Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Patrick de Guzman | posted February 20, 2015 13:28
Chevy is getting back into their stride. Just a couple of years ago their parent company, General Motors, had faced bankruptcy, a U.S. government bailout, a Chapter 11 reorganization and the sale and demise of other car brands in their possession.
Being their most global brand, Chevrolet was never going to be one that they would discontinue, and GM focused a good chunk of their resources and efforts to develop and manufacture Chevy's products for the market.
This is one of their latest models: the 2015 Chevrolet Malibu.
Upon first glance, it's easy to see that this isn't just any other model, as it competes directly with executive midsize cars like the Mazda6, the Toyota Camry, the Honda Accord, the Hyundai Sonata and the Nissan Altima; a category that defines business class. Thankfully, the Malibu came prepared.
On the outside, GM's designers really went to work in creating a premium look. Up front is the proud Chevy bowtie logo in the middle of the split grille, flanked by upswept headlamps. It's clear that Chevy did not want an overly-embellished design, so instead they generated a body style that is subtle yet defined, though those 17-inch wheels do look pretty good.. The rear of the car, however, gets a pair of taillights that appear to mimic those on the Camaro.
Inside, Chevrolet generated a likewise premium interior, making use of a variety of neutral gray hues instead of the more common black and beige. If you're familiar with the dashboard and steering wheel of models like the Cruze, you'll feel right at home. The dual binnacle gauge cluster likewise looks familiar, and the center stack which has the controls for the audio system, climate control and other functions are clearly defined. What seems unusual is the automatic gearbox selection lever; there's a +/- switch on top for the manual mode instead of a separate +/- gate. No matter how much I tried to use it, the +/- switch just felt too weird and unnatural; Chevy should have just gone for a pair of paddle shifters.
Chevrolet also outfitted the Malibu with a long list of standard kit. The MyLink audio system is standard and gets the usual Bluetooth wireless connectivity, USB and iPod compatibility. The seats are finished in leather and the front seats are power adjustable. The key may be a jack knife type but the Malibu uses it as a smart key transponder for the push-button ignition. What I do find odd is that the Malibu supposedly comes with a GPS navigation system (as evidenced by the voice announcing “Satellites locked” at start up) but I just couldn't find a way to access that function.
Space-wise, the Malibu's cabin actually feels a little more cozy and more snug than its competitors, this despite the obvious length that the car has. Nevertheless if you like to be driven in a Malibu, you can cross your legs comfortably and the seats are a nice place to be in. Chevrolet also put in some clever storage options in the car such as a mini glove compartment in front of the driver's left knee, though the most novel one is the ability of the central LCD screen to flip up (similar to the Orlando) to reveal a hidden compartment; a great way to keep valuables out of sight.
Under the hood is a 2.4 liter twin cam all-aluminum Ecotec engine that makes 167 PS at 5800 rpm and 225 Newton-meters of torque. The engine drives the front wheels via a 6-speed automatic. Unusually there is no local option for a larger V6 engine to compete head to head against established models like the Camry.
In the city, the Chevrolet Malibu feels very smooth and confident; the power of the engine, while far from class-leading, feels ample even when faced with the weight of a midsize sedan. The engine's response to throttle input leaves a bit to be desired. Fuel economy, however, is something that the Malibu needs a bit more attention on, especially in the city.
At an average speed of 18 km/h (moderate traffic) the Malibu is knocking down a liter of fuel per 6.3 kilometers; a fuel economy figure you would expect of a V6 Camry or Accord, but not a 2.4 liter 4-banger. Highway figures weren't particularly stellar at 11.8 km/l (94 km/h average). We suspect the primary reason for this high consumption is that the 2.4L is tuned to produce most of its torque a bit too high up the RPM range, as peak torque is already at 4600 rpm. To put that in perspective, the Honda Accord 2.4L we tested earlier generates peak torque at 4000 rpm while the very efficient Mazda6 SkyActiv 2.5L generates peak torque at 3250 rpm.
Nevertheless, there are some seriously good points to the Malibu; of particular note is the way the NVH was sorted out on this car. Even in it's category, driving the Malibu yields a surprisingly quiet experience, something its direct competitors will have a tough time matching. Also of note is the comfortable back seat. The suspension is likewise superb on the highway and in town as the MacPherson struts in front and the multi-link rear suspension work very well to suppress the road's imperfections and deliver a comfortable ride. Handling on the open road is also better than expected, though keep in mind this is still a relatively heavy car.
Overall, the Chevrolet Malibu is a solid performer for the category. Good looks, excellent features, a comfortable ride and supremely quiet cabin are definite plus points, even if the fuel economy could use a bit more attention. Nevertheless, at PhP 1,528,888, the 2015 Malibu is a car well worth considering in an executive car class that is already overpopulated by the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.