DETROIT — When Chevrolet offered us the chance to test drive the 2016 Malibu LT 1.5, we responded with a resounding “yes.”
The numeric stands for a 1.5 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that made 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, the Malibu’s new standard engine was impressive on several fronts.
First it ran really quiet. The only time this engine raised a ruckus was under hard acceleration. Second, it had a bit of oomph, especially for a small engine. Several times we needed this Malibu to move swiftly and it did with push of the accelerator. And third, the engine had shut-off technology.
Come to a full stop and the small turbo would shut off. That is a real fuel saver during city driving. Chevy estimated gas mileage is 8 percent better than the model it replaced. On the highway, 1.5-liter equipped Malibu models also feature active grille shutters that reduce aerodynamic drag to optimize fuel efficiency.
The six-speed automatic transmission was smooth too. Once you got passed second gear, shifts were nearly imperceptible. And since the car was 300 lbs. lighter than the previous model, fuel efficiency was impressive. The 1.5 liter turbo was rated at 27 mpg in the city, 37 mpg on the highway and 31 mpg combined.
The Malibu was a front-wheel-drive midsize sedan. It had a MacPherson strut suspension in the front with direct-acting stabilizer bar and hydraulic ride bushings. In the rear, was a four link independent suspension with a hollow stabilizer bar. The setup provided a smooth ride, the car stayed level while cornering and in sweeping turns and it rode like a much bigger and more expensive sedan.
Because the wheelbase was almost four inches longer, there was much more interior space. We particularly were pleased with the back seat. There was plenty of head and leg room. And the center armrest had substance. In other words, it was well built.
We thought the black cloth interior was nicely done. It featured a honeycomb design and stylists had the good sense to extend the material onto to the upper portion of the doors and onto the face of the dashboard. It was different and it lent sophistication to the look of the interior.
One of the strengths of Chevrolet has always been equipment. The brand continues to leverage its size to offer more for less. Our test car had a smart key, push button start and power windows.
But sometimes we just have to shake our heads at GM’s bean counters. This Malibu had power windows and a power driver’s seat for that matter. But only the driver’s window was fully automatic. In other words, all the other windows would only go down automatically. We had to hold the button to get them to come up. It made us ask why. We knew the answer, to save money. Still, it makes you ask couldn’t they have found someplace else to have off a few dollars.
Anyway, the Malibu could establish its own Wi-Fi hotspot. It had satellite radio, OnStar, voice controls, Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay which co-joins any iPhone 5 or higher with the car and uses the phone’s features including Siri.
Ed Welburn recently retired as GM’s vice president of design. He was credited with molding the company’s global studios into a harmonious group and generating a renaissance in the style of all GM products. But his most lasting legacy one observer said was his return of Chevrolet to the ranks of stylish affordable cars.
Indeed, the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu 1.5 as we tested it was $25,895.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.