$11,135 - $16,520

2016 Chevrolet Malibu Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu was new.


Performance: 7.8

The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu gets decent power from its base engine, but most testers prefer the larger optional engine for its added power. They add that the transmission with either engine is responsive. Test drivers praise the controlled ride and poised handling, although they note that some class rivals are more agile and fun to drive.

  • "The 2016 Malibu's crash diet is palpable from behind the wheel. The car feels nimble and light on its feet despite its enlarged dimensions, providing enough driver engagement to keep things interesting on a winding road." -- Edmunds
  • "All models of the new Malibu are extremely quiet, with continued use of dual-pane glass to keep things hushed and relaxed. That attitude extends to the handling - it's neither a barge nor a sports car, instead hitting an everyman sweet spot that should appeal to most buyers, which is to say not enthusiasts." -- Autoblog
  • "The available turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder is quicker off the line and has a lot more reserve power. It pairs with a new eight-speed automatic that can feel busy at times, with several abrupt, quick shifts as you accelerate from a stop, though it's responsive on the highway with prompt, smooth kickdowns for passing." -- Cars.com

Acceleration and Power

The 2016 Malibu comes standard with a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 160 horsepower and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. A turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 250 horsepower is available, and it is paired with an eight-speed automatic. The Malibu gets an EPA-estimated 27/37 mpg city/highway with the base engine, which is above average for the class. The Malibu comes standard with an automatic start-stop feature that conserves fuel by turning off the engine when the car stops.

The 1.5-liter engine delivers adequate power, according to most test drivers, but many prefer the available 2.0-liter engine for its stronger feel. However, a few noted that even the larger engine doesn't quite match the V6 engines found in some class rivals. They add that both transmissions deliver timely shifts.

  • "While the base 1.5-liter turbo four gives appropriate power and economy, at least on paper, the 250-hp 2.0-liter turbo in our test car delivered only V-6 fuel economy with not-quite-V-6 acceleration. The Malibu 2.0T's 60-mph run is fleet enough at 6.1 seconds, but significantly slower than a comparable V-6 Camry or Accord." -- Car and Driver
  • "Power from the new base turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder is unexpectedly robust from a stop with great low-end torque for confident takeoffs. It's fun around town, but there's not much left over for highway passing and merging. However, the solid, predictable six-speed automatic transmission furnishes more power steadily and without complaint on the highway; it's not quick, but never sounds or feels strained, and engine noise is well-muted. The engine's standard automatic stop-start feature is impressively unobtrusive, with a subtle shutdown and a graceful, shudder-free restart." -- Cars.com
  • "Even the base 1.5-liter turbo supplies sufficient power. Only when the throttle is floored from a stop is any traditional 'turbo lag' noticed, and even then, the car moves away reasonably well before a surge is noticed about eight feet out. The same holds for the available 2.0-liter turbo, though the 'surge' is much stronger, matching that of most V6s. Both transmissions kick down fairly quickly when the throttle is prodded at speed, with the resulting passing power being decent with the 1.5, downright punchy with the 2.0." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Our fully loaded 2016 Malibu Premier immediately impressed when pulling away from the first stoplight we encountered. With the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, the Malibu pulled strongly, its new 8-speed automatic clicking off shifts with immediacy and precision, but without any harshness." -- Kelley Blue Book

Handling and Braking

Front-wheel drive is standard on the Malibu. Most test drivers say the Malibu rides smoothly. They add that its handling is fairly agile, although class rivals such as the Mazda6 still offer more athleticism. Auto journalists note that the steering has a light feel, and the brakes are sturdy.

  • "It was also quiet in operation despite our working it harder than most commuters are likely to do; the longer wheelbase and 17-inch wheels made for a smooth ride with minimal intrusion from bumps. Steering felt a little light but had enough feedback to inform the driver. No one would mistake it for what enthusiasts regard as steering 'feel,' but it was predictable and without vices." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Oh, the Malibu steers precisely and brakes earnestly, but it simply doesn't have the Accord's or Mazda 6's tactile feel or liveliness of spirit." -- Car and Driver
  • "The suspension was also very nicely sorted. Despite the big 19-inch wheels on our test car, and the corresponding low-profile tires, the new Malibu rode smoothly over pretty much any surface we encountered. Additionally, it held its own in corners, although it's clear that Chevy has conceded the handling crown to the likes of the Mazda6 (along with everyone else)." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Although I managed to find enough rough pavement on our California preview route to judge the ride quality as quite good, a true pothole test won't come until a Malibu has passed through our Chicago-area office. Handling seemed fine, the steering very light and almost devoid of feel." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The Malibu's ride is on the firm side, but not uncomfortably so. The Premier model I tested wore optional 19-inch wheels, which added roughness over the 1LT model's 17-inchers. Road noise was a nuisance in both versions. Bumps are well-damped and body control is excellent, even over railroad tracks. It's nimble and lively around corners, with firm, direct steering. The brakes also have a reassuring feel with predictably linear reaction." -- Cars.com

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