Chevrolet is introducing the brand’s first ever Malibu Hybrid.
Gasoline Engine – 1.8 L four-cylinder, 122 hp, 129 lb-ft.
Electric Motor A – 55 kW
Electric Motor B – 76 kW
Battery Pack – 80 cell 1.5 kWh lithium-ion
EPA Fuel Economy – 48 mpg city, 45 mpg hwy.
CAN Fuel Economy – 4.9 L/100 km city, 5.2 L/100 km hwy.
US Pricing: Starts at $28,645 after destination charges
No, don’t bring up the Malibu eAssist. That was little more than a conventional Malibu with a larger alternator producing the mildest of hybrid assists. What Chevrolet just introduced for 2016 is a full-fledged, proper Malibu Hybrid. It may be late to the party, but the new Malibu has a few tricks up its mechanical sleeve, hoping to make it worth the wait.
Like most hybrids, the Malibu is powered by a combination of electric motors and gasoline engines. A first look, it may appear conventional with a single gas engine and two electric motors. But there is a difference. A lot of conventional hybrids use one electric motor to assist with driving, while the other helps recharge the battery pack.
Dual Drive Motors for Enhanced Performance
In the Malibu, both electric motors are drive motors. Using a modified version of the Chevrolet Volt’s two-motor electric drive system, the Malibu has a 55kW motor that assists with city driving while a larger, secondary 76 kW motor is used for highway duties. The advantage of this two-motor system is that Chevrolet didn’t have to compromise between city and highway performance with a single electric drive unit, unlike a lot of the competition. This not only helps boost performance, but also energy efficiency.
SEE ALSO: 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Review
Electric juice for the two drive motors comes from an 80-cell 1.5-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. When charged up, it can power the Malibu Hybrid on electric-only power at speeds upwards of 55 mph, assuming the gentlest of throttle applications are used. Chevrolet has not disclosed how far the Malibu can drive on electric only power at this time.
Burning Dino Juice at a Reduced Rate
The gasoline portion of the Malibu Hybrid comes from a direct-injection 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 122 hp and 129 lb-ft of torque. When combined with the electric motors, total system power is pegged at 182 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque. That happens to be the same amount of power that the Malibu eAssist made, but that’s where the similarities between the two systems end.
The new Hybrid powertrain is significantly more robust with greater levels of sophistication. The transitions between the two electric motors and the gasoline engine are smooth and seamless.
A Brief, Yet Smooth and Quiet Drive
If it weren’t for the pronounced engine noise, it’s near impossible to decipher which drive mode is powering the car. And even if the engine is a bit noisy when it first fires to life, there’s no extra vibration, shudder or change in drivetrain behavior. After a few seconds, the engine quiets right down and hides in the background.
The engine, and car as a whole, is so quiet at highway speeds, it’s almost eerie for the speed the Malibu is carrying. It’s a trait I noticed immediately in the regular Malibu as well. And getting up to highway speeds isn’t an issue. A smooth waft of torque propels the Malibu up to speed with little effort. This is in part due to a relatively light curb weight for a mid-size hybrid sedan of just 3,457 lbs.
Let’s Talk Efficiency
Chevrolet is yet to officially have the Malibu Hybrid certified by the EPA when it comes to fuel economy, but the manufacturer expects it to come in around 48 mpg city and 45 mpg highway. Those numbers beat the hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Camry. The only car in the segment rated higher is the Honda Accord Hybrid, but we’ve had a tough time duplicating Honda’s somewhat ambitious ratings. During my short drive in the Malibu Hybrid, I was seeing averages well into the mid-40 mpg range, but only a week-long test drive will really verify if Chevy’s estimates are accurate.
Hybrid efficiency usually comes straddled with the side effect of dull driving behavior. Although the Malibu isn’t exactly setup to tackle the local race circuit, steering and driving feel aren’t completely absent. It’s still on the numb side, but much like the Volt, it feels like I’m driving the Malibu as opposed to the sensation of just being a passenger along for the ride that I get in some other hybrids.
SEE ALSO: 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Video – First Look
And while on the topic of Volt driving traits, the transition from regenerative braking to regular braking is seamless. There’s no detectable point where one engages over the other. Braking performance of the Malibu Hybrid mimics that of the regular Malibu which is how it should be, unlike some overly grabby hybrid braking systems found in competitor’s cars.
Another aspect of the hybrid drivetrain that works to further boost efficiency is Chevrolet’s exhaust gas heat recovery (EGHR) technology. It uses heat from the exhaust to warm the engine and cabin instead of requiring an energy zapping auxiliary heater. Not only does the EGHR system improve engine warm-ups, but it also delivers consistent fuel economy performance even in colder weather.
But the advanced technology extends beyond just the Hybrid’s drivetrain. The Malibu can be had with features like 4GTLE WiFi, Apple Car play and Android Auto. There is also the fantastic Teen Driver function that’s covered in depth in the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu review. It will have parents cheering and teenagers cringing with its Big Brother like abilities.
High Style and Low Style
The only concession the Malibu makes when it comes to interior space has to do with the trunk that shrinks down to 11.6 cubic feet, thanks to the battery pack eating up some space. The actual passenger cabin is similar to that of regular 2016 Malibus in that it’s comfortable and spacious, but leaves something to be desired when it comes to certain materials and trim pieces.
Even if the interior isn’t the most stylish, the new exterior style of the 2016 Malibu looks great. I like that Chevrolet didn’t dramatically alter the looks of the Hybrid model. It’s not the early 2000s any more, and people don’t need a radical-looking hybrid to prove to the world just how green they are. Except for a small blue H on the trunk lid, nothing on the exterior of the Malibu really gives away the fact it’s a hybrid.
The Verdict: 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid First Drive
My time with the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid was brief, but the car does look promising. A lot of Volt has trickled its way down into the Malibu, which is a good thing. Pricing starts at $28,645 after destination charges which is class competitive. If the Malibu can indeed achieve Chevrolet’s fuel efficiency estimates, it looks like there’s a new serious player in the hybrid family sedan market.
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