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2015 Chevrolet Malibu Review

This 2015 Chevrolet Malibu review explains changes for the model year, provides a summary of the 2015 Chevy Malibu, and includes Chevrolet Malibu safety, reliability, and fuel economy ratings.

 What is the 2015 Chevrolet Malibu?

The 2015 Malibu is Chevrolet’s midsize sedan, one of the fresher members of a crowded segment that contains some of the best-selling cars in America. Key competitors include the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, and Volkswagen Passat.

 

New start/stop technology shuts down the 2.5L engine to save fuel when the Malibu stops momentarily, such as stoplights, contributing to a 14-percent increase in city fuel economy. An auxiliary battery powers electric accessories such as the climate system, power windows and radio during engine restarts.

 What’s New for the 2015 Chevrolet Malibu?

Chevrolet completely redesigns the Malibu for 2015, and the car is now sold all around the world rather than just in the United States. Key highlights include greater fuel efficiency, improved quality, upgraded safety, and expanded technology. A new Malibu ECO model also debuts, equipped with “light electrification” hybrid technology to achieve up to 38 mpg on the highway.

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Trim Levels and Features

The 2015 Chevrolet Malibu will be sold in LS, LT, LTZ and ECO trim levels when it goes on sale in 2012. The first model to arrive is the Malibu ECO. Later in the year, the LS, LT and LTZ roll into showrooms. For now, standard and optional equipment has been determined only for the Malibu ECO.

Initially, the Malibu ECO is sold in standard or upgrade format, each available with a handful of options. Standard equipment on the least expensive model includes heated power side mirrors, power door locks with remote keyless entry, power windows with express-down operation, cruise control, and a tilt/telescopic steering wheel. The Malibu ECO also comes with dual-zone automatic climate control, premium cloth upholstery, automatic projector-beam headlights, a compass display, floor mats, and 17-inch aluminum wheels wearing low rolling-resistance tires. On the technology front, the Malibu ECO is well equipped with Chevrolet MyLink Touch, which includes Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming as well as a color touch-screen radio display, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio input jack, a USB port, and a CD/MP3 player. The Malibu ECO also includes OnStar telematics with six free months of Directions and Connections service including Automatic Crash Notification and Stolen Vehicle Response.

Clearly, the 2015 Malibu ECO is well equipped. In addition to standard features, buyers can add a power sunroof and a Power Convenience Package with remote engine starting, an eight-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar support, a reversing camera, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a HomeLink universal remote, and a cargo net.

Purchase the upgrade version of the Malibu ECO, and the Power Convenience Package comes standard along with a Pioneer premium sound system, a leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel, and fog lights. This model can be exclusively optioned with a Leather Package (leather upholstery, heated front seats, eight-way power front passenger’s seat with power lumbar support) and a Navigation Package (Leather Package plus a navigation system, driver memory settings, and a driver express-up window). A power sunroof is also offered on this version of the Malibu ECO.

As this review is written, Chevrolet is still finalizing equipment levels for the Malibu LS, LT and LTZ.

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 Under the 2015 Chevrolet Malibu’s Hood

One thing we do know about the 2015 Malibu LS, LT and LTZ is they will have a new direct-injected, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine under the hood. The former Malibu’s powerful V6 engine option vanishes, though it is likely that Chevrolet will build a sporty version of the new Malibu equipped with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine for introduction later in the model year. Getting back to the standard 2.5-liter engine, preliminary power estimates are 190 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic drives the front wheels, and this engine is expected to meet Partial Zero Emission Vehicle regulations as necessary.

The Malibu ECO is equipped with eAssist hybrid technology, what Chevrolet refers to as “light electrification.” A 115-volt lithium-ion battery that’s recharged through regenerative braking powers an electric motor that assists a 2.4-liter, direct-injected four-cylinder engine equipped with start-stop functionality and a deceleration fuel cut-off system. This powertrain, combined with a low 0.28 coefficient of drag, low rolling-resistance tires, active lower grille shutters, and underbody panels, is estimated to get 26 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway, with a total potential driving range of 550 miles. Net horsepower measures 182, and a six-speed automatic transmission gets the power to the front wheels.

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 Safety and Reliability

If you’re impressed with the new Malibu’s feature count, you’ll really like the standard safety equipment list. Every 2015 Chevy Malibu is equipped with eight airbags including dual front knee airbags, and rear side-impact airbags are available as an option. Traction and stability control are includes, as well as a capable four-wheel-disc braking system with electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, corner brake control, hydraulic brake fade assist, and drag torque control. The standard OnStar telematics system includes Automatic Crash Response, which puts a live operator in touch with the Malibu’s occupants after an airbag deployment. The live operator checks to see if anyone is hurt, and can instantly send rescuers to the car’s location if necessary – even if passengers are unresponsive. In addition to these features, the Malibu can be equipped with a rearview camera system and a lane departure warning system with forward collision alert.

