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2017 Chevrolet Malibu Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2017 Chevrolet Malibu was new.


Performance: 7.9

Though the 2017 Chevrolet Malibu isn't the most thrilling car in the midsize car class, its turbocharged engine, smooth ride, and composed handling should satisfy most drivers. The base engine gets excellent fuel economy estimates, too, helping you skip stops at the gas station. Drivers who crave more power and more fun can buy a Premier model with a larger turbocharged engine, or consider a car with more exciting performance, like the Mazda6.

  • "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 (2016)
  • "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 (2016)
  • "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 (2016)

Acceleration and Power

The base 2017 Chevy Malibu is equipped with a 160- horsepower, turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The top-of-the-line Premier model gets a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 250 horsepower mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission.

The base engine delivers enough power for the typical commute, though you may wish it delivered quicker acceleration on the highway. The larger optional engine is likely a better choice for those who spend a lot of time on the freeway. Its extra muscle will let you feel at ease when merging or passing.

Both engines have a bit of turbo lag if you really floor the gas pedal pulling away from a stop. Turbo lag feels like an extra boost of power after you've started moving, and it's caused by the turbochargers getting up to speed. Both automatic transmissions deliver well-timed shifts, giving you extra power when you need it.

A Malibu with the 1.5-liter engine is one of the most fuel-efficient midsize cars on the market that doesn't have a hybrid powertrain. It gets up to 27 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. Buying a Premier model with the larger optional engine will sacrifice quite a bit of fuel, getting only 22 mpg in the city and 33 on the highway. If you want to save more money at the pump, consider the Malibu Hybrid or the Honda Accord Hybrid. They both get nearly 50 mpg whether you're driving in the city or on the highway.

  • "Overall, we'd say it's just fine for most purposes, but if you're underwhelmed on your test drive, be sure to check out the energetic 2.0-liter turbo, which makes the Malibu a much quicker car and also comes with the new nine-speed transmission this year." -- Edmunds
  • "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 (2016)
  • "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 (2016)

Handling and Braking

The 2017 Malibu strikes an excellent balance between handling and ride comfort. It's reasonably athletic, which should satisfy most drivers. Those who crave more agility should look at the Mazda6. The Malibu's suspension soaks up most rough patches of pavement, keeping you and your passengers comfortable. Even models with the optional 19-inch wheels ride smoothly.

The steering is light and easy to turn so you can maneuver around without any trouble. When you press the brakes, they slow you evenly and consistently. All models have front-wheel drive.

  • "Whichever powertrain you select, the Malibu possesses a newfound nimbleness that makes it at least mildly entertaining to drive. Even the Hybrid is surprisingly light on its feet. Ride quality also remains a Malibu strength, with most bumps and ruts getting expertly filtered out before they reach the cabin." -- Edmunds
  • "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 (2016)
  • "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 (2016)

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