|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
Thankfully, that didn’t excuse Chevrolet from coming out with a weapon that’s capable of serious consideration, especially if you’re tired of the usual Japanese this or Korean that. Enter the Chevrolet Malibu, a car designed and engineered to bring the Bowtie’s torch upmarket. Styled in North America, assembled in Korea, and built on top of the company’s Global Mid-Sized architecture, the Malibu is indeed the product of Chevrolet’s global know-how and one that’s surprisingly good in its own merits.
The merits start with the stylish exterior. Compared to the rest in the sea of executive sedans out there, the Malibu has decisively carved its own way when it comes to its sheet metal. The design manages to incorporate the dual-port grille and center-mounted Bowtie to the heavily contoured projector headlights, aggressively sculpted front fascia, and scalloped hood. From the front and even the three-quarters, there’s a lot of visual drama going on. And on the subject of girth, the Malibu is wide, as in 1,855 millimeters wide which is certainly very SUV-like. Towards the sides and rear though, the Malibu sticks to the tried-and-tested executive sedan formula with the exception of the square taillight treatment which echoes one of the iconic design features of the Camaro. And aside from the muscular styling, it boasts of incredibly tight and uniform panel gaps lending it a sense of high quality.
Stepping inside the Malibu welcomes you to a cabin more expansive than its figures would suggest. It’s not any bigger than the competition on paper, but the clever dual cockpit design serves up an impression of added spaciousness. At the back though, it feels tight because of a smaller than expected knee room. Perhaps Chevrolet designers should have carved out the front seats to shave a few more precious millimeters. The same goes for the trunk which is large, but not as deep.
Kudos goes to Chevrolet designers though for executing a very nice cabin. Quality materials abound with texturized soft-touch and rubberized plastics. The door panels serve up a complex and attractive design with a quality feel on their own. The center stack is also lovely and very easy to use with major functions grouped together. Serving as the nerve center of the Malibu’s infotainment system is the 7-inch color LCD touchscreen with MyLink. Not only does it boast of high-resolution and easy to use graphics, there’s even a hidden storage compartment behind the touchscreen capable of swallowing sizeable knick-knacks. In terms of sound quality, the Malibu’s stock system sounds good, despite not being a co-branded effort. The Malibu also makes creative use of mood lighting as well creating a halo effect on the audio and climate control systems as well as on the center chrome strip on the dashboard.
Under the hood, the Malibu is powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine from the Ecotec family. It produces respectable numbers at 167 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 225 Nm of torque at 4,600 rpm. It’s largely smooth and quiet, barely audible from inside the cabin except during full throttle application where it does produce a throaty note. Engine note aside, it’s not an exceptionally fast car. In addition, the murky and ambiguous throttle response all the more emphasizes the fact that this car doesn’t like to be rushed. Once you get acclimatized yourself to that fact though, it’s a perfectly fine engine. Mated to the engine is an equally smooth and civilized 6-speed automatic. It’s suited to the Ecotec engine even though there’s no paddle shifter in sight. Instead, you select up or down via a rocker switch on top of the shift knob. There’s a noticeable delay in the manual override, so do yourself a favor and let the cogs swap themselves. The slightly smaller engine versus the competition and the 6-speed box should theoretically mean good fuel economy figures. Unfortunately, it’s actually more at par with its V6 rivals doing a paltry 5.76 km/L in the city. Filling up the large 73-liter tank does get mighty painful considering its range of just 420 kilometers tops. Highway figures do get better at 12.39 km/L, but they are nowhere near the rest of the competition.
The Malibu is not sporty in any sense of the word, but at least it remains as a confident and refined driver. It’s particularly great in handling noise, vibration, and harshness. The traditional hydraulic power steering is appropriately weighted and responsive enough whether during parking or driving at any speeds. However, this is a particularly wide car so slotting it in and out of traffic takes some getting used to. Visibility is also limited, especially at the back because of the small mirrors and chamfered trunk. Thankfully, rear parking sensors with a reverse camera (standard on the LTZ) help it slot into tight parking spaces.
Pegged at P 1,528,888, the Malibu LTZ is surely one of the most affordable top-spec executive sedans you can buy out there. Sure, it does sacrifice a bit when it comes to straight-line performance and fuel economy, but at least it doesn’t skimp on convenience and tech features. It offers power adjustments on almost everything (including memory seats for the driver), leather seating, a passive entry with push button engine start/stop, and even the aforementioned MyLink infotainment system. It also comes with 6 airbags, anti-lock brakes, and even traction control. Heck, it’s even fitted with ultra-generous and sticky Bridgestone Potenza RE050A 245/45R18 tires as standard equipment. Perhaps the only thing missing is a sunroof, and that’s something you can obviously live without.
Chevrolet may have been late to the executive sedan race, but at least they’ve come up with a worthy entrant in the Malibu. It surely won’t win the hearts and minds of those set on getting the usual and predictable choices, but it does offer a great alternative for those seeking something quite different. It’s not the most obvious choice out there, but the Chevrolet Malibu LTZ may as well be what the General ordered to stir up the competition even if just for a little bit.
2015 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ
|Ownership||2015 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ AT (LE9)|
|Body Type||4-door sedan|
|Engine / Drive||F/F|
|Under the Hood|
|Aspiration||Normally Aspired, EFI|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||Inline-4|
|BHP @ rpm||167 @ 5,800|
|Nm @ rpm||225 @ 4,600|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 91~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,655|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Independent, Multi-Link|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Bridgestone Potenza RE050A 245/45R18W (f & r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Parking Sensors||Yes, Rear with Camera|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Seating Adjustment||Electronic (f)|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|Climate Control||Yes, Dual|
|No. of Speakers||6|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|