Road Test: 2017 Chevrolet Malibu Premier

The Malibu has been around for a number of years, evolving and getting better in many respects with each generation. The big news for 2017 is that Malibu gains a 9-speed automatic.

We were able to sample the top-level Premier trim, the best-looking and most well-equipped of all the Malibu models.

Ride and Handling
The Malibu rides like a stately, refined and sporty at the same time. It feels very European in its ride and handling characteristics, a great thing for anyone wanting a more engaging and luxurious driving experience. Bumps and potholes are absorbed with a solid thud, even while wearing handsome 18″ alloys wrapped in Continental ProContact tires.

The vented front disc and solid rear disc setup provide confident braking with great pedal feel. This is nothing like Malibu sedans of the past; braking force is smooth and linear.

Powertrain and Fuel Economy
This is one of many areas where the Malibu truly excels. Under the hood is a 2.0L turbo four-cylinder engine that when paired to the new 9-speed, is absolutely fantastic. Generating 250 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque early on, the Malibu feels and is very fast. The car is very European in responsiveness and NVH.  This is the setup to get if a driver’s car is truly desired.

Whether on local roads, on-ramps, highway passing, or cruising at 70 mph, the Malibu feels so refined, confident and well-tuned that it’s easy to forget that you’re behind the wheel of a Malibu. Dual exhaust outlets out back add to the sporty intentions.

Driving the Malibu around town and commuting to the office, fuel economy ultimately averages in at 31.4 mpg, astonishing given the power on tap and size of the Malibu. The EPA rates the Malibu at 22/33/26 (city/highway/combined). The fuel filler is capless, a nice benefit.

Road and wind noise are barely noticeable. The engine generates a smooth and refined purr when accelerating that disappears once at cruising speed.

Good halogen headlights project a wide path of light but the intensity could be improved. The high beams work well. Automatic high beams are standard with the Driver Confidence Package and work beautifully, switching to low beams the instant another vehicle is detected and back to high very quickly after they’re not.

Interior Fit and Finish
Chevy designers did an incredible job of really bringing the Malibu upmarket, with the use of contrasting stitching all around, quality soft-touch plastics with consistent grains and elegantly applied chrome trim. The air vents on the dash look especially well designed on the cockpit dashboard.

Premier trims are outfitted with a power driver’s seat with power lumbar, heated and cooled front seats and comfortable elbow rests. The door armrests could be a bit more padded though. A heated steering wheel makes winter or cool mornings much better for fingers.

The driver’s door features controls for memory seating and the easy exit seat. Ingress and egress is very good.

Rear seat comfort is excellent, with a supportive seat and expansive amount of legroom. The coupe-like styling doesn’t impinge on rear headroom.

Cargo room measures in at 15.8 cubic feet with a wide trunk opening and fold-down seats.

Visibility is very good all around thanks thin pillars and lots of glass area.  The standard backup camera makes any parking situation a cinch, while the semi-auto park assist system makes it nearly effortless.

Gauges and Controls
Crisp, well-lit gauges and controls provide all information at a quick glance.

Knobs and buttons feel excellent with knurled finishes that provide grip and large sizes that are easy to hold while the car is moving.

Everything is well-organized and group together in a logical way. Keyless access with push-button start is priceless.

Chevrolet MyLink is one of the best systems we’ve tested. Featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the engineers behind this system have refined it to the point where it’s much safer to use while driving, very intuitive, and responsive. The 8-inch display is crisp and doesn’t get washed out in sunlight, with colors and fonts that are easy on the eyes.

USB, CD, HD and XM radio, and Bluetooth streaming inputs provide endless entertainment. The Bose 9-speaker system sounds excellent, with strong bass and high quality speakers.

There’s a total of 4 USB ports, two in front and 2 in back, along with a 120V household stole outlet and 12V outlet. Qi wireless smartphone charging is also included.

Malibu is available with two “confidence” packages, the first includes camera-based auto high beams, following distance indicator, forward collision alert, lane keep assist, pedestrian detection and rear cross-traffic alert. Confidence package #2 includes an electronic parking brake, adaptive cruise control, semi-auto park assist and front automatic braking.

After a week of testing adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and the park assist systems, we can wholeheartedly recommend them. They’re true assets to today’s driving experience and bring next generation levels of peace of mind and safety. The adaptive cruise is refined and worked well on the highway and stop and go traffic. Lane keep assist does a good job of keeping the vehicle in its lane in case the driver drifts for a second. Rear cross-traffic alert is priceless when backing out in crowded parking lots, giving the driver eyes where the backup camera misses.

Crash Test Results
The 2017 Malibu aced IIHS testing, earning a Top Safety Pick award and all 5 stars in the NHTSA crash testing program.

Summary Scorecard (1-10)
Ride and Handling 10
Braking 10
Powertrain and Fuel Economy 10
Noise 9
Headlights 8
Interior Fit and Finish 9
Seating 9
Visibility 9
Gauges and Controls 10
Infotainment 10
Crash-Avoidance 10
Total Score 95
Make: Chevrolet
Model: Malibu
Trim Level: Premier
Engine: 2.0L Turbo I4
Transmission: 9-Speed Automatic
Options: Driver Confidence Packages 1 & 2, Cajun Red Tintcoat
Base Price: $30,975
As-Tested Price: $34,435


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