True to its early 1960s roots, the 2017 Chevrolet Malibu is competent, medium-sized sedan with a personality that splits the difference between soft and sporty. It’s priced competitively with popular midsize models like the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Mazda6, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima.
Our test car was a Cajun Red Malibu 2LZ, base-priced at $30,975. The base Malibu L starts at $22,555.
The 2017 Malibu, like the first Malibu that rolled off the assembly line more than a half-century ago, is a roomy 4-door sedan that seats five. Chevrolet offers a choice between a 160-horsepower, 4-cylinder turbocharged engine with 6-speed automatic transmission; or a 250-horsepower turbo Four with a 9-speed automatic. All versions have front-wheel drive.
Our test car had the bigger engine. Both engines are quite fuel-efficient, but we were disappointed to note Chevrolet recommends the use of premium unleaded gasoline. This can be a significant cost inflator: Where we gassed up in Danbury, the other day, premium cost about $2.70 a gallon, while regular unleaded cost $2.38.
The fuel-cost math favors competing models with normally aspirated 4-cylinder engines, though both Malibu power plants deliver excellent fuel economy. Drivers can expect up to 36 mpg with the base engine, 33 mpg with the 250-horsepower version. We were able to exceed 36 mpg in straight highway driving. The engine and transmission also are smooth and responsive in all conditions.
Even more impressive on the fuel-economy scale is the Malibu Hybrid, a far cry from the mild-hybrid version we test-drove several years ago — not long before it was discontinued. The revived, much improved hybrid delivers 49 mpg city, 43 highway, and runs on regular unleaded gasoline.
Our test car was exceptionally well equipped: remote start; heated and ventilated front seats; heated steering wheel; rear-view camera; leather upholstery; dual-zone automatic climate control; satellite radio; Apple Carplay and Android capability; and 4-gigawatt wi-fi hotspot. Optional equipment included forward collision alert; rear cross-traffic alert; lane-keep assist; blind-zone alert; and adaptive cruise control. The 2LZ trim level and options brought the price to $34,435.
The Malibu’s interior is roomy, and it provides comfortable accommodations for drivers and passengers of all shapes and sizes, in front and in back. The 15.8-cubic-foot trunk easily accepted two sets of golf clubs and two carts during a Saturday outing.
Chevrolet seems to have been determined to nail the sweet spot between soft-and-floaty and harsh-and-agile. While the Mazda6, a favorite of ours in this segment, handles more crisply than the Malibu, it doesn’t ride quite as smoothly and quietly. It comes down to personal preference, and as we noted in the first paragraph, there are plenty of quality options in the midsize category.
Since its redesign for the 2016 model year, the Malibu has done well in crash tests. In government testing, it received a 5-star rating, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated it a Top Safety Pick.
2017 Chevrolet Malibu 2LZ
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline Four, 250 horsepower, 260 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 9-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 3,388 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 18×8-in. aluminum
Tires: P245/45R18 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 15.8 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 15.8 gallons
Fuel economy: 22 mpg city, 33 mpg highway
Fuel type: premium unleaded gasoline (recommended)
Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.