Because the Malibu is new, crash-test scores and reliability predictions are not available as this initial review of the vehicle is written and published.

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 Fun Facts

Designed to meet government regulations and customer expectations in markets all around the globe, the new Chevrolet Malibu will be sold in nearly 100 different countries on six continents.

The new 2015 Malibu is 4.5 inches shorter in wheelbase and two inches wider in track than the car it replaces. However, interior volume grows by four cubic-feet and the trunk is larger than before at 16.3 cubic-feet (14.3 cu-ft for the ECO model).

The 2015 Malibu’s coefficient of drag measures 0.28 cd, one of the lowest in the class. This low drag measurement helps the Malibu achieve better fuel economy and also helps to quiet the cabin.

Chevrolet MyLink smartphone integration makes the Malibu’s sound system compatible with Pandora and Stitcher SmartRadio applications. Additionally, MyLink allows the driver to operate selected smartphone apps in hands-free fashion.

The Malibu sold in America will be built in Detroit or in Fairfax, Kansas.

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 Driving Impressions

The all-new eighth-generation Chevy Malibu is sold on six continents and in nearly 100 countries. Plenty of people have driven this car since it debuted in 1964. But we were given an early chance to drive the North America-only 2015 Chevy Malibu ECO that promises up to 37 mpg on the highway and a combined 29 mpg in city and highway driving.

That combined fuel-economy rating represents a 3-mpg increase over the four-cylinder Malibu and a 9-mpg increase over the outgoing V6-powered 2012 Malibu. That makes the Malibu ECO the most fuel-efficient Malibu ever. So we naturally asked the question: how does the Malibu Eco measure up to those fuel-economy scores in real-world driving?

Fairly well, is the simple answer. But if you want to top 30 mpg, make sure you spend plenty of time driving on the highway. We intentionally spent the first four days driving the car in primarily city settings. Lots of stop and go traffic; lots of waiting around.

That waiting brings up an interesting feature about the Malibu ECO. When you come to a stop and leave your foot on the brake, the engine automatically stops to conserve gas. Chevy even includes an “Auto Stop” display on the odometer and in a digital version on the information monitor between the speedometer and odometer.

In practice, it takes between two to three seconds at a complete stop with the brake fully compressed before the car shuts off. The moment you release pressure on the brake, the engine kicks back on and is ready to rumble. The point of the on/off cycle feature is help save gas. And it does, though our combined average fuel economy after 104 miles was a meager 26.6 mpg. We were clearly lagging the combined 29-mpg average

So we took to the highway to see if we could remedy the situation. Over the next 147 miles of nearly all-highway driving, we bumped our average up to 30.5 mpg. That’s a-near 4-mpg improvement and was frankly surprising. We never exceeded 70 mph and did our best to always stay in the sweet spot of the “ECO” mode that is visible within the odometer display. But the results were impressive. The Malibu is not the most fuel-efficient midsize sedan you can buy today, but eAssist hybrid technology clearly helps.

The 182 horsepower engine gets up to speed well enough that highway merges are nothing to get concerned about. We drove our standard test loop that takes us above 7,000-feet outside Salt Lake City and climbed the hills using the standard six-speed automatic transmission.

You can drive the Malibu manually if you choose, but we’re not sure you would want to. In the Malibu, you simply press a + (plus) or – (minus) button on the top of the stick shift grip. It’s a bit delicate for our tastes but will suffice for those relatively rare situations where you choose to tap the gears instead of let the Malibu take matters into its own hands. Most drivers will happily drive in automatic mode all the time; their fuel-economy scores will likely even improve by staying far away from manual mode.

Chevy promotes that the Malibu is “the quietest Chevrolet ever.” We won’t disagree. Like the very quiet Buick Verano, the Malibu’s cabin is a peaceful place on nearly all types of pavement. Perhaps the most common comment from passengers was “this car’s surprisingly quiet.”

The second most-common comment is that passengers were impressed by the Malibu’s styling. Our test vehicle had upgraded leather seats and trim that are well executed. Faux-wood trim on the doors, center console and steering wheel evoke a premium feel for a well-appointed vehicle that costs less than $30,000. You’ll find plenty of soft-touch materials and the center armrest, though small, adjusts forward and back to match customer preferences.

This tasteful interior, matched to an attractive and improved exterior design, make the Malibu a car that compares favorably with the Hyundai Sonata, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

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