Review of: 2015 Chevrolet Malibu 4dr Sdn LTZ w/2LZ
2015 Chevrolet Malibu: Better than advertised!
By Jil McIntosh
Oct. 1, 2014
The world is full of little surprises. Maybe it’s a movie the critics panned, but you love it. Or a tucked-away restaurant that has fabulous food. Or the Chevrolet Malibu.
Yes, you read that right. Many people forget about Chevy’s midsize sedan, and to be honest, the styling’s a little bland. But I came away impressed with this car’s performance.
The base Malibu starts at $25,040 and uses a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine that makes 196 horsepower and 191 lb.-ft. of torque. It travels through six trim levels, finally reaching my top-of-the-line LTZ 2LZ (now there’s a mouthful) with 2.0-litre turbo, starting at $34,815. My car was further optioned with navigation for $795, plus a too-pricey $995 for its coat of iridescent pearl tri-coat paint, for a total of $36,605 before freight and taxes.
Pros & Cons
- + Maneuverability
- + Upscale options
- + Well-matched engine/transmission
- - Cargo liftover height
- - Visibility
- - Styling
The Malibu was an all-new model for 2013, but I still find its styling looks dated with its heavy nose and big square taillights. The midsize segment is a mixed bag, with blander designs such as Honda’s Accord and Toyota’s Camry (that one’s about to debut with a completely overhauled exterior) going up against more standout designs like the Kia Optima and Mazda6. It wouldn’t hurt GM to make more of a statement here.
The car works well in profile and I found shoulder-check visibility to be good despite the wide C-pillars, but that sharply-raked rear glass doesn’t give you a very large view out the back. The rearview mirrors are smaller than they should be for good visibility, too. The tucked-in trunk lid gains some protection in a minor rear-end smack, but that and its height from the ground create a rather tall lift-over when you’re putting items in the trunk.
The Malibu uses GM’s “twin-cockpit” design, with curvy dash and door panels hugging the front seats, and it looks really good. Horizontal lines across the passenger side of the dash and into the doors provide a final cohesive touch, and at night they glow handsomely with a hidden strip of blue lighting.
The climate and infotainment controls are large and easy to use, as is the touchscreen system. Press a button below it and it flips up to reveal a hidden storage compartment in behind.
However, every driver in your household needs to get behind the wheel of this car prior to you signing on the dotted line. I’m five-foot-four and while I needed to make a few fine-tuning adjustments, I was satisfied once I found my seating position and found the seat to be very comfortable. However, my five-foot-nine husband was never able to put the seat in precisely the right spot for his height. Neither of us liked the rearview mirror, which is positioned very close to the roof, where it’s tough to get your fingers around it to adjust it.
A lot of technology that was previously found only on higher-priced models has made its way down to the Malibu. On the top-line LTZ, standard features include a rearview camera and a package of forward collision warning, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, and cross-traffic alert that can also be optioned on the 2LT and 3LT trim lines.
The big news for the 2015 models is the addition of Wi-Fi 4G LTE hotspot capability, provided in the vehicle through OnStar. It’s standard on all Malibu levels, with three months/3GB included with the car. Plans are available after that, either monthly or one-time and ranging from 200MB to 10GB, starting at $10.
This is where the Malibu and I became good friends, because I really like the way this car drives. The 2.0-litre turbocharged engine makes 259 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque, and it’s a smooth performer with strong acceleration and a well-matched six-speed automatic. Many of its competitors include V6 engines in their lineups, but with this engine in its arsenal, I don’t think the Malibu suffers for lack of those two extra cylinders.
You get a fuel-saving auto start/stop feature on the naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre, but not on the turbo. Against published figures of 11.4 L/100 km in the city and 7.9 on the highway (with the more realistic five-cycle testing for 2015), I averaged 10.8 in combined driving.
The Malibu handles very well, with quick steering and a tight turning radius, and it’s flat and composed on corners. It’s easy to drive, with its nicely-weighted steering, nimble feel, and good feedback, but it’s definitely not boring vanilla. Instead, it’s an excellent commuter car that you can also push a bit when the road opens up before you.
While the Malibu’s price rises sharply from its lowest to its highest, its top-end trim levels are fairly comparable to other top lines in its competitors, and I felt that the performance and features level lived up to my car’s price tag. I’d still like it to look a little more dashing for the money, but all was good from behind the wheel.
While much of its competition is very strong, shoppers shouldn’t ignore the Malibu. I’ve often heard it dismissed as rental-fleet fodder, but it’s a nicely-sized, smooth-handling sedan with a handsome interior and decent performance. As little surprises go, it’s worth a second look.