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September 4, 2018

Review: 2018 Chevrolet Malibu 2.0 Turbo LTZ

By and large, executive sedans have become boring of late. “Camry-fication” has swept the industry, transforming each one of them into anonymous jellybean-styled slush mobiles available only in three shades of gray. Naturally, there are one or two outliners who’d want to try something different; and the latest one to go that route is the Chevrolet Malibu.

Given its rarity, you’ll be forgiven to think that Chevrolet Philippines ever offered one for sale, but you bet they did. While it was generally alright, it wasn’t really that much of a standout. It drove like a luxo-barge with a bowtie badge and a long warranty. Understanding though that they had to make their Malibu standout of the reserved parking lot, they’ve chucked away plans of going safe. In the end, they’ve come up with a more thought-of, more thorough executive sedan.

From appearance alone, you can tell that Chevrolet’s trying something different with the Malibu. Featuring modern, swept styling, it makes both a millennial and his geriatric granddad swoon. The creases and lines play with light and shadow, while the high beltline make the roof seem low. At each corner are meaty 245/45RR18 tires bolted to some spiffy-looking wheels. The front-end is perhaps, shockingly, the weakest point. Stylistically, it’s supposed to evoke the Camaro (and it largely does), but the underbite and expansive lower black paneling make it look more thug than well-dressed executive.

Like the exterior, the Malibu doesn’t play safe with the interior. For one, the color scheme’s audacious with its gray-and-brown scheme (officially called Dark Atmosphere with Loft Brown accents). It’s a welcome escape from the typical all-black look without being too old looking or too difficult to clean. Echoing some of the front-end bits, the dash comes across as complicated and messy, but at least it’s a hot mess. There’s a variety of different textures and colors used here and it works for the most part. The only exception is the faux wood which looks, a little too faux.

Infotainment is provided by an 8-inch MyLink display which looks like an iPad slid neatly into a docking port. The experience is snappy enough and it does integrate both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; however, take note: there are no multifunction knobs here—so it’s your fingers doing all the walking, or your voice doing all the talking. Fitted with a 9-speaker Bose speaker system, it can carry Kiki levels of bass, but the sound quality is just so-so.

With a stretched wheelbase, there’s no shortage of space inside the Malibu. Most of the love has been showered for the front passengers (the seats feature built-in ventilation, for one), but at least the rear is roomy enough to fit three comfortably. Plus, they get their own AC vents and USB chargers. Despite the swoopy roofline and panoramic sunroof, there’s also ample headroom thanks to a low floor. However, overall visibility is a bit compromised. Trunk space is just as good, however, the bumper itself is a high hurdle to clear when loading stuff into the trunk itself.

Pushing the start/stop button brings the turbocharged 2.0-liter ECOTEC engine to life. It’s extremely potent with 250 horsepower and 353 Nm of torque; but it’s something you can’t appreciate by hearing the engine. The interior is so quiet, you actually have to check the tach just to see if it’s running. This makes the Malibu come across as a “speak softly, carry big stick” type of car. The 6-speed automatic it’s attached to is just as good and refined. Shifts are smooth and seamless, and sharpens up even more during hard driving. Paddle shifters would have completed the package, but at least there’s a manual override—you just have to reach for the gear lever to operate it.

The rest of the Malibu’s handling package is attuned to the engine: it’s neither a land barge or a sportscar. Instead, it hits the everyman sweet spot which should appeal to most buyers. The steering is light in both effort and feedback, but it’s linear and predictable. The body itself tips and understeers through corners, but not excessively. What’s most important though is that it soaks up bumps without the float and carries itself solidly.

Apart from commendable performance, Chevrolet also went all-in on safety. Aside from the full complement of airbags (there are 8 of them here), ABS+EBD, and stability control, this one comes with adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, forward collision warning (with pedestrian detection), and heck, it can even park itself in a parallel or perpendicular space.

Chevrolet is quick to point out that they’ve been churning out the Malibu for over 50 years, a far longer time than any Japanese or Korean executive sedan. While this imparts a sense of nostalgia in the US, Filipinos simply don’t share the same feeling. That said, even without the sentiment or history lesson, the latest Malibu comes across as a genuine contender in the executive sedan category. Smooth, spacious, and well-priced (P 2,131,888), it may be the segment’s newcomer locally, but it’s one that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

2018 Chevrolet Malibu 2.0 Turbo LTZ
Ownership 2018 Chevrolet Malibu 2.0 Turbo LTZ
Year Introduced 2018
Vehicle Classification Executive Sedan
The Basics
Body Type 4-door Sedan
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.0
Aspiration Turbocharged
Fuel Delivery Direct Injection
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 250 @ 5,300
Nm @ rpm 353 @ 2,000-5,000
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 95~
Transmission 6 AT
Cruise Control Yes, Adaptive
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 8.69 km/L @ 22 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,923
Width (mm) 1,854
Height (mm) 1,470
Wheelbase (mm) 2,829
Curb Weight (kg) 1,678
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, 4-Link
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Tires Hankook Ventus S1evo2 245/45 R 18 W (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 8
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Front and Rear, with Camera
Other Safety Features Hill Hold Assist
Tire Pressure Monitoring
Blind Spot Indicators
Lane Departure Warning
Lane Keep Assist
Forward Collision Alert
Forward Automatic Braking
Exterior Features
Headlights HID
Fog Lamps Yes, Front
Auto Lights Yes
Rain-sensing Wipers Yes
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment Electric (front)
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, with Fold
Climate Control Yes, Dual
Audio System Stereo
Apple CarPlay
Android Auto
# of Speakers 9, Bose
Steering Controls Yes

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