REVIEW: 2017 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid – Smooth Operator

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The 2017 Chevy Malibu is great on gas, of course, but it is really a standout as a smooth operator.

What is it? 

The Malibu is Chevy’s midsize sedan doing its best to win over Camry, Accord, and Altima shoppers. The hybrid is a very modern, extremely refined trim that is not getting enough attention from the media and the general public.

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Pricing and trims

Like all midsize car brands, Chevy has a Malibu for every taste. There is a very affordable L trim starting at just $22K, an LS and LT that add creature comforts rising to about $26K, and the Premier, which has a powerful turbocharged engine and all the fancy bits for about $37K with all the usual packages added in.

Our tester was the Hybrid with some, but not all, of the packages available costing $31,235. We used Chevy’s online configurator to price out our same car, but with heated leather seats, Navigation, and a moonroof and the total came to $35,020. We mention this because it is germane to our following test information.

Safety

The 2017 Malibu Hybrid aces all of the IIHS safety tests and has Superior-rated active safety.

However, that active safety is not standard. In our Malibu Hybrid tester, the safety gear added about $2,000 to the price tag. Walk onto a Toyota dealer lot today and all the current 2018 Camry cars have active safety at no extra cost on every trim. Maybe Chevy will follow suit for the 2018 Malibu?

IIHS rated the Malibu line a Top Safety Pick. It does not earn the highest “+” rating because its headlights are rated Poor.

Performance

Taken in the context of a midsized affordable family and commuter car, the Malibu Hybrid is plenty quick around town and when merging onto the highway. If you’re looking for a sports sedan GM’s brands have gobs of choices, but this isn’t one of them. Thank goodness. Those cars are cramped inside due to the rear-drive design.

For every normal driving scenario, the 1.8-liter engine and electric motor in the Malibu Hybrid deliver 182 hp, typical for the class. However, what is not typical is the smooth power delivery and nearly silent operation of the Malibu Hybrid. The Malibu Hybrid is refined and feels expensive. The electric motor’s torque helps out when starting off and takes over in scenarios where you don’t need the gas engine. For example, in a parking lot. The transitions from electric to gas or both are almost impossible to detect unless you try very hard to sense them.

For More on the Malibu Hybrid’s Technology, Read On

With a 46 MPG Combined EPA fuel efficiency estimate and the 49 MPG we observed in our test, the Malibu Hybrid is a standout, even among green cars. Since it uses the least expensive liquid fuel in America, it can come close to the per-mile cost of an EV in some markets where electricity is expensive.

Chevy calls the transmission in the Mailbu Hybrid an “Automatic, two-motor drive unit, hybrid transmission.” We’re not sure what they are talking about, but it works great. It is smooth and acts like a CVT.

Ride and handling

Chevy’s Malibu Hybrid was one of the most comfortable cars we have ever driven. Perhaps the base, 17″ wheels and “normal profile” tires were part of that. Be careful if you opt for packages that switch these to larger diameter, lower profile rubber. The Malibu Hybrid drives great for a midsize car. It is enjoyable on back roads and over broken pavement as smooth as anything we have driven. Top marks and praise for the suspension and tires.

Seating

We were less impressed with the base model cloth seats in the Malibu. With no heating function we could find, the seats did have driver’s side power, but felt a lot like rental car seats. They also look very drab. As part of the whole flat-black cabin, they seem to suck the light out of the cabin, making it dark inside. With no moonroof, that effect was even more pronounced. Chevy offers more premium seating (and a moonroof) and we would strongly suggest opting for them. Do so, and the price rises to about $35K.

Rear seats feature excellent leg room.

Cargo

Chevy’s Malibu Hybrid steals a bit of your trunk for the hybrid battery. It was plenty big for a full week’s grocery load, but if you plan to take two or three kids to hockey or want to pack more than a couple golf bags be sure it meets your needs. We had to search far and wide to find the actual capacities of the Malibu line’s trunks. The Hybrid has just 11.6 cubic feet, about four less than all other Malibus. Want a shocking comparison? The Honda Civic Hatchback offers 25.7 cubic feet with the rear seats up.

Infotainment and controls

The infotainment system in our 2017 Malibu Hybrid with the optional 8″ touch-screen was absolutely fabulous. Part of the $895 Convenience and Technology Package, the system was intuitive and super-easy to learn to operate. Pairing a phone is dead simple. Chevy did not offer a map-based navigation system on our tester, but instead offers two alternatives. One is On Star. You press the button and the On Star system speaks you directions to your location. Simple, but will eventually require a paid subscription. It comes free for just three months. The better alternative, and included in the cost, is Apple Car Play and Android Auto. We plugged in our Droid and it worked very well. Google Maps rocks, and the system has many added features. We salute GM for finding a way to save customers money by not forcing them to buy Nav.

Overall

The 2017 Chevy Malibu Hybrid leaves a strong positive impression. The drivetrain is outstanding in both efficiency and feel. The feeling of refinement and the smooth operation is impressive, particularly at this moderate price point. The outstanding infotainment system should be a model for all automakers.

Compromises with the Malibu Hybrid are few. The smaller than standard trunk and the cloth seats which do the car no favors are really the only two worth mentioning. We feel the 2017 Chevy Malibu Hybrid is an excellent green car offering that would make an ideal family or commuter car.

2017 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

Base price: $22,555 (2018 Model year, non-hybrid L trim. 2018 Hybrid trim is not yet on sale)

Price as tested $31,235, including $875 destination charge:  

Options:

Driver Convenience Package: $1,195
Auto High Beams
Parking Sensors
Forward Collision Prevention, Lane Keep Assist, Rear Cross Traffic, Pedestrian Detection

Convenience & Tech Package: $ 895
Remote Start
Auto dim mirror
8″ Color Touchscreen

Likes:

  • Outstanding Ride Comfort
  • Quiet Ride
  • Overall Comfort (Seats, Ergonomics, etc)

Dislikes:

  • No Nav At Pricepoint, No Map
  • Interior Too Dark (All Flat Black and No Moonroof)
  • No Spare Tire

 

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John Goreham

John Goreham