it here. As for fuel economy, our test run resulted in an average of 7.5 kilometers per liter on mixed highway and city driving, which is slightly better than the competition.
At P2,131,888, the Chevrolet Malibu is priced slightly higher than the competition, but it also comes fully loaded with features not found in other offerings in its class. Besides offering a fantastic safety suite composed of Lane Keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Front Collision Alert, Front Pedestrian Detection, Forward Automatic Braking, Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and eight airbags, it also features driving enhancements such as adaptive cruise control (the first in the segment) and semi-automated parallel and perpendicular parking assistance.
When looking for an executive-level mid-sized sedan, it’s easy to fall back to the top-of-mind choices, which are the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Give the Chevrolet Malibu a chance, however, and you’ll soon see that the Malibu has overtaken the segment with regards to its driving characteristics and safety and driving convenience features. It’s simply the best offering in its class right now, at least until the new Camry and Accord make their appearance, and is certainly worth your time to consider.
Text and photos by Chris Van Hoven